By Sue Moore
Marie Hoppe Bergstedt has come back to Vicksburg to visit her friends many times over the years since graduating from Vicksburg High School in 1962. This time is special: She has been selected as the Artist Resident for the Prairie Ronde program, sponsored by the Mill.
She has won many awards for her work in mixed fiber media using lots of buttons plus her vivid imagination. “In my work I try to make positive statements that show a different side to problems in society or news,” Bergstedt said. “I specialize in fabric and buttons, mostly plain buttons that tell plain stories. I buy buttons by the scoopful at a store near my home in San Francisco.”
Her work has been accepted for the Bienal Madrid 2019 for world textile art and is being shown in Birmingham, England. She has been to China twice, in an exhibit by a Ph.D. candidate who liked her work, then as a special guest of Prof. Lin LeCheng. In the 1980s she returned to Vicksburg to record school memories in photography that she enlarged and hand colored. Some of those photographs have been housed in the school administration building on Kalamazoo Avenue.
The road to recognition took lots of different turns for Bergstedt. None of her family even graduated from high school before Marie accomplished that while working after school and summers at the Vicksburg Commercial. She graduated from Vicksburg with a wonderful gift of a full tuition, room, board, books scholarship that could be used at any accredited college or university. The scholarship was from Continental Can Company. In her final semester at Wheaton College in Illinois she took a required art class. The teacher recognized something special in her work and told her she had missed her calling by majoring in education.
Nevertheless, she headed to California, raised a daughter and took a job as development director for the school her daughter was attending. That turned into 25 years of nonprofit fund raising for this rather shy lady who measures about five feet tall. “I wasn’t asking big donors for money for myself so it was easier. More importantly, I got to know the donors personally and the things they love the most. That translated into jobs in New Mexico, the Montalvo Arts Center in Saratoga, Calif., and another school in Santa Barbara.
“You can’t get ahead in art unless you know business,” Bergstedt exclaimed. In 2006 she had saved enough money to go out on her own to do art full time but still worked part-time until 2011.
Her work as Artist in Residence will revolve around the history of the people who worked at the Mill while weaving it into an art piece.
Most of Bergstedt’s first eight years were spent on a farm located near Harper School on 31st Street. She lived with Chester and Clara Miltibarger who had the care of a number of foster children through the court and also two of their nieces and Marie (Marie was not a ward of the court). They had a dairy farm and Chester drove a Vicksburg School Bus for extra income.
Some things Marie loved about Vicksburg:
School – teachers were always a real support when life was hard.
Working at the Commercial – the keypunch to linotype job, photographing weddings, smell of ink and sound of type coming through the linotype.
The lasting friendships through all the years even though living far away. She can always pick up like there was no time in between, she said.