Q-and-A: Two Cloquet grads collaborate on documentary filmTwo Cloquet High School graduates have collaborated on a new, half-hour documentary, “Painting With Light: Winona’s Stained Glass Legacy,” about the stained glass industry of Winona, Minn.
By: Wendy Johnson, Pine Journal
Two Cloquet High School graduates have collaborated on a new, half-hour documentary, “Painting With Light: Winona’s Stained Glass Legacy,” about the stained glass industry of Winona, Minn. Maria Bartholdi and Kristin Stowell graduated from CHS in 2002. Bartholdi, with degrees in theater and radio/television/film, wrote and produced the documentary, while Stowell, who has a degree in music, composed the entire score of the film.
The piece focuses on the history and industry of stained glass in Winona, Minn., which is considered to be the “Stained Glass Capital” of the United States. The town boasts six stained glass companies and is home to Willet-Hauser Architectural Glass, the largest stained glass company in the country. There is a large amount of stained glass inside many Winona buildings including churches, banks and its courthouse. Below is an interview with Bartholdi.
Pine Journal: Is there a specific experience you had that sparked your interest in documentaries or film making?
Bartholdi: I did a lot of theatre in high school – probably spurred because my mom (Julie McMerty, formerly Julie Bartholdi) was the director. I think I was in every single play from my freshman to senior year. That definitely sparked a love of the dramatic in me. In high school, my group of friends played around with video a lot. We made tons of hilarious home movies. I would pit any of them against the best of the Cannes Film Festival. Well, maybe not. But I still think they’re awesome. I never thought I would end up being the one behind the camera – I always thought I would be in front of it – but nowadays, I prefer my role as producer and editor. My love of the documentary style started in college when I had my own radio show and began producing audio documentaries a la This American Life. While I continued to freelance in radio production, I slowly transitioned to television – but my love of documentary has stayed alive. It’s real, it’s raw, it’s beautiful.
How did you and Stowell end up collaborating on this project?
I work at KSMQ Public Television in Austin, Minn. I produce a weekly series called “Off 90,” which focuses on the arts, culture and history of Southern Minnesota. While I was busy digging up stories to feature on the show, I came across a brochure mentioning the enormous amount of stained glass in Winona. One thing led to another, and I decided to put together a documentary because there was so much material to work with and it was such a fantastic subject. For the piece, KSMQ decided to hire a composer to score the documentary and give it an original sound. I immediately brought up Kristin’s name. After knowing her for so many years (we became friends in second grade) I knew she would be brilliant. She and I were in the CHS choir together for many years, we were also in a lot of musicals; we even had a high school band. She was always a gifted piano player and I have always known she would grow up to be a great composer. There is always a lot of emotion in her music, which I love. I asked Kristin to compose 10 different piano songs for the piece, which she did. They are wonderful and fit the documentary perfectly. We corresponded solely over email – I supplied Kristin with what kinds of songs I was looking for and she delivered. She’s never even seen the video – yet everything works wonderfully.
What do you hope viewers gain from your documentary?
I hope viewers realize what a treasure we have sitting under our noses in Winona. Like most people, I had no idea the city was home to such a unique industry, or that it housed so much historic stained glass. It’s incredible what you can find around Minnesota that you didn’t know was there. I hope the documentary inspires people to seek out the beauty in their own cities and towns around the state. I’ve found incredible things working on this show that I’d never have uncovered otherwise. I also hope the documentary spurs people to visit Winona and see the stained glass in person.
Have you worked on any other big projects?
Besides working on “Off 90” year round, I’ve also helped produce the documentary “Pride of the Prairie: Southern Minnesota’s County Fairs” here at KSMQ. That’s also premiering this summer. Besides my work at KSMQ, I also freelance produce radio documentaries. I’ve also worked at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C. and on NPR’s show “Wait, Wait...Don’t Tell Me!” in Chicago.
Do you have any other big projects planned that viewers can look forward to?
I hope to continue making documentaries that highlight what’s wonderful about living in Minnesota. It’s the best state in the country and I just want to make sure everyone knows it.
What is your favorite thing to do when you come home?
I love to eat at Gordy’s Hi-Hat, of course. I also love to play golf with my dad (he still lives in Cloquet) and visit the high school – I basically grew up there because both of my parents were CHS teachers. I don’t think there’s anywhere more wonderful than the CHS theater. I probably spent more time there growing up than in my own house.
Bartholdi now lives in Austin, Minn., and works for KSMQ Public Television there.
Stowell lives in Santa Maria, Calif., and works for the Pacific Conservatory of the Performing Arts Theaterfest.
“Painting With Light: Winona’s Stained Glass Legacy”
premiered June 3 on KSMQ public television in Austin, Minn. The documentary will also be available for purchase on the KSMQ website, ksmq.org, later this summer. Currently, the documentary
is not scheduled for the local WDSE public television
channel, but that could change. If it does, we’ll let you know.