Community artist Mary Wright is an Upper Peninsula native, born in Hancock and raised in the small town of L’Anse. She earned a B.A. in History and English, and did her graduate work at the University of Wisconsin, after which she moved back to the U.P. to live a homesteading life in the woods for fourteen years. Toward the end of this period, she came to realize that creating art was more important than retreating into nature because an artist has the power to move people.
Mary moved into Marquette, and introduced herself to the art community by bringing fresh flowers to the local art shows as a way of honoring artists. This led to Marquette General Hospital inviting her to do floral arrangements in their lobby, which gradually grew into large installations. In turn, this work led to her to serve on the decorating committee of the 1996 FinnFest in Marquette.
Pursuing an idea that came in a dream, Mary traveled throughout the Upper Peninsula conducting painting “bees” to create blue and white chairs reflecting the Finnish national colors. About 1500 chairs were decorated with original patterns of blue and white, transported to Marquette, and placed around the city. These chairs have since become an enduring icon for Marquette and FinnFests everywhere. After the chairs project, Mary traveled throughout the state, involving thousands of people in various creative works of public art.
She is the only artist from the Upper Peninsula to have received the Michigan Governor’s Arts Award (1999) for her exceptional ability to execute large-scale community arts projects.