In 1970, art teacher Julia Van Roo Bresnahan first visited the Door Peninsula and discovered the heady influx of artists who had settled here. Meeting Anne Haberland (nee Emerson) of Edgewood Orchard Gallery, she met artists Madeline Tourtelot, Tom Uttech, Bob Pum, Narendra Patel, potters Kash Yamada, Bruce Grimes, and Abe Cohn (and his dancing wife Ginka).
These times were expansive and exciting, luring potters John Dietrich, Thor and Judy Thoreson, and David and Jeanne Aurelius to Ellison Bay, and famed writer Norbert Blei to Europe Lake. Painters Charles Peterson, Gerhard Miller, James Ingwersen, the Topelmanns, Phil Austin and Jack Anderson arrived, even as jewelers Amanda and Tom DeWitt and carpenter Ernie Anderson also settled in northern Door.
An art teacher in the Whitefish Bay schools, Julia returned each summer, ultimately buying a Door County residence in1976. She began teaching at Peninsula School of Art in 1980, then later at The Clearing Folk Art School. Retiring in 2001, she has now settled in permanently, teaching and refining her skills as a highly-regarded artist.
The specialized art of painting icons became her passion via the Waseda Gallery at St. Joseph Formation Center in Baileys Harbor. Bresnahan said she “becomes so deeply contemplative that it’s hard to work on an icon alone, so I often take one to work at open studio where a similar vibe happens.”
The history of Door County's early artistic personalities of the 1960s and 70s can be found in rare copies of the books RESUME I and II and Lorraine Mengert’s Door County's Art History. Paul Burton’s recent biography of Peninsula School of Art founder Madeline Tourtelot has further expanded our appreciation for this creative era of Door County's arts history.