leesa haapapuro
 sculptor, instructor, artist
 dayton, oh

Leesa Haapapuro is an artist and dedicated instructor in Dayton, Ohio.

Leesa's work explores the boundaries of form, while exploring the place of an artist in the world. As she said recently in an interview: "I have been exploring my place as an artist in society, questioning conflicting desires for peaceful isolation versus a need for a greater sense of community. I try to balance my solitary studio practice with efforts to connect with others."

Her efforts to "connect with others" are often radical and transformative.

In 2011, she was invited to create a site specific sculptural installation sponsored by The Wegerzyn Garden Foundation in cooperation with Five Rivers Metro Parks. Haapapuro's Canal Men celebrated an overlooked chapter of Dayton history. Seeming to rise from the litter in empty canal beds like ghosts of the past, the sculptures represented the thousands of men who performed back-breaking work from sunrise to sunset. They were paid in part with whiskey because, as one “jigger boss” said: ”You wouldn’t expect them to do this work sober, would you?”

The artist invited the community to pay tribute to the canal men by making flowers from recycled plastic, in workshops throughout the city which became part of her evolving artwork.

This invitation to involve the community in her work was also central to her worry dolls installation at The University of Dayton. Maintaining open studio hours at the ArtStreet studio and at the Circus Art Collective's annual extravaganza the Side Show allows her to connect with her community.

In 2007, she started a portrait project at the Datyon Visual Arts Center. Dubbed, "Portraits in Progress," the work invited people throughout Dayton to stop in, model and pose for drawings and sculptures. Leesa built a portable sculpture studio for the project, carting it with her throughout the city -- inviting passersby to pose, observe and interact with the artist at work.

"The portraits would be yours," Leesa wrote on her signage, "but I ask that you bring the sculpture downtown on May 16th during the Urban Nights event for a 'reunion show.'" Anyone and everyone was invited to participate, including fellow artist Amy Kollar Anderson.

In 2007, Leesa was selected as Sculptor-in-Residence at Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish, New Hampshire. The five-month stint allowed her to keep an open studio 40 hours a week. "It allowed intensive solitary studio time interspersed with opportunities to interact with those interested in making art," Leesa writes. "During my 5 month residency, I focused on making a memorial for my brother, who died of cancer last summer."

The work would eventually become, "Memento" -- a towering tribute to her brother. Upon her return to Dayton, she invited the public to contribute to the sculpture. "I invite you to participate, to make a tangible memory: a memento," Leesa wrote. "I will provide materials, however you may want to bring specific images or small objects." Leesa's committment to making others a part of her work challenges what it means to be an artist.

© Leesa Haapapuro
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