Bead artist dies (murder-suicide)

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By Carolyn Roy, carolyn@natchitochestimes.com

The man who visited Natchitoches in 2013 to make a Mardi Gras bead mural to break a Guinness World Record, has died in Chicago. According to an article in an online publication, nwi.com, Stephen Wanger was involved in a possible murder suicide in the Douglas Park neighborhood July 6.

The article says that a 51-year-old man and a 5-year-old girl were found in a residence about 9 p.m. Their deaths were being investigated as a murder-suicide. According to the article, they were pronounced dead at the scene about 11:30 p.m.

Thursday. Authorities believe the male victim to have been Wanger, a German-born artist know for his bead murals and creations. There was no information on the identity of the child, although there is a photo of Wanger and his daughter on his Facebook page.

A release from the Northwestern State News Bureau dated Dec. 6, 2013, read, “The unveiling of the Natchitoches Bead Town mural designed by artist Stephan Wanger is scheduled for 10 a.m. Wednesday. “The unveiling of the 48 x 8-foot mosaic, which is set to become recognized by the Guinness Book of World Records, will take place at Northwestern State University’s Orville Hanchey Gallery.

This is a Facebook photo of Stephen Wanger and his daughter.

“The mural was commissioned by the City of Natchitoches as part of its Tricentennial celebration and depicts a panoramic view of Front Street and Cane River in a composition made entirely of Mardi Gras beads. “Wanger has spent the last six months in Natchitoches, designing and completing the mural with the help of volunteers from all ages and walks of life. “Un Rue Principale en Louisiane (A Main Street of Louisiana)” is his largest bead piece to date. The names of six of those volunteers will appear in the mosaic.

“When people get involved you have to give back to them.” Wanger said. “Wanger is a German-born artist who moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and began creating large-scale works of art using discarded Mardi Gras beads. “The Natchitoches piece is his largest to date and local businesses and individuals raised $8,000 to cover fees for bringing Guinness World Records officials to Natchitoches.” According to the online article, “It’s believed the man may be Stephan Wanger, the German-born artist who brought the popular Bead Town exhibits to Northwest Indiana several years ago,” said Speros Batistatos, president and CEO of the South Shore Convention and Visitors Authority.

“The South Shore CVA board of directors and staff are shocked and devastated learning details of this tragedy,” Batistatos said. “Our prayers are with their family, friends and colleagues.” “The South Shore CVA closed Wanger’s Bead Town: Along the South Shore exhibit, which had been scheduled to run through Sept. 30 at the Indiana Welcome Center in Hammond and reopen next year. “Wanger had been planning to set a Guinness World Record for largest bead mural by creating a 3,311-square-foot artwork highlighting Northwest Indiana and the Chicago area. The exhibit opened in April and was anticipated to take two years to complete.

“Staff at the South Shore CVA were in shock and planned to talk to the Bead Town board of directors about the future of the exhibit, CVA spokeswoman Erika Dahl said. “Wanger has worked with countless Region children since he first brought his bead art to Gary, Crown Point and Valparaiso in early 2013. He often hosted workshops and turned his murals, made with recycled Mardi Gras beads, into community art projects. Last year, he worked with Gary students to completed a 769-square-foot depiction of New Orleans scenery.

“Schoolchildren also were involved in Wagner’s latest project in Hammond. In April, Wanger was joined by Indiana Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch and others as for the opening of the Bead Town: Along the South Shore exhibit in Hammond. Wanger was born in Germany and moved to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.”