In Holiday Guide

Todd Mrozinski's stunning "Fall Equinox Fire" painting.

Man buys campfire painting at Pfister moments before fire breaks out

Tis the season for Milwaukee merriment and BMO Harris Bank is bringing you happy holiday stories all season long.

To say it's a magical time of year is a Christmas commercial cliche, but like all cliches, it's overused because it's rooted in fact – in this case that serendipitous happenings often strike in December.

Such was the case last Wednesday.

Rick Kupchella, a former investigative reporter and news anchor in Minneapolis, sent an email to artist Todd Mrozinski confirming that he was going to purchase Mrozinski's massive painting of a campfire. Kupchella, who had been a guest at The Pfister Hotel the weekend before, saw the painting for sale at The Pfister Marketplace, a pop-up holiday boutique inside the hotel that sells the art of 65 local artists.

Mrozinski was elated and responded immediately to the email to sort out the details of the transaction. The stunning painting is 6-by-4-foot and called "Fall Equinox Fire, 2016." Mrozinski has a history of painting fires, but had not painted one in a few years. However, while attending a large bonfire this past autumn, he decided to paint one more.

"I was inspired by the energy of that fire, and I started sketching it and taking video of it," says Mrozinski.

Mrozinksi almost did not bring the fire painting to The Pfister Marketplace because it did not fit in his car. He asked his father-in-law to help him transport it in his larger vehicle, but wasn't certain it would fit in that, either.

"Literally, if it would have been a half-inch bigger, it would not have fit, and it would not have been for sale at the Marketplace," he says.

Shortly after Mrozinski responded to Kupchella's email requesting to buy the fire painting, he learned a real fire had broken out on the roof of The Pfister.

The hotel was evacuated, and the fire was quickly extinguished; however, Mrozinski's affinity for the coincidence of the sale of his fire painting at the hotel and then a real fire breaking out at the hotel was not. Oscar Wilde once wrote, "Life imitates art far more than art imitates life." Was life imitating art again?

"It was really bizarre," says Mrozinski.

Kupchella agrees that purchasing a fire painting from a hotel moments before fire erupts at the hotel is an interesting parallel.

Kupchella purchased Mrozinski's painting for his Minneapolis-based business, I.E. Network, which is a team of journalists, digital marketing storytellers and producers.

"We are passionate storytellers who thrive on uncovering a story to help make lasting connections," he says. "And we have a big conference room with a giant empty wall."

But not for long.

Kupchella – who was staying at The Pfister while visiting his daughter, a student at Marquette University – says that from the moment he saw Mrozinski's painting he knew it was meant to hang on the conference room wall.

"We had been brainstorming for a while about what to put on that wall. Everything we do has meaning and purpose and so I want everything in our space to have meaning and purpose, too," says Kupchella. "I walked into that gallery in The Pfister and there's this enormous 6-by-4-foot painting – a spectacular execution of a beautiful campfire – and I knew immediately we were going to put it on our wall."

Kupchella was taken with Mrozkinski's level of talent, but also by the message the campfire exudes, one that reflects his business' commitment to storytelling.

"Great stories have been told around campfires," says Kupchella.

Similarly, Kupchella bought a front and back bar for I.E. Network's workspace that was in a historic British pub that shuttered.

"The bar also comes from a place where great stories were told," he says.

Mrozinski and his wife, artist Renee Bebeau – who manages The Pfister Marketplace – will deliver the painting to Kupchella after the New Year.

"Todd is an exceedingly talented guy," says Kupchella. "I'm not surprised the stories around the acquisition of this painting are as purposeful and meaningful as the painting itself."

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