About Artistic Endeavors

Arthur Mario Siegel was born into a large farm family in Lockport, Illinois. It was an environment that encouraged the love of music and art from his mother and the desire to invent, design and construct from his father. Art's journey to building Nativity scenes has taken thirty years, but every stop along the way directed him to this destination.

Throughout his childhood, Art was constantly drawing and building things. When he wanted an electric guitar to play pop music, he built one and won first place in the 7th grade science fair. While an art major at the College of St. Francis, Art enjoyed playing folk music with friends in the coffeehouse as well as building and racing motorcycles.

Art and his brother founded Cottonwood Farms to market home grown produce. Their Fall Festival was especially rewarding. They provided a variety of activities for families to enjoy, the Haunted Barn being one of the most popular. The job of designing, constructing and decorating was Art's responsibility allowing him to use many of his talents in developing the scenography. The results were featured in a special feature in the Chicago Tribune.

To further his education, Art enrolled in the Advertising, Design and Illustration program at the College of DuPage, earning admission into the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. Not surprisingly, illustration was his strongest talent. Two of Art's finest pieces were portraits of his sons, Alec and Matthew, and one with his wife Joan.

In the summer 2002, Art was granted an unexpected opportunity. He was asked to build a new crèche at the Cathedral of St. Raymond Nonnatus. Unbeknownst to the staff of St. Raymond, as a parishioner, Art had long wanted to construct a more artistic and period-correct Nativity scene for the Cathedral. After scouring books on the life of Jesus and the Holy Land, he settled on a historically accurate style, complete with the look of stone, brick and stucco. The finished scene drew enthusiastic admiration not only from St. Raymond's parishioners, but from surrounding parishes as well.

Soon thereafter, Art was commissioned to build a crèche at St. Paul the Apostle in Joliet and, one year later, at Visitation Parish in Elmhurst. These scenes are based on traditional Middle Eastern styles. Subsequent commissions have become more diverse, drawing inspiration from less traditional sources including an older church building and medieval-style nativity figures.

Each Nativity scene Art designs and creates is unique. They are built to the scale of the figures and the constraints of the environment, incorporating elements that relate to the style of the figures, historical significance, or the special requests of the client.

After years of being involved in the arts and construction in a variety of ways, Art believes he has finally found the true outlet, a real calling, for his artistic talents.