The 920 | Upfront

UpFront – April 2022

Jenny Jakl, Artist

by Tim Froberg

Jenny Jakl went from a corporate environment to the creative world of art.

It’s a transformation that puts a smile on her face and excitement in her voice.

Jakl owns her own business, working out of her home in Neenah. Much of her work involves creating acrylic abstract paintings for clients. Abstract art uses shapes, a blend of brilliant colors, lines, and textures to achieve its effect.

Jakl will celebrate her second anniversary as a full-time artist next month. She worked for 13 years in a corporate setting as a marketing and technology coordinator, a director of marketing and communications, and an IT specialist before turning her passion for art into an occupation.

Jakl grew up in Hortonville. She holds a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Lakeland University and an associate’s degree in arts business from Fox Valley Technical College. She has also taught classes at the Appleton and Neenah YMCAs along with the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass and the Trout Museum of Art.

To see Jakl’s work, or to reach her, visit her website, Or contact her on facebook, JaklArtist, or Instagram, She can also be reached at 920-502-9076.

What’s it been like changing careers?

“I love it so much. I feel energized, but also exhausted at the end of the day, because I put so much time into it. I feel like there’s not enough hours in the day because I have so many ideas for all the different things I want to do.”

Why did you make such a bold career change?

”I had gotten a director’s job – my dream job. I loved it, but it was stressing me out. I’d come home and find myself creating with art, using it as a release. It was like a super healing experience. I started experimenting more with art and started thinking, ‘You know what? I can turn this into something.’”

When did you develop an interest in art?

“I’ve always had creative women in my life: my great grandmother, my grandmother, and my mother. They always nurtured that creative instinct. But it wasn’t until I had to take a class in art in high school. It was either music or the creative arts. I couldn’t play an instrument, so I started painting landscapes and fell in love with it.”

How do you describe your work?

 “I do very modern, bright, colorful abstract pieces. I experiment with different subject matters. I’ve done a wallflowers-in-motion series and I do some florals. My style is very bright, very colorful.”

UpFront – March 2022

Debbie Daanen Photography

by Tim Froberg

Ashley Schmit grew up fascinated with the photos in “National Geographic” magazine and vowed she would be a professional photographer one day. She has achieved that childhood goal.

Schmit is the owner and lead photographer at Debbie Daanen Photography, a fixture in the Fox Cities that celebrates its 40th anniversary in April.

The Appleton-based business specializes in portrait photography, but handles a variety of general photo needs, working with families, businesses, and even city governmental units. Schmit, a University of Wisconsin-Whitewater graduate, grew up in Freedom and worked as a photographer for Daanen for nearly 20 years before recently purchasing the business.

Schmit has photographed the likes of former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker and former pro football great Rocky Bleier. When she’s not snapping photos, Schmit enjoys the local live music scene.

How do you capture what a person or subject is all about?

“I don’t think you can be a good photographer without being a people person. You can put people at ease by talking with them. I shoot a lot of high school senior portraits, and that can be tough because all of them have personalities, but they may not share them with you. To put them at ease, I’ll ask them questions about what they’re into or if they have a summer job.”

What’s the most unusual photo you’ve shot?

“We’ve done kids in a graveyard, and I had a high school senior who wanted to be photographed at a Taco Bell. The most bizarre was a woman who wanted to be photographed boudoir for her boyfriend, but not in a way where you’d notice it right away. The idea was to give him a photo he could hang on the wall, but you would really have to look at it to realize it was her. I created an art piece that was a photo of a Tuscan wall that had a large clock, and she was the hand on the clock.”

Is there a runner up in that category?

“We work with a lot of local charities, including pet shelters. One time, we photographed a family with four kids along with their parents, their dog, their iguana, and parrot – all dressed in ugly Christmas sweaters.”

Have you shot at any memorable locations?

“Years ago, we worked with Visuelle Productions, which did a lot of wedding shows, and that allowed us to work with modeling groups. I went to Ireland twice, Las Vegas, and Fort Lauderdale where we shot off the back of some very expensive yachts. I went to Mexico more times than I can count. We worked with the board of tourism, because they wanted to encourage destination weddings, but with American-looking models, so that was pretty cool.”

UpFront – Jan/Feb 2022

CAROL COUILLARD, Paper Discovery Center

by Tim Froberg

As a history buff, Carol Couillard is right at home at the Paper Discovery Center.

Couillard has been the museum’s executive director for nearly seven years, coordinating short- and long-term objectives for the STEAM-based riverfront science center focused on local papermaking.

Couillard is a Negaunee, MI native who spent most of her childhood in the Tucson, Ariz. area. She graduated from the University of Arizona with a history degree before moving to Wisconsin in the mid-90s. Couillard worked as a retail sales manager, a program manager for the New London Public Museum, and as a library assistant in the School District of Waupaca prior to starting at the Paper Discovery Center in 2015.

“I’ve always had a fascination with museums,” Couillard said. “I’ve always been kind of a geek in that I like to find out new things about everything and anything.”

When she’s not dealing with museum details, Couillard enjoys gardening at her home in Waupaca and spending family time with her husband, Rob, and their two children, James, 15, and Matthew, 13.

What’s the best part of your job?

“When I started working here, I remember thinking, ‘What’s so exciting about paper?’ But then I found out it’s a really cool subject. We’re branching more into science, a lot more into STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math). I never thought I’d be interested in science, but I love learning about science and following STEAM careers and what that does for the community. And I love seeing all those little faces coming here for field trips and some of the older faces, too.”

What’s unique about the Discovery Center?

“The most obvious thing is the building because it used to be a working paper mill. We get so many people who come in with different stories about someone who worked here. And when they find out about all the different things that have been done through history with water power – like using the sun for light – it’s really relevant to what we’re trying to do today.” 

What’s your favorite exhibit?

“We did some remodeling during the pandemic and built an area for our letter press machines. They’re very old and the artwork you can make with them is amazing. It’s a really good thing to teach, especially with kids these days, because everything is touch of a button. Can you imagine setting a newspaper letter by letter?”

What’s new and/or on the horizon?

“We started an exhibit about women inventors and will be focusing on girls in STEAM. We’re going to have guest speakers and science fairs open to the public. We’re looking into starting a program called ‘Museums for All,’ where we offer reduced admission for people who are getting SNAP benefits. We want to make sure that anyone who wants to visit us, can visit us, regardless of how much money they make.”

UpFront – December 2021

Monica Clare, St. Joseph Food Program

by Tim Froberg

“Fighting hunger – Sustaining hope” is the mission statement of the St. Joseph Food Program.

Monica Clare works diligently to make sure those are more than just words.

Clare has served 14 years with the Menasha-based food pantry, including the last seven as executive director. 

St. Joseph is a private, nonprofit, community-supported organization that provides free food for economically distressed families and individuals in the Fox Cities.

A native of Harbor Springs, Michigan, Clare began working for St. Joseph in 2001 as a financial manager before starting her current position in 2007. As executive director, she oversees all aspects of the food program, including staffing, volunteers, and program procedures and operations. 

“What a lot of people don’t know – and I include myself in that category when I started here – is that we’re more than just a pantry,” Clare said. “We also serve many community organizations who are giving food such as Harbor House and COTS and have other pantries who come here for food. We have 1,000 students who get weekend food from us in our Backpack program. There’s a lot going on here.”

How did you get involved in this type of work?

“I grew up in a family where we always did service-type things, mostly for our church. Working in a community nonprofit was new for me, but it’s been a great blessing. I’ve been doing this for so long that sometimes you take it a little bit for granted. But then you talk to people in the corporate world, and you regain that appreciation for what you do here.”

What does St. Joe’s have planned for the holidays?

“We’ll continue with our regular program. We provide appropriate groceries for people to take home so they can fix their Christmas meal.”

What is your “Grow a Row” program?

“We call it the “Grow a Row for St. Joe’s.” We have eight indoor Fork Farms Flex Farm units – the hydroponic growing units – that grow lettuce for us. We’re growing about 160 pounds of fresh lettuce each month for our clients.”

How can community residents help St. Joe’s?

“We have great volunteers, but we’re always looking for more. And of course, people can donate food or funds. People can go right to our website and click on the tabs, or they can call us. We’re 100% supported by our community. We’re not supported by the government. We’re not a United Way or Feeding America agency. We’re just an independent community nonprofit who depends on the goodness of this community.”

UpFront – November 2021

Jocelyn Kleiber, Lawrence University Hockey Coach

by Tim Froberg

Jocelyn “Jocey” Kleiber grew up in hockey country, so it’s no surprise she quickly developed a fascination with the game. Her love of hockey led to a playing and coaching career on the ice.

The Edina, Minn. native has started her second season as the women’s hockey coach at Lawrence University. Women’s hockey is a new athletic program at Lawrence, debuting during the 2020-21 season.

Kleiber arrived at Lawrence after three seasons as an assistant women’s hockey coach at Stevenson University in Baltimore. She played four seasons of Division 1 hockey at Niagara University as a defense man before entering the coaching ranks as a varsity assistant at Bloomington Jefferson High School in Minneapolis. She then served as a graduate assistant for the women’s hockey program at Robert Morris University – where she received her master’s degree in organizational leadership – and coached for a year at the North American Hockey Academy.

What’s it been like trying to launch a new athletic program?

“It’s definitely challenging. Our academic standards are a little different than other schools. We have to target higher academic-achieving athletes. What we try to get recruits to buy into is that we offer great academic programs.”

How did the first year go?

“It was the type of experience you can’t teach during practice. I was very grateful and appreciative of how our AD and our former president (Mark) Burstein pushed for us to compete. Our inaugural class got that game experience you really need and learned little details, like how to prepare for games and how we do things as a team.”

What do you hope to accomplish this season?

“I’m definitely hoping to get that first win. I can see us getting maybe between five to 10 wins because there are some teams we stack up well against. Off the ice, I want us to have the highest team GPA for women’s sports.”

How would you convince an on-the-fence fan to come to a game?

“I think they’d really like the speed and skill. We can’t outright check like the men do, but the cool thing about women’s hockey is that it’s more of a skills-based game. You have to learn how to take away time and space without illegally checking somebody. We still allow body contact, so it still can get pretty physical.”