NORTH WILDWOOD – Sand and lapping tides greet Dorothy McMonagle Kulisek, as she walks the beach each morning. Camera in hand, she documents her island home.
Being a female entrepreneur is not without bumps in the road, but Kulisek seeks to take it all in stride.
How does she juggle all aspects of her life? Faith in a personal relationship with God guides her creatively and through hard times.
In Kulisek’s experience, sometimes, the beach can save lives.
Kulisek, 59, was born in Philadelphia, in 1961, as one of five siblings. In 1968, her parents purchased a summer home, in North Wildwood, joining the rhythms of summer life.
“I never wanted to leave at the end of the summer,” Kulisek wrote, in a Feb. 5 email.
During the school year, she loved visiting her grandparents, who lived on Five Mile Island. As she wandered the beach, something came alive inside her.
“The first time I ever walked on an empty beach, something happened to me. It was a spiritual experience. I knew then that I would make this my year-round home. The solitude of the sea was and still is, where I draw inspiration to create,” she explained.
1st Brush Strokes
Growing up, Kulisek loved beauty and longed to create.
“Since I was a young girl and my mother noticed my artistic gifts that none of my other five siblings exhibited, she instilled in me the belief that my creativity is a special gift from God, and the best way to return the gift to Him, is to use it to bless others,” she said.
Raised in the Roman Catholic Church, she knew who God was and learned how Jesus Christ died for the sins of humankind over 2,000 years ago.
Her high school years brimmed with entrepreneurial efforts, i.e., selling paintings, painting portraits, arts and crafts, and designing logos.
She later obtained a degree in fine arts from the University of Arts, in Philadelphia. Since 1984, she blazed her creative path.
“I had a popular business that I began straight out of art college,” Kulisek said.
Finding work was not an issue for the budding artist, as she carved miniature replicas of bed-and-breakfasts, in Cape May, and historic homes, in Philadelphia and New Hope, Pennsylvania.
“They were quite charming,” she reflected.
Throughout the 1980s and mid-1990s, she steadily created and met her husband, Robert.
“I met my true love, in Wildwood, in 1987,” Kulisek said.
They had one son, named for his father. Life seemed complete for Kulisek, as she raised her son and painted beside the sea.
Changes in the art world compelled Kulisek to learn desktop publishing, incorporating her art with computer graphics. Yet, changes also loomed for the town she loved.
“It was a critical time in the early 2000s, when everything I knew from my childhood, in the Wildwoods, was being torn down. I felt a need to somehow preserve it,” she explained.
With her husband by her side, Kulisek launched The Wildwood Sun-by-the Sea Magazine, seeking to preserve the “old days” and history of the Wildwoods. The painter became a writer and publisher.
“I never dreamed The Sun would become what it is today, such a cherished and integral part of the community,” Kulisek said.
Amid her success, she wanted a deeper relationship with God.
“My husband, who, in his heart, loved Jesus, helped me by explaining how religion is simply following a set of rules, whereas a relationship requires risk and trust,” Kulisek said.
She said she heard the Lord tell her, “You’re my beloved daughter, in whom I am well pleased.”
“Because Jesus died for me, and I surrendered my life to Him, my life is now hidden in Him,” Kulisek explained.
“I like to think of my rebirth as a gradual sunrise that grew brighter over time as I grew closer to the Lord,” she added.
In July 2015, Robert passed away after battling liver cancer. Once again, Kulisek walked the beach, finding solace in nature.
“My life is very much like a painting, whereas you have to step away from it to see it clearly. Up close, you see all the marks that look like an emotional mess, but from a distance, it all comes together in harmony,” she said.
How can creative people recover economically from the impact of Covid?
“I am very optimistic that we will have a strong summer this year. Small business owners are some of the most creative thinkers and know how to adapt to change and overcome challenges. I believe the tourists can’t wait to get here,” Kulisek said.
She plans to publish two issues of The Sun, in 2021, to pursue her other creative passion: painting.
“I know, without a doubt, that I am fulfilling my God-given purpose,” she said.
Art is not only a means of living for Kulisek, it is a ministry. The beach offers not only creative inspiration, but also peace.
“Life is just better at the beach. Everything is better at the beach. With nowhere to go and nowhere to be, a day at the beach is just what we all need. In these strange days, it’s a place where life feels normal,” she said.
“We stand at the precipice of a revolution of creativity, the beginning of a new renaissance. We live in a world of artists,” she concluded.
Faith Matters is an ongoing series exploring the connection between individuals and their faith, impacting their families, community, and beyond. Those with a story of faith to share should contact the writer at email@example.com.