Community Involvement

(list Ark, players, harvest parade, performances etc.)



Recipe for an Art scene

Over the past 8 years that I have lived in Vernon County I have had the great pleasure o creating art and witnessing/enjoying art created by others.  For whatever reason, the Kickapoo water shed is rich with creativity.

We have several theatre groups performing everything from mainstream traditional Broadway to avant garde and improvisational.  We have schooled and primitive artists

working with various materials in various mediums to create original work.  We have several successful art circuit vendors who create and sell their work receiving recognition and awards in the process.  We have muralists.  We have photographers.  We have a cinema auteur filmmaker.  We have writers of fiction and non-fiction, poets and cartoonists along with a monthly poetry reading featuring local, regional and national figures.  We have musicians of all stripes and flavors playing a literal orchestra of instruments and covering a wide span of genre including out there/in there jazz, cover/dance bands, punk, blues, rock, gospel, old timey, Irish, polka, folk and ambient.  We have several great choirs and singing groups.   We have 3 radio stations that cover the left/right and the unity of everything in between with their wide span of programming.  We have a public access TV station.  We have a weekly newspaper keeping us abreast of local times and we have this monthly devoted to the culture of creativity. We have one grand old theatre that hosts high school drama, community theatre and national acts of prominence.  We have one movie theatre. We have 2 bookstores, one of which is bigger than the local library. We have an excellent music store.   We have several fine parades and arts festivals thru-out the year marking seasons and holidays.  We have wool spinners and fabric artists and knitters, weavers, potters, sculptors, clothes designers, puppet makers, dancers, hand drummers, metal workers, an army of jewelry makers, woodworkers, and even a flower mandala maker. We have a host of “quiet” activities

that include biking, fishing, hiking, canoeing, golf, and I’ve heard rumors of a disc golf course coming soon to a field near you.

We have a vibrant and growing culinary and healing arts community.  We have small scale and large scale agriculture with a lively farmers market.  So we have so much to be

grateful for and much more to be done.

How do we bring all these various ingredients together so that we as a community can “sell” Viroqua/Vernon County as a cultural destination?  Come and hang in the artist’s colony because that is what this little town in the heart of the nation is becoming much to the chagrin of some locals who wish the “freak show” and “hippy ridgers” had never came to town.  This rift between the new and the old is slowly changing as the community matures and in some instances Romeo and Juliet do get to get married and

now all of a sudden the grand daughter is delightful and what were we so upset about(hopefully)?

That’s what it takes.  If we are all humans what difference does it make where we were born?  In this day and age when so many small towns have changed with the outflow of their kids to the cities, leaving empty down towns and empty houses—what is there to get upset about when other humans come to town and revitalize and restore the town?  Paying taxes to support the public schools whether one chooses to send their kids to the Christian/Public/Waldorf/Home school side of the educational coin.  That’s the great thing about living in America, we get to choose or so I am told.  The old guard controls the flow of tax dollars and as far as I can tell while we’re all not living with solar panels and eating organic hippy food,  the town is well maintained and gas, water/sewage, lights continue to work.  Garbage is hauled.  And there is no apparent corruption.  That’s all good.

There does not seem to be an industrial base and the topography keeps the farms relatively small.  The largest employers are county/city government including the prison—-the hospital and it’s various clinics— Wal-mart and Nelson Muffler.

It would appear we have the facilities if we can include the fairgrounds to host 1 or 2 seasonal Arts festivals a year that could potentially draw many visitors over a multiple day event. Our location puts us in touch within 4 hours of millions upon millions of people.

To do this would require yet a deeper level of open communication and establishment of trust between the old and new blood.  And I will go as far to say that everything I listed above shows that it is already happening and could benefit from more co-operation and tolerance to the mutual benefit of all concerned parties.

In order to reach the maximum potential these festivals should be intergenerational and multi-faceted(featuring as many of the aspects of creativity including lots of participatory art) and feature local, regional and national talent of both in and out of the box variety so that everyone can find something to like or be able to at least accept the challenge the artist is offering with their “experience” or “thing” that  may spark at the very least a “that was totally weird” or the ever popular “that sucked”.  That’s the risk the artist takes when they put who they are up on stage, on the wall or in your face.  The people ultimately decide what is relevant to their experience of life.  We all have preferences but often lack tolerance for what others unlike us may think.

Another idea that potentially wouldn’t need to wait for the promise of a library/arts building—the City of Viroqua(?) could donate the old Dollar store to a non-profit Arts Council(composed of both new and old, in and out) so to establish a Headquarters, outreach program and School of Arts and Crafts.  In combination with the Driftless Folk School this could be the beginnings of a small creative and functional arts school.

Again and again artists have taken the lead in revitalizing areas only to have them taken out from under them thru the process of “gentrification”.  Most creative people I know struggle to balance the needs of living with the pursuit of creative process.  One way to

“buy” time is to limit living expenses so you don’t have to work as much.  This is certainly a lifestyle choice and usually why the creative class tends to pioneer/move into

the abandoned/ worn down/funky parts of cities/towns.  The rents are cheaper.

Then again I have always been accused of being a dreamer—-the kid with her head in the clouds.  Just recently I took the time to examine this accusation and came to embrace it—

YES I AM!  That is my role as a creative living soul and as long as I continue to dream and imagine the foundations of a creatively realized vision I know in my heart that one day I will see the fruits.  I have born witness to this process many times thru-out my life.

Getting dreams and visions to take root and grow is not always possible or the realm of one single soul as no (wo)man is an island and no work has ever been greater than the combined efforts of a dedicated group of like-minded souls infused with a common vision.

So I dream that Viroqua will continue to embrace and encourage/support a vital and rooted creative and practical arts “industry” that will bring benefit to both new and old transplants.  The parts are already here, we just need the will to assemble them.

Season’s greetings!

Winter solstice 2011