Doin’ just fine.

I’ve had the luxury of living in large metropolitan areas – namely Milwaukee and Tampa/St. Petersburg.

While there, I made sure I utilized all the wonderful amenities afforded to those living among many others.  I was impressed with the facilities and even more impressed with the progressive stance on entertainment and the arts.  It seemed there was always something to do and somewhere to go; stages and galleries where performers and artists did their stuff.

When I opted to return to four distinct seasons – and chose the less-than-urban setting of Western Wisconsin, I wondered how my appetite for all things cultural and refined would be satisfied.  I was a bit nervous that my artistic libido might shrivel and go into certain dormancy.

Now, twenty years later, I continue to marvel at how unfounded my fears should have been and how quickly they were allayed.  Y’see, Western and Northwestern Wisconsin are very nicely seasoned with some of the most imaginative and resourceful people and venues I’ve had the pleasure of patronizing…and I’ve taken it upon myself to do everything I can to see that everyone residing within our caste known as the ‘rank-and-file’ accepts, visits and supports them.

Here are just some of the innovators: Eau Claire Theater Guild, Eau Claire Children’s Theater,  Menomonie Theater Guild, Old Gem Theater, Theatre in the Woods, Red Barn Theatre, Northern Star Theatre, Fanny Hill Dinner Theater, St. Croix Festival Theatre, Northern Lakes Center for the Arts, Phipps Center for the Arts, Willow River Players, Heyde Center for the Arts, River Falls Community Theater, Big River Theater, The Space Center for Creativity, Great River Road Theater, Cumberland ETC, Black River Arts Alliance, Falls Players, Barron Spotlighters, as well as several wonderful venues contained on college campuses from Eau Claire to River Falls to Rice Lake.  Why, there is as much talent and artistic energy here as there is fertile land and recreation.  Musicians – really good musicians – abound.  Artists practicing in every possible medium are found on side roads and city streets alike.  Writers and poets use their surroundings to inspire them and actors may train elsewhere, but can find a whole lot of stage time at places in which they may have been raised.  This place has an appeal for many that is irresistible.

So, as you go through life in your big city neighborhood or suburb, partaking of a plethora of marvelous museums, theater districts, coffee houses, arenas, civic centers and glorious galleries –  wondering how the heck anyone can really live in or on one of the small towns or rural routes of Western and Northwestern Wisconsin, save your sympathy for the people on the Gulf.  I’ve been able to live among the masses – and, here, I’m able mix culture with fresh air.  In coming ‘blogisodes’, I hope to turn the spotlight on specific examples of that good fortune.  In the meantime, enjoy July and try to slow down summer a bit, will ya?  Thanks.

Al Ross

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