Wright’s Style

November 30, 2011

In early November the Lake Geneva Regional News reported that the local library had installed two original windows from Frank Lloyd Wright’s Lake Geneva Hotel. The setting is fitting since the library, which opened in 1954, was designed by Wright apprentice James Dresser, the subject of a post to this blog earlier this year.

The hotel in Lake Geneva was one of only a handful of Wright hotels that was constructed.

An early image of the Lake Geneva Hotel (Wisconsin Historical Society Image ID 36456)

In this instance, the commission came in 1911 from Arthur Richards and John Williams. Richards had also engaged Wright to design a hotel for Madison (not built) and would, within a few years, launch his American System Built House project with Wright. A number of these structures still stand, including a row of six houses and duplexes on the south side of Milwaukee.

The Lake Geneva Hotel opened in 1912 and financial problems soon arose. It held on for nearly 60 years through various owners and at least one name change, to the Hotel Geneva, before being demolished in 1970.

In the world of Wright, however, that is rarely the end of the story.

A night light using the window design from the Lake Geneva Hotel

Even Wright’s demolished work lives on through merchandising. So while the Lake Geneva Library is fortunate to have original windows from the hotel, you can buy the window design on a table clock, night light, magazine rack or doormat.

The commodification of Wright and his work has been going on for several decades and I confess to having some Wright tchotchkes of my own. The upsides are exposing a wider audience to Wright’s work and generating income, through licensing, for the Frank Lloyd Wright Foundation. The downside is reducing Wright to a mere stylist. He is so much more and we are fortunate to have a rich array of his  buildings in Wisconsin to help remind us.


The Curious Hu-Manatees

November 16, 2011
The Harbor in St. Petersburg, FL

Beware of the hu-manatees in St. Petersburg, Florida. Photo by Jessica Becker.

Until about five years ago, 1000 people a day relocated from somewhere else to live in Florida. I arrived in St. Petersburg Florida for a conference organized around the over-arching theme of re-imagining the American Dream just as the world took note that global population has reached 7 billion. The former director of the Florida Humanities Council welcomed us to St. Pete’s with a semantics joke: In her state, where people have always come to reinvent themselves and live out their American dreams, she was sometimes called the director of the Florida Manatee Council.

The annual conference gathered together people from the 56 humanities councils located in the U.S. states and territories, all of which receive funding from the National Endowment for the Humanities.  As the current economic and cultural climate requires that we all use full-strength creativity to re-imagine our life here on earth, and public funding for the humanities becomes less certain, I wondered if it wouldn’t be a good idea to team up with the dolphins and palm trees and manatees to explain the value we bring to the world.

After three days of deliberate and truly stimulating conversation about what, exactly, this American Dream notion means to each of us, as well as what role the public humanities play in the future of our states, the country, and the planet, I remembered why we are importantly not staffing sea animals and tropical plants as colleagues.

The humanities are about being human. They are everything about being human. How we as humans make sense of our place on earth, as one of 7 billion other humans, or as one of millions who have chosen or found ourselves in Florida or Wisconsin or wherever. And the way we each think about identity, responsibility, opportunity, citizenship, destiny, and our dreams. As humans, we are curious creatures and therefore are humanists by nature. We engage in the humanities as we wonder about stuff, explore the world, and talk about it with others. And the more of us on the planet there are, the more curious minds will be ruminating on this wild and interesting life and trying to make meaning of it.

At this particular point in history, money for public humanities projects is scarce. Public humanities projects, such as museum exhibitions, the collection of oral histories, the publication of reflective historical accounts, the opportunities for people to gather to read, write, and think together, those projects are harder to fund. It makes me sad. And it is a major assault on my own personal American Dream: that we as Americans enjoy public education, cultural sharing, and civic debate. But I am still hopeful that human curiosity and creativity will overcome silly things like money problems.

The day before I returned to Wisconsin, I sat in the harbor looking out at the Gulf. I was surprised to see a single dolphin swimming very close to my feet, which were dangling from the cement shoreline. I think of dolphins as hanging out in pods, not alone. This particular dolphin, I imagined, was a curious one. He was checking things out. A budding humanist, perhaps, exploring and looking for meaning? In Florida, it seems, the manatees and dolphins are part of the story.

By Jessica Becker, Director of Public Programs at the Wisconsin Humanities Council



‘Sharing the Spotlight’ at Campanile Center for the Arts

November 10, 2011

By Woody Woodruff, Executive Director, Campanile Center for the Arts

Woody Woodruff. Photo: Campanile Center for the Arts.

The Sharing the Spotlight program at the Campanile Center for the Arts in Minocqua celebrated its first birthday in September with a sense of accomplishment. That feeling, however, was also tempered with a feeling of how much more there is to do in our community.

The concept originated for us in December 2009 when musician George Winston performed at the Campanile and revealed that food pantries were his charity of choice. Mr. Winston generously agreed to donate the sales of his CDs to the local pantry. In addition, we incorporated a food and monetary drive in the Campanile lobby and held a post performance reception with all proceeds going to the pantry. For a small community we were thrilled to be able to generate approximately $3,000 right before the holidays, which meant a Christmas dinner for residents who otherwise might not have enjoyed one. It was incredible how the area pulled together for the cause while getting to see a great concert as well.

At that point we understood the power that a community has to help others. Every area has several worthy nonprofit organizations and charities that, like the arts centers, are all struggling for survival.  In this world it too often seems like it is “every man for themselves” to try to generate whatever funds they can, but it doesn’t have to be that way. As an arts center and community gathering place, we are fortunate to have the visibility and platform to be in the public’s eye, but this isn’t the case for many of the others. So many worthy organizations escape the public’s attention, even though their causes are vital to the communities in which they exist. Campanile set out to change that.

Our Sharing the Spotlight program has raised awareness, funds and volunteers for community non-profits. Photo: Campanile Center for the Arts.

Over the past year, Sharing the Spotlight recipients have included the Tri County Council on Domestic Abuse and Sexual Assault, the Lakeland Pantry, Firebird Foundation, North Lakeland Education Foundation and the AVW Foundation, Big Brothers and Big Sisters, Lakeland Sharing Foundation, Community Food Pantry, the Blood Center, Habitat for Humanity, the Northern Wisconsin Literacy Task Force, the Senior Center, Northwoods Wildlife Center and the Minocqua Museum. During that year the program has helped to raise several thousands of dollars for the partnering organizations, but the benefits don’t end there. Partners also added members, volunteers, sponsors, workers, donors, mentors and public awareness and publicity.

We like to think the Sharing the Spotlight program will have long-range impact, one that will ultimately lead to a higher quality of life in the Minocqua area–not only for the recipients, but for those who give as well. The feeling of community camaraderie and the networking opportunities we’ve built are the frosting on the cake. The program has helped create a bond among local non-profits, while diminishing the sense of competition for donors’ dollars. Through Sharing the Spotlight, we’ve learned that we are all in this together and we all need each other; no one is more important than anyone else.

Remembering Mildred Fish-Harnack

November 7, 2011

A new WPT program premiering tonight has all the suspense and romance you’d find in a Hollywood thriller — but this one is a real Wisconsin story, with a genuine hero and a tragic ending. Wisconsin’s Nazi Resistance: The Mildred Fish-Harnack Story tells the tale of  Milwaukee-born Fish-Harnack, who joined the resistance movement in Berlin and paid for it with her life. In fact, she was the the only American woman executed on the personal orders of Adolf Hitler.

It was at UW-Madison where Mildred Fish met her husband Arvid Harnack–she a student and teacher there, and he a Rockefeller Fellow from Germany. With him, she moved to Germany in the late 1920s, and they soon witnessed Hitler’s rise to power. At great personal risk, the couple worked with other activists to oppose Hitler’s Nazi regime: distributing literature, helping Jews and transmitting intelligence information about the Third Reich to the American and Soviet governments.

In 1942, the Harnacks were arrested along with a number of other resistance fighters. Within months, Arvid was sentenced to death and hanged at Plötzensee Prison in Berlin. Mildred, originally sentenced to six years of hard labor by the Reich Court Martial, was sent to the guillotine in February 1943 after Hitler revoked the judgment and ordered a second trial.

Actress and Greendale native Jane Kazcmarek narrates the documentary, which airs Monday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m. on Wisconsin Public Television and Milwaukee’s MPTV. WPT has also launched a companion website that provides a wealth of video, documents, photos and a timeline.

An unwavering season of growth

November 4, 2011

Evelyn Patricia Terry, "Sacred Precious One," Pastel, 41 x 37 inches.

Summer zoomed through like a torpedo. The backyard garden, which in past years always yielded cucumbers and tomatoes, went neglected. This unexpected turn of events instead yielded a season of personal growth and diverse experiences: an unplanned vacation; a chance connection to the book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks; a famous juror at a community festival; and finally a major move.

In June, I accepted an invitation from my daughter and her husband, living in New York, to fly in for a couple of days and hang out with them and his mother visiting from Montana. We enjoyed each other’s company and sought out great experiences for our brief soirée. Though we didn’t have time to catch a Broadway show, the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s “Savage Beauty” had all the trauma and drama of a major theatrical production. A multimedia exhibition, it enthrallingly traversed the prolific fashion career of the late Alexander McQueen whose suicide at age 40 stunned the fashion world. His haunting designs are artistic explorations, shrouded in beauty, mystery and dazzling showmanship. It is no wonder that on the final day of the exhibition, a New York friend reported lines several blocks long, keeping MMA open until midnight.

Evelyn Patricia Terry shares a moment with Dr. Roland Patillo. Photo: Lynda Jackson-Conyers.

Back in Milwaukee in August, as an honoree, I attended the elegant Milwaukee Community Journal Anniversary Celebration, the Academy of Legends. Academy of Legends organizer Patricia O’Flynn Pattillo, founder and CEO of the MCJ weekly newspaper, cleverly emulated Hollywood’s Academy Awards. I took the opportunity to exhibit my work, Sacred Precious One, to a new audience.   I graciously congratulate Florence Dukes for winning in the Arts/Music Category, thus sparing me from giving an acceptance speech.

Rebecca Skloot's "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks."

More importantly,  before the event, I was honored to speak with both former Wisconsin residents, Mrs. Pattillo and her husband, Dr. Roland Pattillo–now Georgia residents. Dr.  Pattillo, a Morehouse School of Medicine professor and Director of Gynecologic Oncology,  shared his role in the discovery of HeLa, the first immortal human cell line ever grown in culture from the cells of Henrietta Lacks. The controversial medical discovery received major news coverage in 2009, with the publication of Rebecca Skloot’s bestselling book, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.  Lacks cells were being used for medical research long after her death, without her family’s knowledge or permission. Dr. Pattillo, who helped expose the existence of the cell line, now organizes and chairs the Annual Morehouse “HeLa” Woman’s Health Conference. After my inspirational conversations with Dr. and Mrs. Pattillo, I went immediately online and read a compelling excerpt of the book.

Back in my comfort zone, I was invited by Mount Mary art professor Brad Anthony Bernard to the 2nd annual Community Arts & Funk Festival reception in Milwaukee — which he organized. I provided artwork from artists represented by the Terry McCormick Gallery.  For me the festival highlight was speaking briefly to renowned Chicago sculptor Richard Hunt. Hunt — along with Nicholas Frank, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design faculty member, and Dr. Annemarie Sawkins, Haggerty Museum Curator — juried the festival. Said to have completed more public sculptures than any other artist in the country, Hunt has in impressive signature sculpture installed on the Mount Mary College grounds. Best of Show went to Eddie Davis (painting), 1st Place went to Angela Smith (wearable art), 2nd Place went to Jeff Newville (leatherwork), and 3rd Place went to Bashir Malik (painting). Honorable mentions went to Vedale Hill (painting) and Jessica Laub (ceramics). A lively end of summer occasion, which along with original artwork, feathered live performances by singer songwriters of original music.

Nicholas Frank, Richard Hunt and Dr. Annemarie Sawkins tally scores. Photo courtesy of Harrison Kern.

Finally, I created a kind of win-win change from a potentially unpleasant situation in late August. On three days’ notice, I was asked to relocate from my art studio, at Lincoln Center Middle School of the Arts, to a much smaller space. After negotiating space for my two studio partners,  I decided to move my studio to my home. The daunting task, packing up and moving into the school’s temporary storage from my space that I had occupied since 1985, occurred with the assistance of three maintenance engineers and two friends nearer the end of September.

The move out of storage is only partially accomplished. Nevertheless, I feel that the new fall season signifies even greater growth. This includes my new project, “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop.” Designed to benefit k-12 youth and their families, this workshop is funded by a MPS Partnership for the Arts Grant, Alice’s Garden, Walnut Way Community Corporation, Riverwest Artists Association, and Lena’s/Piggly Wiggly. It signals the continuation of unwavering growth opportunities including the return of next year’s cucumbers and tomatoes.

–Evelyn Patricia Terry, evelynpatriciaterry.com


A forest and a purpose

November 3, 2011

If you’re one of those people who doesn’t mind going off the beaten path to find a nugget, I’ve got a great place for you.  And no matter which direction you come from, the drive will be outstanding because teeny Valton in southern Wisconsin is in the heart of one of the most secluded and beautiful areas of the state.

Nestled in a small valley in the northwestern panhandle of Sauk County, near rural hamlets of Cazenovia, Hillsboro, LaValle and Yuba, is an historic fraternal meeting place with a very uncommon story, one of an itinerant painter who stayed for two years.

A common exterior........

Modern Woodmen of America Camp 6190 was one of numerous fraternal organizations whose buildings were common in communities in the 1800s.  The organization provided brotherhood and life insurance and the building served the community as well as lodge members.

Going into the Painted Forest is like entering the cocoon to see the butterfly.  The commonness of the exterior gives way to an explosion of color inside.  It’s all around you, truly an environment.  You walk in from outside and might think you’re back outside.

An uncommon interior

After the initial awe, the skill of artist Ernest Hupeden manifests itself in detail.   Hupeden started by painting the stage curtain in exchange for lodging at a local hotel.  His work so impressed the camp members that they further commissioned Hupeden to continue his painting and adorn the walls.  After a couple of years the work was finished. Hupeden had literally covered every inch of wall space including the arched ceiling, window frames, wainscoting and curtains. The vivid imaginative scenes depict a remarkable vision of life, death, initiation rituals, and the aspirations of the Valton M.W.A camp members.

The John Michael Kohler Art Center in Sheboygan has works by Hupeden and you can view two of his paintings – The Valley Where the Bluebird Sings and The Bolton Landscape on the website of the Wisconsin Historical Society.  (Click here for the collections page, then click “search” and type “Hupeden”.)  The Kohler Foundation website also contains information on the artist and his work.

In and of itself the Painted Forest is quite a story.   Edgewood College of Madison cares for the site and another chapter of the tale is how they’ve added to the history and made it a significant rural art resource.

In 2004 they constructed the Art Studio and Study Center about a block away from the old camp building.  The facility provides space for interdisciplinary workshops, lectures, retreats, and artist residencies.   This modern facility doesn’t look “new”, it looks like it has been part of the village for decades.  Very nice.  It has bathrooms, a full kitchen, a sleeping loft and an activity space that can accommodate up to 25 people.

I was there recently for a meeting of the Wisconsin Art Environment Consortium, a group representing nine art environments around the state.  We helped produce the Wandering Wisconsin tours, which includes the Painted Forest, to help build awareness and appreciation of these Wisconsin wonders.

Members of the Wisconsin Art Environment Consortium at work in the studio

The group connects regularly to share tips about site operation and conserving the art we’re entrusted to preserve.  Through Wandering Wisconsin and with the help of the staff of the John Michael Kohler Art Center, the consortium produced thousands of maps with suggested tours and great information about the environment builders and nifty places to visit near each site.  We were able to accomplish this with a grant from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism, which now includes the Wisconsin Arts Board.  Both are great supporters of local arts organizations.  The consortium is working on more marketing plans for 2012 and perhaps some summer opportunities for artists near each site as well.

Ernest Hupeden died in 1911.  It is said he froze in a snow bank by Hillsboro, but no one is certain.  One hundred years after his death we learned that he is buried in an unmarked grave in the potter’s field at the old Richland County Farm/Home near Richland Center, sharing a single marker with over 60 others.

Art Studio and Study Center

Some of Hupeden’s amazing art has been found and conserved but the thought is that many pieces remain in the Valton area, perhaps lost in attics or hidden behind paneling.  Recently a Hupeden mural was found in a bar.  Poor Ernest, he was freed from prison in Germany for a crime he did not commit.  After he was exonerated he came to America and painted his way west.  Now, a hundred years after his death, his genius is beginning to attain broader exposure but it is unsettling that his earthly remains have yet to gain the respect we often take for granted.

The Painted Forest is open Saturdays between Memorial Day and Labor Day or by appointment.  Contact David Smith, director, with questions about the site or access to the studio.  It is a remarkable resource in an uncommon, but equally remarkable setting.  The journey and destination are both enveloped by Wisconsin’s natural beauty – truly conducive to serenity and inspiration.

Elephant Rock - on the way to Valton from the south

Edgewood College has proven to be an exceptional steward of the Painted Forest and then some.   The vision of folks there has enhanced a remarkable facet of Wisconsin’s history.  In partnership with the Kohler Foundation, Edgewood has added contemporary uses to historic preservation.  They’ve made a place that you could see into a place where you can also do, a resource to share with artists, writers and even a baseball team seeking a retreat venue.

As the old guys on the park bench say, “It ain’t what you’ve got, it’s what you do with it”.

Rick Rolfsmeyer, Hollandale, WI