Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop Part 2

July 20, 2012

Student painting watercolor inserts for handmade book. Lois Ehlert’s “Eating the Alphabet” used as inspiration.

“Find a way to be a benefit,” my son continually suggested, in response to my constant lament for the return of my lucrative career. I eventually took his advice. By combining years of nutritional research and even more years as a full-time artist, I developed the “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop,” while applying for an after-school grant opportunity. Drawing upon my interest in watercolor painting, unrelenting enzyme research, and the science of healthy living, this workshop has potential as a universal benefit.

A girl and boy hammer nail holes into book spines.

A Book cover with student’s name and title.

In my previous post, “Choosing Change: Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop,” I described how one of the goals – to provide education about the important connection between raw food, enzymes, and great health – strongly connects to a newer goal – to make consuming raw green vegetables “fun.”  Smoothies, juices, and tasting with dips became sources of “fun.” In this post, art projects are presented as a “fun” way to become more familiar with raw foods.  One watercolor project, the handmade book,allows students to depict the artistic beauty of fruits and vegetables before tasting them. Then health benefits, researched and  printed on labels, are put into their books.

The “trump card”

For students, painting with watercolors can be as challenging as tasting raw green vegetables. They have to acknowledge and accept their beginner’s status. Offering fruit as a tasty “trump card” encourages persistence, especially when painting confidence wanes and students despair or “act out” as a cover up. Offering fruit as a reward, again a “trump card,” also encourages students to taste vegetables, especially raw green ones.

An unexpected outcome, of the workshop, was finding strategies to correct behavior problems. For example, in one class, a student became very frustrated. She first painted the required bright watercolors on a large sheet of paper and suddenly changed to wild erratic black strokes covering most of the colors. She loudly declared it “ugly.” I had instructed students to use the bright colors only. But I told her, “The black paint does not matter and “ugly” has nothing to do with anything.”

Nevertheless, she crumpled the painting, shot it in the wastepaper basket, and stormed out of the room. She eventually returned as we began our tasting session. She asked for more fruit. I requested that she retrieve the discarded drawing and proceed with the assignment to get more fruit and she complied. Luckily, the opportunity to taste raw vegetables, and especially the sweet fruits, helped her and many other students to focus and adjust their behavior.

The “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” is interdisciplinary. It incorporates biology, reading, writing, math, science, and visual arts, all while exploring composition, abstraction, page design, color theory, form, and foreground and background relationships in the handmade books.

Evelyn helping Maurice thread a needle.

Fine motor skills—such as painting, cutting folded pages, hammering nails (very loud, but they loved it), threading needles, gluing, and sewing book spines—are developed by various book construction activities. Once completed, the book becomes a resource to share with family and friends. Plus, until its pages are full, more benefits can be added. It reinforces the importance of consuming enzymes, a little known protein nutrient found in raw produce and destroyed by cooking food.

7 year-old Eugene’s book with strawberry and benefit label.

Enzymes can also be found in dried fruits and vegetables, raw nuts, uncooked grains, beans and other uncooked protein foods. Raw green vegetables are emphasized, because students, their teachers, and parents often refuse to eat them.

Combining visual art with tasting raw produce establishes a foundation to enhance creativity, develop self-confidence, and plant seeds for instituting and maintaining health. Consequently, the “Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” fills in nutrition and art educational gaps, encourages future artists, develops art patrons, and promotes a healthy appetite for daily living.

“The Raw Green/Watercolor Workshop” was awarded a Milwaukee Public School Partnership for the Arts Grant. Matching community funds came from Alice’s Garden, Riverwest Artists Association, Walnut Way Conservation Corp, and Lena’s/Piggly Wiggly. For more information, please email me at terryevelyn@hotmail.com or visit evelynpatriciaterry.com.

- Evelyn Patricia Terry


Farewell To A Landmark

June 20, 2012

Building 200 in early 1945, with a giant flag on a towering flagpole in the front lot and banners marking awards for production flying nearby.

As far as historical landmarks go, Building 200 is among America’s homeliest. It’s a two-story barracks-like structure built for function with no attention paid to form beyond the basics of level, plumb and square. Anyone who has spent time on a military base in the years since World War II has seen buildings like it.

For exactly seventy years this month, Building 200 has stood off Highway 12 on the Sauk Prairie just down from the Barabo Hills. It was, until a couple of months ago, the headquarters of the United States Army at the Badger Army Ammunition Plant. Here the Army Corps of Engineers and the Army Ordnance Department supervised the work of the various civilian contractors who constructed and operated the plant since 1942.

Homely it is. Two stories of narrow office corridors in the shape of a rectangle with a cross corridor creating two open courtyards. Not that the weed-choked courtyards are decorative. They are merely a means to admit natural light to the inner row of offices. The exterior is a catalog of historical siding. Wooden clapboards in the 1940s covered by asbestoes sheathing in the 1950s covered by vinyl in the 2000s. The framing is entirely wood post and beam, instead of iron or steel, precious materials reserved for more strategically important purposes. Instead tthe Army used top-grade Pacific Coast fir, old growth lumber, hard to find today.

World War II was fought out of Building 200, so was the Korean conflict. From 1965 to 1975, the managers in Building 200 oversaw the production of propellant for the ammo discharged by the rifles, machine guns, artillery, and rockets fired by American troops at war in Southeast Asia. Pick a scene of combat from a Vietnam war movie, the only way most of us experienced that war. It’s more likely than not that, in the real war the movie imitates, the ammo fired in that scene was manufactured at Badger.

Just as importantly, Badger and Building 200 were part of the Cold War arsenal of the United States. When the communist governments in eastern Europe collapsed, when the Soviet Union dissolved, when China moved away from strict Maoism to whatever philosophy governs it today, they didn’t throw a party in Building 200, but they could have. Just as Badger was part of the victory in the relatively short World War II, it was part of the decades long grinding down of communism afterwards.

As a result, Badger worked itself out of its job. It was decommissioned in 1998 and Building 200 became headquarters for a massive effort to decontaminate over 5,000 acres of infrastructure, soil, groundwater and surface water in nearby Lake Wisconsin.

Much of that work is completed. The Army and its contractors no longer need the 66,000 square feet of office space in Building 200. The property itself has been transferred to the Wisconsin DNR and will become part of the Sauk Prairie Recreation Area. Efforts by preservationists to prevent the demolition of Building 200 and convert it to a visitor center/museum have attracted little support.

Demolition work has already begun. Seventy years ago, when Building 200 was first ready for occupancy, over 8,000 workers were swarming over the grounds beyond to complete the over 900 structures necessary to begin production as scheduled in January 1943.

Today, a handful of equipment operators will pull Building 200 down. It’s not an architectural masterpiece, about as far from a Calatrava or a Lloyd Wright as a building could be.

Let’s call it a landmark to transience, a reminder that the greatest of human achievements, like the humblest, are temporary.


Snapshots of Heritage

May 31, 2012

750 Seventh Street

Late last year, I heard the first murmurings of a substantial dry plate glass negative collection at the Sauk Prairie Area Historical Society, the majority of which had not yet been scanned, much less identified, nor entered into the museum’s records. Around that same time, Jody Kapp, director of development at SPAHS, procured a grant through Heritage Credit Union that enabled the development of an educational photographic program for elementary school children as well as the purchase of a new scanner, with which the century-old negatives could be digitally preserved.

Ochsner bird collection at Tripp Museum in Prairie du Sac

To kick off the program, half a dozen groups of second and fifth graders visited Tripp Museum this spring to learn about the history of photography. They were first introduced to several types of vintage photo processes and taught about composition. Afterwards, everyone had an opportunity to compose drawings, using what they had learned in the presentation, and to design a cyanotype, which developed outdoors and was then taken inside for a quick bath. These are now on display.

Children (and adults!) who visit this summer are invited to use one of the museum’s digital cameras to take photos, which can then be emailed to the photographer and may be posted to the historical society’s Facebook page. “Our goal is to not only help people understand the importance of photography in capturing the stories of a people,” says Jody, “but also to interest them in learning how to make their own well-thought-out compositions so they too can help preserve the people, places, and things that are important to them through photography.”

School kids working on cyanotype creations

In late March, I began working with fellow society members and volunteer archivists, Jack Berndt and Verlyn Mueller, helping to scan, identify, and catalog the vast glass negative collection. We have thus far archived 132 images and believe that there are approximately 300+ left. Some of the photos had been previously printed, and it was a great pleasure to realize that the society has the originals, while the majority have not really seen the light of day in more than a century. Farm scenes, newly-built houses, social venues, and landscape portraits are common themes, and it was certainly expected that those sorts of things would be uncovered. Less expected are what appears to be an 1899 trip to New Orleans, photos of photos, and touching memorials for deceased community members.

Many of these images have been printed and enlarged, and they are on display now through November 17 in the Mueller Gallery on the first floor. The entire collection, as it is unveiled, will be presented as a slideshow that you can see when visiting. The public is invited to help identify the people, places, and events depicted in the images. In conjunction with this exhibition, there are a variety of vintage cameras and photo-related equipment on display, such as an old US Army projector, several magic lanterns, varied types of photography, and much more.

Verlyn inspecting a dry plate glass negative

Tripp Museum is located at 565 Water Street in Prairie du Sac and generally open Fridays and Saturdays from 9 am – 1 pm, or throughout the week by appointment. Call 608.644.8444 or email (spahs@frontier.com) for more information. While there, be sure to check out the Bradford Bison [Bison Occidentalis], on long-term loan from the University of Wisconsin Zoological Museum, which was discovered locally by then seven-year-old Joshua Bradford in 2005, and returned to SPAHS this year. There are also tickets available for the Bradford Bison Quilt Raffle, drawing to be held at the “Brunch with a Bison” community party on Sunday, July 1, 2012.

Ed Steuber gives a driving lesson near Prairie du Sac[Edna Graff and Edwin Steuber, Stella Carpenter and Leta Bernhard Stelter]

Jodi Anderson


Highway 41 Revisited

May 31, 2012

Route 66 is the mother road and mother lode of American auto travel mythology.  Wisconsin is not on the fabled route that runs from Chicago to Los Angeles, but we are not without a mythic highway of our own.  You can’t get your kicks on Route 66 here, but you can get it done on Route 41.

That’s what millions of travelers have been doing ever since 1926 when the federal government pledged to expand funding for a modern “trunk” highway system that would run from coast to coast and border to border.  East-west roads received even numbers, ergo 66 for the Chicago-Los Angeles route. North-south roads were odd-numbered, ergo 41 for the route that ultimately connected Copper Harbor in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan to Miami, Florida.  It was one of only a few highways  in the country where a traveler could spot a moose at one end and an alligator at the other–with no more than  2,000 miles in between.

Sign at the northern end of Highway 41 near Copper Harbor.

A ribbon of smooth concrete, with two lanes divided by painted stripes visible in the dark, and with identifying signs mounted within reasonable distances to keep drivers from getting lost, the 1920′s U.S. highway system was state of the art for its day.  Much has been written about the primitive state of American roads prior to the construction of the Interstate System in the 1950s. We all know the story of how President Eisenhower, recalling an all but impossible cross country journey with military vehicles in 1919, vowed to build a new system once he moved into the White House.  American roads were terrible in 1919, but had Ike made his road trip ten or so years later, his opinion might not have been so negative and our current highway system might not be the same.

The difference between 1919 and, say 1929, was federal funding.  Realizing that the automobile required better roads than horse-drawn wagons and that the states could not be relied upon to create a uniform system of roads, the federal government first offered the carrot of regular funding in 1917.  The program was expanded throughout the 1920s. Wisconsin, for example, told the feds it would need money for over 5,000 miles of urban, rural and cross-country highways and, eventually, got it.

Route 41 was number one in Wisconsin. It connected the most populous part of the state, starting at Kenosha and Racine, then north through Milwaukee and on to Fond du Lac, Oshkosh, Appleton, Green Bay and Menominee. Then it was on to the wilds of the UP and down to the shore of Lake Superior.

It was a vacationer’s route. Chicagoans heading north to the Wisconsin lakes came up 41, then turned off onto adventurous  state routes to Waupaca, Oneida, Vilas and other resort counties.  Snow birds went south, through Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Tennessee, and Georgia, down to Naples on Florida’s Gulf Coast. There 41 turns straight east across the Everglades to Miami, still two lanes, still flanked by ditches filled with waterfowl and ‘gators easily spotted out the car window.

One difference between the highways of the 1920s and the Interstates of the 1950s, is that the highways ran through villages, small town and cities. Their purpose was to link downtowns to downtowns.  In Chicago, for example, Highway 41 was and still is Lake Shore Drive.  Appleton ran it down College Avenue. Milwaukee followed a different course, choosing to run its stretch of 41 on 27th Street. It wasn’t on the lake, but still in the heart of the city.

Historic Highway 41

Small towns vied to bring the new highway down their Main Street. The term bypass, unheard in the 1920s, first reared its ugly head in the  early 1930s and bits and pieces of Route 41 were moved to the outskirts. The death knell for down town commercial districts started to sound as soon as the highway moved out of town. It was only a matter of time before the Interstates demolished and/or carved up  urban neighborhoods and pulled downtown stores to malls positioned off the exit ramps.

It you look carefully you can still see relics of the old Route 41 in Wisconsin.  The heavily remodeled or tumbled down remains of cheese stores, root-beer stands, gas stations that sold only gas, and mom and pop  motels with a string of rooms fronting the road and the “office” in the family home nearby.

Route 66 has a legion of fans who preserve its history. Route 41 has one too, at least in Milwaukee. The annual gathering of Historic Highway 41 will take place on Saturday, June 2 on 27th Street.  Go to http://www.historichwy41.com. Get it done on 41.


Portal Hawthorne

May 29, 2012

Although it is bordered by major transportation arteries, the Hawthorne neighborhood in Madison seems sheltered and quiet.  At the center is the heart, Hawthorne Elementary School, a welcoming place with a large, grassy playground, plenty of trees and plenty of happy faces.  The school a culturally diverse east side school where 68% of students qualify for subsidized meals.  And the school and community are home to new symbol of their rich culture and cohesiveness.

The Hawthorne Kiosk project was over 3 years in the making.  Doing something with next to nothing takes time, as does involving all those great students and their community.  The term Kiosk is a bit of a misnomer – this is a large, colorful, involved mosaic structure that embodies a spirit of place.  It offers a lot more than messages.

ImageThe clay tile mosaic kiosk was inspired by the rich history of vernacular mosaic artists in Wisconsin.  The original plan was to hire an artist to oversee the project but funding never materialized, so Hawthorne art teacher Julie Olsen rolled up her shirtsleeves and volunteered for the task.  “The school’s visionary art teacher had met challenge after roadblock after delay by keeping her vision clear and her project open to embrace the community,” said Anne Pryor of the Wisconsin Arts Board.  “Out of a combination of planned process and responses to needs that developed, the kiosk was born of many hands working together to add a fabulously unique art object to their community.”Image

To prepare, Julie put a lot of time into researching vernacular artists, past and contemporary. She spent time with folks at Shake Rag Center for the Arts in Mineral Point and Grandview near Hollandale. She studied with a variety of artists from Madison to Fennimore. All the people she consulted with are her mentors, she says.

Hawthorne Elementary students spent three years making tiles with images describing the unique aspects of the neighborhood, their landmarks, and the people and qualities of their community. Middle and high school students at East Madison Community Center assembled the tiles into mosaic story blocks.  Parents and neighbors helped complete the tiles in community art sessions over the summer.  And art teacher Julie was the glue that held it all together.  As beautiful as the finished product is, clearly the process was as notable as the outcome.

“All sides of the kiosk (even the undersides) are embellished with ceramic images and lettering Imagethat speaks of the people in this place,” observed the Arts Board’s Pryor after the dedication.  “It is a reflection of the Hawthorne community, anchored at the elementary school but including many other rippling circles of nearby residents. Its sturdy decorative frame will support information sharing between the school and community, with the ceramic-embellished posts housing glass cases where notices and messages will go.”

The Hawthorne Kiosk represents a unique community arts partnership involving the Hawthorne Neighborhood Association and Hawthorne Elementary School.   The City of Madison Department of Planning and Community and Economic Development chipped in with a Neighborhood Grant Program grant and, of course, the youth from the East Madison Community Center represented a super partnership as well.

The Hawthorne Community Kiosk was dedicated at a school and community event May 15, 2012.  You could easily tell by the crowd there that it has helped reestablish ties between the school, residents and community organizations. The project catalyzed neighbors, families and children, with the common goal of creating a beautiful structure that enables them to post events in English, Hmong, and Spanish, which will continue to improve engagement of all area families in neighborhood and school events.

Anne Pryor weighed in onImage the larger picture.  “Art supports communication – yes.  Art supports community building – yes.  One person’s vision and determination can envelop others and benefit the greater whole – yes. Artists tend to be people with vision and determination – yes. Thank God for creativity working on behalf of community.”

The kiosk is a portal through which the children welcome the community to their space.  Community members can use this gateway to reach out to each other.  And it is appropriately placed near a school, because there is a lesson there for us all.  “My community became a lot bigger,” said Julie Olsen.

If you’re in the area, take some time to visit the Hawthorne Kiosk.  It is best viewed from the Lexington Avenue parking lot of Hawthorne School, 3344 Concord Ave, Madison.

Rick Rolfsmeyer, Hollandale WI

Follow the links below for information on vernacular artists:

http://www.kohlerfoundation.org/collections.html

http://www.jmkac.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=145&Itemid=129

Narrow Larry’s map of vernacular art sites:

https://maps.google.com/maps/ms?client=firefox-a&ie=UTF8&oe=UTF-8&channel=s&msa=0&hl=enmsid=111437531509850323425.0000011221219edee8f2e

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Building Memory: Milwaukee’s War Memorial

May 25, 2012

When the Milwaukee Art Museum recently announced that funds would be dedicated to restoring the War Memorial building, I had reason to smile.

I smiled because it is a good building that will get some well-deserved attention. The last time I visited the museum, the depredations of time were evident on the reinforced concrete wings that establish its strong presence overlooking Lake Michigan. That kind of wear is inevitable in a building that is now 55 years old. But it must be corrected.

War Memorial

The War Memorial when built in 1957.

Designed by the modernist master Eero Saarinen, the building was created as a memorial to those who had died in World War II and the Korean War. It was also the new home for the Milwaukee Art Center, created from the merged Milwaukee Art Institute and Layton Art Gallery.

The original functions of the building were clearly delineated with the War Memorial above and the art museum below. Part of what makes this a good design is that Saarinen kept the view to the lake open between the stone-covered base and the raised wings which cantilever in four directions. Good as the design is, it has been overshadowed by the spectacular 2001 addition designed by Santiago Calatrava.

The smile I had upon reading the blog post also came from deep memories of the building. When I grew up in the Milwaukee suburbs, I enjoyed visits to the city and especially the lakefront. My first visit to an art museum was in this building, I had dreams of becoming an architect and the War Memorial was unlike any other building I saw. It was modern and bold. It made a big impression.

As a budding architect, I spent many hours creating my own buildings using anything at hand—wooden blocks, Scrabble tiles, game boards, paper towel tubes—as well as building toys. I used one of those commercial building sets to construct my take on the War Memorial with its dramatic cantilevers. After all these years, I was able to locate a photo of my efforts.Model Building

Looking at my model now, I can see that, like a real building, it accepts the limitations of the materials at hand. It’s the work of a boy more inclined to imitation than originality—a flawed, but sincere attempt to explore an idea.

Saarinen’s War Memorial planted a seed in me that has germinated in unexpected and satisfying ways. While I never became an architect, I’ve never lost my interest in buildings, their designs, their histories and their place in our communities.

–Michael Bridgeman

Note: The Journal-Sentinel’s Mary Louse Schumacher has written a blog post about the War Memorial Building, its history and its importance to Milwaukee.

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Fox Lake’s Big Band Legacy

May 1, 2012

Since 1973, jazz lovers in Fox Lake, Wis., have organized the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee, a community-wide tribute to a local jazz legend.

Berigan—born Roland Bernard Berigan in Hilbert, but raised in Fox Lake—built his reputation as a trumpet playing phenom during the 1930s swing era. At that time Berigan was not only playing with Benny Goodman and other big band greats, but he also recorded a number of albums with his own band. Berigan’s 1937 recording of the Vernon Duke/Ira Gershwin-penned “I Can’t Get Started” won him a posthumous spot in the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1975.

Bunny Berigan Day in 1974 with (left to right) Henry Ballweg; Bunny’s brother Donald; daughter Joyce; grandson James; and nephew Kaye. Photo: Harriet O’Connell Historical Room at Fox Lake Public Library, Fox Lake, WI.

A volunteer-driven effort originally coordinated by Berigan’s daughter Joyce, this year’s Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee takes place May 18-20, 2012. Julie Flemming, who has coordinated the event in recent years, says the Jubilee attracts traditional and Dixieland jazz fans from all over the country. Five bands are slated to perform, including the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee Band, led by California-based Wonewoc native Bob Schulz; and the Kaye Berigan 5 TET, led by Bunny’s nephew Kaye, who now plays trumpet with Milwaukee’s SUPERband.

Bunny Berigan, 1937. Photo: Harriet O’Connell Historical Room, Fox Lake Public Library, Fox Lake, WI.

A graveside jazz tribute will honor both Berigan and Joyce Berigan-Hansen, who died in 2011.  Also, on hand throughout the weekend is Berigan biographer Mike Zirpolo, author of the 2011 book Mr. Trumpet.

Zirpolo’s 550-paged work of jazz scholarship “is the most definitive biography of Bunny ever—a fabulous book,” says Julie Flemming. And she should know. Flemming curated the online image archive, Bunny Berigan: Fox Lake’s Own, part of the University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. While she may not have heard of Berigan when she moved to Fox Lake decades ago, “I  can now identify Bunny’s relatives better than I can my own,” Flemming confesses with a laugh.

“For 33 1/2 years, I ran the Fox Lake Public Library, and ten years into my job as a librarian, the historical society ladies allowed me the key to historical room,” Flemming says. “That’s when I started wondering, ‘Well, who is this Bunny Berigan?’”

Her edification began when she would overhear performances while volunteering in the kitchen at the Jubilee. Soon she would start watching jazz documentaries, reading books on jazz, driving to Madison for monthly Madison Jazz Society performances, and after Joyce Berigan-Hansen grew ill and Flemming retired, taking on more and more of the Jubilee planning. This year, she tells me near the end of our conversation, she accomplished most of the work while recovering from a car accident, which left her with a broken neck.

If the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee is a labor of love, staffed by Fox Lake volunteers and sponsored by local organizations, Julie Flemming seems to embody her community’s collective devotion to preserving its jazz heritage.

By the way, I loved this bit on Bunny Berigan that aired late last year on Wisconsin Public Radio. Over Berigan’s expressive trumpet solo on “I Can’t Get Started,” we hear Wisconsin Life contributor Dean Robbins describe his teen-aged infatuation with the recording: Berigan’s trumpet playing “conveys a melancholy that approaches the sublime,” he says.

You’ll find details about the Bunny Berigan Jazz Jubilee, coming May 18-20 to Fox Lake, at the festival website.

Find information about other Wisconsin jazz events at the links below:

Birch Creek Summer Jazz Series, Egg Harbor

Eau Claire Jazz Festival

Great River Jazz Fest, La Crosse (no link available)

Isthmus Jazz Festival, Madison

Kettle Moraine Jazz Festival, West Bend

Riverfront Jazz Festival, Stevens Point

–Tammy Kempfert

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On Wisconsin Spirit

March 19, 2012

“When I came [to Wisconsin] I just thought, ‘There is something different about this place, there is something very special about this place.’ And you can feel it … this place is extremely special, and it was no accident that it became so special.”

So says Gwen Drury, a PhD student in Educational Leadership and Policy Analysis at UW-Madison, who since coming to town has gained the reputation as our resident Wisconsin Idea expert.

If she had been talking about anywhere else, I might have dismissed the statement as parochial or self-involved. But we’re in Wisconsin. Like others I’ve met, my family came here for the UW, moved away for a time, missed Wisconsin and returned; we’ve since had opportunities to leave but choose to stay. From our perspective, a little Wisconsin exceptionalism is in order.

UW President John Bascom gave campus lectures each Sunday on his students’ moral obligation to serve the state. Photo: Wisconsin Historical Society (Image ID 33717).

Recently on Wisconsin Public Radio, I listened to Drury explain how the Wisconsin Idea sets our state apart from the rest. Now at least 100 years strong, the Wisconsin Idea is the philosophy that the boundaries of the university are the boundaries of the state–or in a 21st century wired Wisconsin, the university really has no boundaries. In other words, the UW has an obligation to serve all people, not just its own academic community. Other states tried similar approaches to public service, with less impressive or enduring results, maintains Drury.

Or as she and WPR host Larry Meiller adorably point out in the broadcast, it’s not the Wisconsin IDEA, it’s the WISCONSIN Idea.

The philosophy has roots in the UW’s earliest days, when John Bascom served as its president. Each Sunday, he lectured students at length  on their moral obligation to the state, which had made their academic opportunities possible.  His teachings powerfully impacted the students of his day, including all-star Wisconsin Idea proponents such as Robert M. La Follette, Charles Van Hise and Charles McCarthy.

Notably, around this time, Carl Beck wrote the original lyrics to the UW fight song, “On Wisconsin.” (With modified lyrics, “On Wisconsin” also became our official state song in 1959.) Beck himself was surely affected by the Wisconsin Idea. In 1912–the same year McCarthy published his book “The Wisconsin Idea”–Beck wrote an article titled “Wisconsin spirit–a discussion.” In it, he calls for rehabilitating the Wisconsin spirit on campus, “temporarily strangled [by] … first, a rapidly expanding university, and second, a larger inflow of the leisure class.” What made me seek out his article, though (with thanks again to Gwen Drury for steering me to it), was his assertion about Wisconsin’s specialness: there’s “spirit,” and then there’s “Wisconsin spirit.”

I couldn’t resist reproducing a table from Beck’s article, below.

Beck, Carl (Feb. 1912). Wisconsin spirit–a discussion. Wisconsin Alumni magazine, 13 (5).  Retrieved from http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu.

Spirit “Wisconsin Spirit”
1. self-activity initiative
2. peculiar ability efficiency
3. ardor enthusiasm
4. pervading influence progressiveness
5. animating principle democracy
6. state of mind open-mindedness
Sum Total ______________
7. peculiar quality service

Beck believed that, while these six somewhat vague characteristics of “spirit” combine to create a “peculiar quality,” “Wisconsin spirit” is embodied in six specific, positive attributes that all add up to “service.”  Moreover, without all six working together, there’s no “Wisconsin spirit.”

From now on when I hear our state song, I’ll think about these deeply ingrained values that continue to make our state a special place.

*********************************

As the Badger men’s basketball team heads into the NCAA Sweet 16 tournament, here’s a postscript about ‘On Wisconsin,’ which Wisconsin Public Television originally broadcast to commemorate the song’s 100th anniversary.

–Tammy Kempfert


Wisconsin’s Literary Landmarks: From “Our Town” to “Citizen Kane”

March 6, 2012

Wisconsin’s Literary Landmarks

By Brian D’Ambrosio

Joseph Webster House, Elkhorn, WI

As hard as it may seem at times to give reasons for, there is more to learn about and excite the sentiment in the Badger State above and beyond milk and cheese (regardless of how deliciously impressive) and the Green Bay Packers (notwithstanding stunning Super Bowl success). Wisconsin has produced many influential authors and dramatists and served as the source for many great fictional bodies of work. In this article you’ll take a winding journey, from Pepin to Kenosha, on the path to discover Wisconsin’s unique ancestry of literary landmarks, storybook attractions, and scholarly sites, and how the unstoppable spirit of a few of its residents came to heavily influence the tenor of mythical Americana.

Sterling North Boyhood Home, Edgerton

In Edgerton, Wisconsin, tourists with the most bookish of bents will enjoy  visiting the landmark boyhood home and museum of Sterling North (1906-1974), world-famous author of Rascal, So Dear to my Heart, The Wolfling, and 28 other works.  In 1963 North completed the book Rascal: A Memoir of a Better Era. Set in 1917 when he was 11-years-old, the best-selling book chronicles a boy’s fondness for and friendship with a pet raccoon in the fictitious “Brailsford Junction.” The home, which is open from April 5 through December 20, Sunday afternoons 1:00 to 4:30 p.m., may be toured by appointment. Refurbished to its 1917 setting, furnished with period antiques, the museum showcases North’s desk, typewriter, photos, books and many family artifacts and memorabilia.

Lorine Niedecker, Fort Atkinson Poet

Lorine Niedecker (1903-1970) was a poet of eminent endowment whose life and work were long cloaked in anonymity. The introverted daughter of a carp fisherman, she spent most of her life on a flood-riven plain in southern Wisconsin. She was born and died on a marshy spit of land known as Blackhawk Island near Fort Atkinson. The Friends of Lorine Niedecker sponsors a monthly poetry reading in Fort Atkinson, which is rich with Niedecker-related sites, including W7309 Blackhawk Island Road, the location of Niedecker’s writer’s cottage and modest home. Both of which are private property, but access is allowed through an appointment with the Friends of Lorine Niedecker. Other notable markers include: Union Cemetery, County Road J north of Hwy 106, Cemetery Road, the burial place of Lorine Niedecker and her parents Henry and Daisy; 506 Riverside Drive, the home where Lorine stayed during the school year 1917-1918 with family friends; 1000 Riverside Drive , the home where the Niedeckers lived from 1910-1916; 209 Merchants Avenue, the Dwight Foster Library, home to Lorine’s personal library archive; 401 Whitewater Avenue, the Hoard Historical Museum, which operates a room with myriad artifacts related to the poet’s life.

Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm, North of Baraboo

Aldo Leopold’s A Sand County Almanac will be read and revered ad infinitum. This classic, featuring philosophical essays and natural observations established Leopold (1887-1948) as America’s preeminent environmental thinker. Published in 1949, shortly after Leopold’s death, A Sand County Almanac is a masterpiece of nature writing, widely referenced as one of the most seminal nature books ever penned. Writing from the vantage of his retreat shack along the shore of the Wisconsin River, Leopold mixed conservation and wildlife essays, polemics, and memoirs, in what has become a catalyst for the country – and world’s – evolving ecological awareness. “Outdoor prose writing at is best……A trenchant book, full of beauty and vigor and bite…All through it is (Leopold’s) deep love for a healthy land.” So raved the New York Times. The Aldo Leopold Shack and Farm is located near Baraboo, Wisconsin. Purchased by Leopold in the early 1930s, he converted a chicken coop, which he dubbed ‘the Shack’, for his family to spend weekends. Tours of the Shack are offered Saturdays, from Memorial Day through the end of October. Guided tours originating at the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center are the only way to access and view the inside of the Leopold Shack.

Laura Ingalls Wilder Birthplace, Pepin 

It appears that every state wants to claim a piece of author Laura Ingalls Wilder (1867-1957). Anyone who watched the Little House on the Prairie TV series knows that Walnut Grove is in Minnesota and there’s a bust of Laura on display in Missouri where she settled in her later years. Laura also lived in Minnesota, Iowa, Kansas, Florida, New York and South Dakota. Near the tiny village of Pepin, Wisconsin, Wilder’s birthplace is commemorated. The Ingalls family lived in a small cottage when Laura was born, in 1867. You’ll find a replica of her log cabin at the Little House Wayside and an historical marker in Pepin Park. Plan on visiting in mid-September to participate in Laura Ingalls Wilder Days.

Zona Gale Home, Portage 

Zona Gale Home, Portage, WI

Novelist and playwright Zona Gale (1874-1938) achieved nationwide popularity as a writer and won the first ever Pulitzer Prize awarded to a female for Drama. Once she gained a niche in the literary world, she returned to her place of origin – Portage, Wisconsin – where she lived and worked the rest of her life. Zona Gale was born in Portage on August 26, 1874, and, barring a brief time in Minnesota, lived there until she entered the University of Wisconsin. At the time of her birth, her father was a Milwaukee Road railroad engineer, working at the time out of Minneapolis. Zona’s mother chose to be prepared for the birth of their first and only child at the Portage home of her mother. Gale first garnered attention for her short stories set in the fictional town of Friendship Village. Published in 1908, Friendship Village proved very well-liked and she went on to write a similar series of stories. Miss Lulu Bett shared best seller honors in 1920 with Sinclair Lewis’s Main Street, and the adaptation of the novel brought her the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, in 1921.

Hamlin Garland Homestead, West Salem 

Hamlin Garland was born in a West Salem log cabin on September 14, 1860. After spending his teenage years in rural Iowa, Garland (1860-1940) became a teacher in the Boston School of Oratory. Between the years of 1885 and 1889 he taught private classes in both English and American literature. Some time was also spent lecturing on land reform in and around Boston, where he made the acquaintance of Oliver Wendell Holmes, George Bernard Show, William Dean Howells, Edwin Booth and other worthies. It was in 1917 that A Son of the Middle Border was published. The next year, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters. For the novel A Daughter of the Middle Border he was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for best biography of 1921. In 1893, Hamlin Garland bought his parents their first home, called the Hays house, in West Salem, Wisconsin. The homestead, open weekends May through October, came to be known as “Maple Shade.”

Joseph Webster House, Elkhorn 

At 9 East Rockwell Street in the small town of Elkhorn, Wisconsin, stands the neat, modest, white Greek Revival style house where composer Joseph Philbrick Webster (1819-1875) lived. He lived here from 1857 until his death in 1875, at the age of 56. Most of Webster’s more than 1,000 songs were penned during this period. Some of his classics are still well-known today. “Lorena” was heard and immortalized in the classic movie Gone With the Wind. Webster’s compositions were eclectic, including music for ballads, religious hymns, nationalistic drama, and a cantata – a vocal composition intended for musical accompaniment and a choir. The house, which served as a stopping point and sanctuary as part of the Underground Railroad, is open year-round to the public.

Thornton Wilder Birthplace, Madison 

Thornton Niven Wilder (1897-1975) was born in Madison, Wisconsin (at that time a town of eighteen thousand inhabitants) at 140 Langdon Street on April 17, 1897, the son of Amos Parker Wilder, a Wisconsin State Journal editor, and Isabella Niven Wilder. His twin brother died at birth, and Wilder grew up with an older brother and three younger sisters. He took to writing as a youngster, eventually earning his undergraduate degree at Yale, and graduate degree at Princeton. By the time he died on December 7, 1975, at his home in Hamden, Connecticut, Wilder garnered international fame as a playwright and novelist. To this day, his works are translated, performed and prized by audiences worldwide. Wilder’s most famous work, Our Town, explores the lives of people living in the quintessentially American small town of Grover’s Corners, New Hampshire. It was first produced in 1938 and received the Pulitzer Prize for Literature. Madison was the first of three “our towns” in Wilder’s boyhood (he lived here until he was eight), and it is indicative of Wilder’s interests that each was academic – Madison, Berkeley, New Haven. Though primarily associated with Our Town, Wilder also earned a Pulitzer Prize in 1927 for the novel The Bridge of San Luis Rey. A small plaque commemorates the birth site.

John Muir Park and Boyhood Home

Father of our national park system, farmer, inventor, sheepherder, explorer, writer, founder and first president of the Sierra Club, and conservationist John Muir (1838-1914) was perhaps America’s most rugged and prominent naturalist. Raised near a little lake outside Portage, Wisconsin, Muir’s family immigrated to the United States from Scotland in 1849. They build a home (long since eroded) and started a farm called Fountain Lake Farm; Muir’s formative years in the Badger State instilled a love of nature and land. Muir published six volumes of writings, all describing discoveries of natural environs. Additional books and compilations were published after his death in 1914. Perhaps what is most important about his writings was not their number, but their sagacious content, which continues to hold an influential effect on American ideas and the policies that help to nurture and preserve nature’s elegant habitats. The park is open year-round.

Orson Welles Birthplace, Kenosha

The son of a gifted concert pianist and wealthy inventor, Kenosha’s Orson Welles (1915-1985) proved a precocious child, excelling in music, art, and even magic. By age 16, Welles had set out to make his mark in the dramatic arts. Within three years, he’d entered stage, film, and radio, and by 1941, he’d co-written, directed and starred in Citizen Kane, considered by many to be one of the greatest films of all time. Born George Orson Welles to Richard Head Welles and Beatrice Ives Welles, May 15, 1915, Welles once said: “I never blamed my folks for Kenosha. Kenosha has always blamed my folks for me.” Built in the 1880s, Welles’ birthplace is a private residence, the front of which holds a bronze plaque commemorating the home town mastermind.

August Derleth, Walden West Festival 

August Derleth (1909-1971) was a prolific writer, publisher, and anthologist. Though best remembered as the first publisher of the horror writings of H.P. Lovecraft, he wrote in several genres, including biography, detective fiction, science fiction, poetry, and historical fiction. Sauk City’s August Derleth Society sponsors a yearly event the second weekend in October, The Walden West Festival. The festival includes satires, musical performances, speakers, a drive to Derleth-relevant sites, and an evening poetry gathering at the writer’s grave. Permanent exhibits linked to Derleth are located at Leystra’s Restaurant and the Cedarberry Inn in Sauk City, the Sauk City Library, and at the Sauk County Historical Society, in Baraboo.

–Brian D’Ambrosio

 

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Houdini and Wisconsin

February 16, 2012

The magician Harry Houdini continues to be an important figure in America’s cultural pantheon, though he died nearly 86 years ago. Hungarian by birth, he often claimed Appleton, Wisconsin, as his hometown since he lived there as a boy.

A new exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art celebrates Houdini as an American icon. “Houdini: Art & Magic” includes work by contemporary artists as well as historical photos, ephemera, films, objects, and much more. I’ve made one quick visit to the gallery and will be sure to return.

Harry Houdini

A pubilcity photo of Harry Houdini from 1922. Wisconsin Historical Society ID 83261

A paragraph on a text panel early in the exhibition explains that Ehrich Weiss (or Weisz) arrived in Appleton in 1878. Though he often said he was born in Appleton, Houdini was actually born in Budapest and came to Wisconsin with his family when his father took a position as rabbi at a small congregation. Four years later the family moved to Milwaukee and not long thereafter to New York City.

Appleton celebrates its connection to Houdini with an elementary school that bears his name. Appleton’s History Museum at the Castle has an ongoing exhibition about the famous escape artist and a virtual exhibit on the Web.

For much more about Houdini and Wisconsin, it’s worth reading an article from the The Wisconsin Magazine of History (Spring 2002). “The Bonds He Did Not Break” gives a thorough overview of the magician’s ongoing relationship with Wisconsin as a young boy and as a celebrated performer.

The exhibition “Houdini: Art & Magic” was organized by the Jewish Museum in New York and is making its only Midwestern stop in Madison. Isthmus, Madison’s weekly newspaper, has a review of the exhibition by Jennifer A. Smith, former project director of PortalWisconsin.org.

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