Edna Taylor Conservation Park: Gems of Madison

March 27, 2012
Edna Taylor Conservation Park

By Brian D’Ambrosio

Edna Taylor was a writer, teacher and dairy farmer who sold 37 of her 98 acres to Madison to help create the 56-acre conservancy park which bears her name. Taylor, who had the strongly admirable environmental foresight to protect the beautiful wetland and forest, died before the completion of the park. The city bought the land in 1972, four months after her death.

Popular for local school field trips and with birdwatchers, the cattail-rich park is neatly and inconspicuously situated in the midst of frenetic pockets of residential housing and commercial development. Rife with frogs and birds, the hidden gem teems with wildflowers, oak stands, cottonwoods, lily-pads and blue-flag iris. Ponds here play host to everything from egrets and great blue herons to woodpeckers.

Edna Taylor Conservation Park

Tucked off Monona Drive and Femrite Drive, Edna Taylor Conservation Park offers three out-and-back hiking loops, a spring, marsh habitat, a glacial drumlin, oak stands, nature viewing platforms, and a Native American effigy mound. The area incorporates a little more than 3 miles of trails; the scenery is comprised of wetlands, willows, oak forest, ponds, savanna, and a handsome assortment of wildflowers. At the corner of the parking lot a large memorial stone dedicated to Edna Taylor denotes the trail’s beginnings.

The trail starts in between high grass and pretty marshland, and is easy to follow and well-maintained throughout. Birders will have exciting field days watching Canadian geese, cranes, herons, and mallards. Redwing and tricolor birds are abundant in the marshy ponds, and the surrounding shrubbery is especially comely in the fall. Raspberries abound in the fields in July. Observation platforms at the edge of the ponds are great for spotting water fowl. It’s common in the springtime to spy tiny Canada geese chicks and tadpoles.On the east side of the park are six linear Indian effigy mounds and one panther-shaped mound, all listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Edna Taylor Conservation Park abuts the equally enjoyable Aldo Leopold Park; wedged in the thickness of evergreens, a sign denotes the change of parks. Trail traffic is generally pretty light, and the park is open 4 a.m. to 1 hour before sunset. Restrooms and water are available at the park office during those hours.

Edna Taylor Conservation Park Directions

From the Beltline Highway (US 12/18), drive north on Monona Drive 0.6 miles and hook a right on Femrite Drive. The parking lot for Edna Taylor Conservancy Park is on the left about 0.4 miles from Monona Drive. To the right of the parking is the easily identifiable trailhead. The entry to the Aldo Leopold Nature Center is also on the left side, approximately 1,000 feet from Monona Drive.

Brian D’Ambrosio’s Madison for Dads: 101 Adventures now available for $4.99 as Ebook:
Madison-For-Dads-101-Dad-Related-Adventures

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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India, Polio, and Itzhak Perlman

April 14, 2011

Dayle Quigley

Okay, it’s true that nothing in the above title fits into my goal of experiencing music in small town Wisconsin venues but life is never as neat as we would like. It has also been longer than I would have wanted since I lasted blogged but you will soon understand why.

Itzhak Perlman

The premier violinist of modern times, Perlman contracted polio at age four and overcame physical challenges to achieve international acclaim in classical music. He is the recipient of 15 Grammy Awards and a Lifetime Achievement Award for excellence.

Sometimes when life calls you need to answer even when it is inconvenient and messy, even when it is unplanned and unexpected. Sometimes, you just have to say yes. Back in October I heard that Itzhak Perlman was playing a benefit concert in Chicago with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra for Polio Plus. Rotarians around the globe have been working for close to two decades to eradicate polio and as Mr. Perlman would tell you, we are this close. I have never seen Mr. Perlman play in person and as a violinist, I was not going to miss this opportunity. I reserved my tickets for the March 7th concert in October. It was so far in advance, I couldn’t remember in January where I had put the tickets (turned out they were in the will call office.) And then in late December I got an invitation to go to India to participate in the National Polio Immunization Day campaign. Twice a year in India, they vaccinate every child under the age of 5 years old against polio. They set up stations for in every city and town across the nation for the first day and then spend the next 2 to 4 days going house to house, tent to tent, making sure that every child is found. During this time, they vaccinate over 200 million children. The sheer enormity of it is overwhelming. And so when the invitation came, I considered it an aligning of the stars and I said yes. Go to India, vaccinate children against Polio and then return to the States just in time to hear Itzhak Perlman, a polio survivor, perform. It doesn’t get much more cosmic than that.

So, I got my VISA, rearranged my schedule and flew literally half way around the world. I went to India with 35 rotarians from across the United States and helped cover Ghaziabad a town of 16 million people outside of Delhi. The first day 446,000 children were vaccinated in our town utilizing 2800 vaccination centers and 943,00 vaccinated by home visits. That’s over 1.3 million children vaccinated in just Ghaziabad. Here are the statistics for the week of 27 February 2011. 709,000 immunization stations, 2.5 million vaccinators, 209 million homes visited, and 169 million children under the age of 5 vaccinated. It is hard to fathom the number of people necessary just to organize this endeavor let alone carry it out.Some people would ask if it is worth it. Can it possibly be successful? But just look at the numbers ….In Nigeria and India in 2008 there were 1357 cases, in 2010 just 63 cases, and to date in 2011 just 1 case. We are this close.

Staff Benda Bilili

A Congolese soukous band largely composed of polio survivors, Staff Benda Bilili describes the impact of the disease in the group’s signature song, “Polio.” The band received a 2009 WOMEX (World Music Expo) Artist Award for World Music.

You might ask what this has to do with art, what this has to do with Wisconsin. Ask these questions of Itzhak Perlman and James DePreist. Both are outstanding artists and both, although very successful in life, would rather I believe go through life standing up. The last indigenous case of polio in the United States was in 1979 but it is only one non-stop airplane trip away. Any child not currently immunized in the United States is at risk of being a statistic, at risk for multiple corrective surgeries, at risk for permanent disability. We are this close.

I will tell you that the End Polio Now concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, conducted by James DePreist, and featuring Itzhak Perlman was a raging success as was the reception afterwards. The hall was packed and the performers at the top of their game. I’m glad I said yes. Yes, to going to India to help our counterparts in their daunting task. And yes, to the benefit concert where I was encouraged to see people who are willing to fight to help people who live 4000 miles away. You see, we are this close…but as a friend of mine points out, close only counts when you’re dancing. We have the ability by working together to end a devastating disease. To wipe it from the face of the earth. What a legacy we can leave our children and grandchildren and our great-grandchildren, but only if we work not as a single community, or state, or nation but only if we work as one world.

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Let’s tweet about schools and the arts

November 6, 2009

twitbirdNew York City schools with best access to arts programs have higher graduation rates, study says. http://tinyurl.com/yfhabp9.

My opening sentence reproduces a tweet I composed a couple of weeks ago for Portal Wisconsin’s recently born Twitter stream. At 124 characters, the message gave notice to a  brief article that caught my attention that day and fit neatly within Twitter’s 140-character limit. When I clicked the “update” button, I thought the tweet was benign enough (and, if I’m being honest, even a little banal). But in fact, it ruffled the feathers of an @portalwisconsin follower, which got me thinking about using this blog and micro-blogs like Twitter to facilitate discussions on arts-related topics.

In a series of reply-tweets, the offended follower raises an interesting question regarding arts education research. He argues that we shouldn’t strive to quantify relationships between classes in the arts and standardized test scores. Attempts at establishing this sort of causality, he says, miss the mark: we need to change the focus of the discussion to one that champions the intrinsic value of arts education, or “arts must b suprtd 4 sake of arts edu not 4 sake of anthng els! it gvs wel-rounded knowldg & edu, & anothr way of thnkng,” to quote one of his tweets. In his view, the study I linked to amounted to “junk science.”

Point taken, sort of.

I whole-heartedly agree that many learning experiences, like listening to an opera or visiting an art museum, can’t really be measured. I believe the arts play an integral role in a well-rounded education–or in educating the whole child, as has become the popular expression. And I regret that federal rules require teachers to devote more and more class time to those skills we perceive as easy-to-measure, at the expense of other less quantifiable skills.

On the other hand, the study I cited does not claim arts education improves student test scores in core subject areas; it only says schools with strong arts programs have better graduation rates. This is why my tweet originally seemed banal to me: while I’ll  own up to some bias, my personal logic tells me that the arts help engage kids in school, and when kids are engaged, they more likely show up. To me, that relationship seems a natural one, and hardly earth-shattering news. As for the research into whether art classes improve geometry scores and the like, I simply don’t have the scientific expertise to know for sure.

So why do I bring up my first-ever Twitter tiff here, rather than on Twitter? Not because this blog allows me unlimited characters with which to make my point. In fact, often I prefer the enforced brevity of Twitter, and I initially composed a couple of quick replies. I wound up not posting them, in the end (or posting one, then deleting it), to avoid confusion between Portal Wisconsin, the Web site, and my personal opinions.

As Portal’s resident twitterer, I’ve attempted to write varied messages–posting news from our Cultural Coalition partners, featuring the latest Portal Wisconsin blog posts, spotlighting sometimes overlooked sections of the site, even live-tweeting from the Wisconsin Book Festival, about anything related to arts, history and culture that captures my attention.  However, I would avoid tweets that give the impression that my views reflect those of our entire organization. On this blog, I can more easily own my words.

What do you think? Should educators, researchers and arts advocates even attempt to link art and math and science learning? Are there better gauges of achievement in arts programs? It’s a tough question, given the trend toward narrowing the curriculum and the increased reliance on standardized testing as a measure of school success.

I would love for blog readers and Twitter followers to continue the conversaton. If we can help each other think more deeply about arts, culture and education, as @BorisMakesArt helped me do on Twitter, I will consider our early adventures in social media worthwhile. At Portal Wisconsin, we want to find ways to engage Wisconsin residents in the rich world of art, culture, history and thought that characterizes our state. (My last sentence, incidentally, is one I can confidently say does reflect the opinions and mission of our entire organization.)

–Tammy Kempfert


Dilemma: Selling or Not Your Art

September 7, 2009

Happy Labor Day!

We do not question if workers in factory need to be reimbursed for their work.   For some workers their work represents just manual labor, but for others, results of their work represent pure art.  They take pride in what they do and joyfully use their creative talents.  They might  manufacture a car that for some collectors in future would represent a piece of art.  A hairdresser can consider creating a new hairstyle a work of art born from her creative genius. A baker can consider his/her cake an eatable piece of art.

I bet that Santiago Calatrava, the Spanish architect who designed the graceful Quadracci Pavilion at the Milwaukee Art Museum (www.mam.org) did not have a problem receiving monetary reward for his services.

People usually do not feel humiliated when they are reimbursed for their for profit or  non-for profit work.  In any case, they usually get reimbursed for their work, talent, time, service, etc.   They do not feel that they undermined their hairstyling, baking, manufacturing, designing, consulting, social service, etc. talents because they put price on their labor/service.

So why some artists like Spyros (please, forgive me for using you as an example) who confesses in his last post “usually feels somewhat embarrased guilty about selling his  work” ?

I had many arguments with a lot of visual artists about the same dilemma: selling or not selling artwork.   I think that answer is simple.

First of all, it is a very personal decision.  Nobody has to sell his/her artwork. One can make art for his/her own satisfaction and hide it from others. The others can show their artworks at “not for sales” exhibits or donate their art, or just ask potential customers to pay as much as they wish for their art.   Would that be less “humiliating” then honestly valuating artist hard work and trying to make decent living while using artistic talents and pouring your souls in artworks?

Why not recovering your fixed and variable costs of producing artwork, adding some $ for profit, etc. that could finance your lifestyle or pay for further improvement of your artistic skills?  There is nothing shameful in doing what you love, use your unique talent for that and  enrich other people’s lives with your fine art or product (yes art is a product of your work).    It is not shameful to be reimbursed for any kind of work.  Artists choose any of the numerous  methods to figure retail prices (or wholesale price ) like the “Ad Hoc Method;  Going Rate: Rules of Thumb;  or Cost-plus methods.”

It would be wonderful if all artists have other sources of income and just create art “for love of it.”  However, we need to stop thinking that it is somehow offensive to put a price on art.  I visited The Hilligoss Galleries in Chicago few weeks ago.  Some paintings cost there more then $100,000. I do not believe that their painters feel offended when they look at those numbers.

Artists work very, very hard. They deserve to be rewarded for that hard work.

–Tina Skobic


The Turnaround King Comes to Town

August 25, 2009

As part of an intense 50-state Arts in Crisis tour, Michael Kaiser blew into Madison on Monday with practical advice for Wisconsin’s arts organizations.

kaiserThe President of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Kaiser has been nicknamed the “turnaround king” for his successful leadership of financially challenged performing arts groups — among them, the Kansas City Ballet, the American Ballet Theatre and London’s Royal Opera House.

His 2008 book The Art of the Turnaround tells the back stories behind these happy endings, while outlining a common sense ten-rule approach to healing “sick” organizations. Yesterday’s easygoing presentation touched on most of them, but two ground rules stand out.

  1. What to do: Plan, plan, plan.  Kaiser says even when day-to-day survival seems uncertain, it’s crucial to think far into an organization’s future, with bold programming that excites patrons and benefactors. Having a good five-year plan allows for fluctuations in the economy and gives executive directors more leeway to fulfill the vision of the artistic director. And, he points out, “You make better art if you take more time.”
  2. What not to do: Cut programming. Arts organizations that feel financially threatened often make cuts to  artistic initiatives and marketing initiatives first, which may seem most discretionary. Kaiser cautions against the urge to do so, though. When programs are cut, organizations make themselves increasingly irrelevant, he says. “This is the time to be adventuresome … make great art, and follow it with great marketing.”

Kaiser says the public-private nature of the Kennedy Center — not only as a national memorial to the late president but as the country’s performing arts center — obligates him to offer services outside of Washington, D.C. It’s that sense of obligation that gave rise to the tour, as well as the Kennedy Center’s Arts in Crisis initiative.

And while he may have left as quickly as he arrived, struggling organizations can still benefit from Kaiser’s expertise. At the project Web site, non-profit arts groups can register for free consulting from Kaiser, his staff and approved mentors. An additional Web site, artsmanager.org, offers news and commentary, materials and networking opportunities.

Monday’s presentation was made possible by Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts, the Wisconsin Arts Board, Arts Wisconsin, City of Madison Arts Commission and the Dane County Cultural Affairs Commission.

Interested in viewing Michael Kaiser’s talk in its entirety? WisconsinEye will soon stream a video of  his Overture Center visit on its Web site.


Listen. Watch. Change. (Then share your ideas with us.)

August 4, 2009

On Wisconsin Public Television Tuesday night, a 57-minute version of the feature-length documentary Playing for Change: Peace through Music premieres.

The video follows record producer Mark Johnson’s multimedia, multicontinent music project, which he says, “was born out of the idea that we have to inspire each other to come together as a human race, and that music is the best way to do this.” Sure, change is a word made trite in 2008, but there’s nothing trite about these artists or these songs.

Below, a cover of the tune that started it all, Ben E. King’s “Stand by Me.” The musicians in the clip had never met each other, and they performed (via Johnson’s mobile recording studio) in locations as distant as Santa Monica, New Orleans,  Zuni, New Mexico, Amsterdam, Caracas, Barcelona and Umlazi, South Africa:

Because I manage the Web site PortalWisconsin.org, I’m intrigued by Playing for Change. Our site’s mission is to support Wisconsin’s arts, culture, humanities and history, and we do this by bringing arts and culture lovers together with visual and literary artists, performers, authors, scholars and historians from around the state.

After learning about Mark Johnson’s project, I’m wondering how we can use PortalWisconsin.org to extend our reach — from Milwaukee to Lac du Flambeau to La Crosse, and all the places in between. Using the resources we have in place, how can we bring arts and culture to your children’s schools, to your neighborhoods and to your lives? Even more exciting to me right now, how might PortalWisconsin.org become a place where we inspire residents from the state’s farthest reaches to come together to create, much like Mark Johnson has?

Watch Playing for Change on WPT at 8:30 p.m., August 4; view Bill Moyers’ interview with Mark Johnson online;  or listen to an archived interview of Johnson conducted by Wisconsin Public Radio‘s own Jean Feraca (visit Here on Earth‘s April archive, and select April 21).

Then, send PortalWisconsin.org your comments and ideas. You can contact us at portalwisconsin@wpt.org, call us toll-free at 866-558-4766 or use the comment form below to post your thoughts to this blog.

–Tammy Kempfert