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


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

Teens view their world ‘In a New Light’

January 14, 2011

My Mother's Teardrop. Photo: Dakota, age 14.

By Tammy Kempfert, PortalWisconsin.org

“If you think about it, a lot of successful artists had troubled youths,” said Ben Thwaits of Spooner. He teaches at Northwest Passage, a residential mental health treatment center for teenagers. Last week, we talked by phone about an inspiring youth project he developed with his wife Branda, a National Park Service Ranger.

Funded by an America’s Best Idea grant,  “In a New Light” connects boys enrolled at Northwest Passage to the St. Croix National Scenic Riverway through photography. The project relies on the combined powers of art and nature to help restore a sense of dignity and wholeness to troubled teens’ lives.

Thwaits told me that a student who winds up in his all-male class may have faced any number of roadblocks to a healthy childhood—problems like substance abuse, harmful relationships or developmental disorders. Some have had truancy issues and haven’t attended school for years. But along the St. Croix River and behind the camera lens, Thwaits’ students thrive. When I asked why, he surmised:

Photography involves the quest to find the emotional essence of a subject, and it can take photographers a long time to get into that way of thinking. But whatever their challenges, a lot of these boys are truly emotionally brilliant, and they have so much pent-up emotional energy. They operate on gut instincts and often make emotion-based decisions. This project gives them an outlet for their emotional, expressive, creative sides.

A video filmed for the project by Black Ice Productions shows a few of the boys in action:

A nature-based treatment facility, Northwest Passage takes advantage of its close proximity to the St. Croix Riverway to administer its programming. However, the program traditionally has used the adventure model—hiking, canoeing, camping—to incorporate nature into its curricula. “In a New Light” approaches nature therapy from a new angle, so to speak. According to Thwaits:

With this project, we’re really immersing ourselves in this beautiful and wild place in a quiet and introspective manner … I could almost see the boys’ brains slowing down; I could see them focusing. These are some of the most severe cases of ADHD that you’ll see in a teenaged boy, and yet they’ll spend hours and hours on end looking at a bird, a flower or a frog.

The "In a New Light" exhibition is on view at Wisconsin's State Capitol Building through January 22. Photo: Ben Thwaits.

An exhibition of the students’ work has already traveled from St. Croix Falls to Wausau,  and is on view now through January 22 at the  State Capitol Rotunda in Madison. Each photograph includes commentary, or in some cases poetry, from the boys themselves.

Student photographers participated in artist receptions at two of the exhibitions, events that Thwaits called “magic, truly pivotal moments in the boys’ lives.” At one reception a student was overheard saying, “That’s the first time in my life I’ve ever gotten an adrenaline rush from doing something good.”

Thwaits  credits a whole community of partners with the project’s success. The Wisconsin Arts Board, Black Iris Gallery and Custom Framing, the previously mentioned Black Ice Outdoor Productions and others made significant contributions, he said.


Those unable to take in the exhibition in Madison will have two more opportunities: the show travels to Cable in February and returns again to Spooner in March. A project website also showcases the boys’ work. And below, one more example of a photograph you’ll find in the exhibition—this one from 16-year-old Chuck.

Just a Teenager 

I’m just a teenager.
A teenager tryin’ to make it.
A teenager tryin’ to get there.
A teenager tryin’ to move on.
A teenager tryin’ to break free.
I’m just a teenager
that doesn’t want to fall through the cracks.

–Chuck, age 16


For Love and Money

December 13, 2010

Readers may remember my previous post on Hudson photographer Carl Corey’s “Wisconsin Tavern League” series. This month Corey sent an update about his latest artistic effort, a portfolio in progress he’s calling “For Love and Money.”

Mary P. McCarrier with Grandfather's picture - Globe House Furnishings, Marinette - est. 1888. Photo: Carl Corey. All rights reserved by the artist.

Here’s how Corey describes the project:

“Becoming intrigued with the familial lineage involved in many of the Tavern League subjects I decided to start to investigate the well established family business in Wisconsin. My criteria were simple: The enterprise must be located in Wisconsin and currently owned and operated by the family for a minimum of fifty years. There is much that can be said pertaining to the history of such an enterprise. There is also the contemporary entrepreneurial commitment to the continued success of the business, most especially with the current economic climate and ever expanding competitive global marketplace.”

Corey’s got impressive technical skill and an artful eye, yes, but he also knows how to tell a story. Good storytellers have to decide what to divulge and what to leave to the imagination, a flair Corey demonstrates again in “For Love and Money.” The photos are revealing but respectful–and in the case of the three Globe House Furnishings photos (one of which is shown above), sad but unsentimental. After 122 years in business, Globe House owners Mary McCarrier and her family decided to close their furniture store. Corey caught them on film just days after the store shut its doors. Other photos in the series document other establishments–a tavern, a music store, a logging outfit and more–all still in business.

These new photos feature people I’d want to meet, histories I want to hear, places I’d like to go.

–Tammy Kempfert


Video Post – Musings on posting and life as an artist

September 5, 2010

**EDIT

Here is a download link for the video, for those on dial-up who wish to download it to view.

To download the video, right click/CMD-click the link and choose “save link as”

My caution is that it is a large file, being video. it is 95MB.

DOWNLOAD VIDEO HERE

**

My apologies for the roughness of the editing. Please let me know what you think of the video in the comments down below.

Links mentioned in the video:

Portrait a Day Project
http://is.gd/eVpKE

Rainy Day Worzella
http://is.gd/eVpMu

Spyros Heniadis


In Search of Wisconsin Taverns (in Seattle)

August 2, 2010

While on vacation in Washington state last month, I learned of an exhibition worth adding to an ambitious Seattle itinerary — Hudson-based photographer Carl Corey’s series Wisconsin Tavern League, on view at a gallery near my hotel.

I had seen Corey’s large-scale photographs before, though none from this particular series. Photos in his Habitat series get consistent praise for their sharp-eyed take on American scenes. People say when Corey aims his camera at mostly unmemorable things — like picnic tables and overpasses — his deft use of color and light makes the ordinary seem otherworldly. I would only add that his photos nearly glow.

"2982--Jamos, Milwaukee," by Carl Corey. Posted with the artist's permission.

Of his Wisconsin Taverns series, Corey has said that taverns are “very much a part of Wisconsin history and community, and they’re going away. These people [the owners] are struggling. I thought it was important to document that” (see “MMoCA’s Wisconsin Triennial is all over the place, to its credit,” by Jennifer Smith).

Enjoying the Tavern show for the first time in another state appealed to me somehow, and so I went looking for Wisconsin Taverns in Seattle.

I won’t describe the mishaps that prevented me from finding the Seattle show, except to say that I (twice!) fruitlessly climbed and wandered the city’s First Hill. After my failed quest, I talked by phone to a woman representing the gallery, who explained where I went astray. She praised the Tavern series effusively, and told me Seattle residents–many of whom are transplanted Wisconsinites, she said–have loved it, too.

"2664--Marty, Chippewa Club, Durand" by Carl Corey. Posted with the artist's permission.

Of course, there’s no need to go to Washington to see Carl Corey’s work; in fact, there’s no need to leave your chair. After searching Seattle for Wisconsin Taverns, I came home to find Corey’s photos nearly everywhere I looked, which is perhaps, as it should be.

A Portal Wisconsin online gallery artist, Corey just added ten new images to his section of our site. The photos represent newer work both from his Habitat series and from the Wisconsin Tavern series. Many, many more are posted at his well-designed personal site, carlcorey.com.

You can also pick up a copy of the Wisconsin People & Ideas summer issue at your local library or bookstore. Included in this issue’s Galleria is a beauteous ten-page spread of some of the Tavern series, striking images of out-of-the-way pubs that ooze personality.  Featured taverns are sometimes fantastical, surprisingly pristine and, though I’m not exactly a roadhouse regular, oddly familiar. Fans of photography will find the magazine well worth its $5 cover price.

And finally, for a very limited time, three photos from Corey’s Tavern series are on exhibit at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art‘s Wisconsin Triennial show, and a portion of his Habitat series is featured in a side-by-side solo exhibition (with glass artist Lisa Koch) at the James Watrous Gallery. You’ll find both the Museum and the Gallery at the Overture Center for the Arts in Madison, incidentally just a ten-minute walk from the Portal Wisconsin headquarters.

Call me, if you need directions.

–Tammy Kempfert

P.S. Happen to be going to Portland, Ore., in September? Carl Corey tells me the Tavern Series will be at Blue Sky Gallery there, for a show of 25 large prints. I would love to hear from anyone who finds Wisconsin Taverns in Oregon.

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Transitions

November 11, 2009

The uncertainty that has plagued my (non-art) professional life has made it difficult to focus on or execute things that I want to do with my art over this past year or so. As it settles down, (which it is now doing) I can start to put some of my attention back here where it belongs and ramp up my web site re-design and the creation of some new work.

In addition to the website redesign and determining what my next photographic project will be, here are some of the things I’m kicking around:

  • Running a scavenger hunt exhibit annually. It’s a big commitment but we really got a good response to the exhibit and the exposure I received was also very good. I’ve had several people who participated in the hunt tell me that they’d love to do it again and suggested we should do it annually. So I had a chat with Julie Wolcott, the director of the Central Wisconsin Cultural Center (CWCC), where the exhibit was held and she thought it was a good idea. We’re currently mulling it over.
  • Starting a podcast. I’ve been talking about this with Tammy Kempfert, our blogrunner here, and I just recently purchased some recording equipment to start playing with while I continue to let the podcast idea marinate. I’ll elaborate on my love of podcasts in a separate post.
  • Teaching more classes. I teach a Beginning Digital Photography class at the CWCC. It’s a class I’ve been teaching for 2 years now (I think, jeez, I can’t remember when I started it!) and I LOVE teaching it. I originally went to college to become a teacher, and while I never completed that degree I ended up teaching anyway!

One of the things I expect and plan to make a strong component of my overall revenue plan is the teaching that I do. I’ve had great success with the Beginning Digital Photography class and I’m now ready to expand my offerings.

I’m currently putting together a curriculum outline for an Advanced Digital Photography class (For point and shoot style cameras) and an Advanced SLR photography class that would cover film and digital cameras.

In addition to those classes I’d like to offer a class on editing and printing photos but I have to figure out the logistics since I don’t have a computer lab at my disposal.

Finally I’m starting to think about some guided style photography workshops. Wisconsin is ripe with places to go for these kinds of workshops so I’d just need to do some scouting for locations that I could build a full program around.

Combining my skills as an instructor on the front end with what I hope to build through my website in the backend will be my two-pronged approach to a sustainable revenue for through my photography. Those won’t be the only two prongs but I hope they will grow into the strongest.

-Spyros Heniadis