The 411 on Music in the 414

By Jessica Steinhoff
This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Milwaukee venues like the Pabst Theatre, Turner Hall Ballroom and The Riverside host big-name bands at wallet-friendly prices, but smaller venues are the best places to find many local acts. Here are five that feature great artists, fun atmospheres and some of the friendliest crowds you’ll ever meet.

Cactus Club
Located just south of downtown, in trendy Bay View, this bar brings an appealing mix of local and national talent to its stage. Recent lineups have included Field Report, a Milwaukee-based folk project with ties to Bon Iver; Metz, a killer noise-rock band from Toronto; and Maritime, a local group featuring members of the Promise Ring and the Dismemberment Plan. The vibe is a bit like that of Chicago’s Empty Bottle, but more intriguing: guys dressed like lumberjacks in a space dotted with desert-inspired decor. hang out near the concrete bar for insider tips on local bands to check out.

Frank’s Power Plant
This Bay View hangout teems with conversation starters, from wall-mounted motorcycles to a jukebox stocked with BB King tunes. Shows here are often five bucks, and a generous pint of craft beer is about the same. Even better deals can be found on PBR. Buy a round for the band that’s playing, and you’ll be friends for life.

Riverwest Public House
An enduring home for artists and other creative types, Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood is filled with appealing options for visitors who love people watching. In addition to bringing in bands like Jaill, a local psych-pop band signed to sub Pop records, Riverwest Public House is a haven for anarchists, hippies and others seeking a better world through activism. A co-op, the bar is owned by its members, so it’s a reliable source of local culture and gossip. Head across the street to Cocoon Room for more great concerts in a co-op setting.

Linneman’s Riverwest Inn
With an open mic each Wednesday, this institution is known for nurturing neighborhood talent. It feels like a cross between a beer hall in Germany and the hideout in Chicago, and there’s music nearly every night of the week.

The Miramar Theatre
This venue near the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee offers one of the most diverse lineups in the entire city, catering to fans of bluegrass, pop and hip-hop. It’s become a magnet for electronic music fans in recent years, hosting shows by folks like bass sensation Kennedy Jones and the dance music purveyors Gladiator.

While you can see acts from around the country at many of these hangouts, there are some local groups definitely worth checking out as well. Here are eight that you must see when you visit.

  1. Heidi Spencer and The Rare Birds
    This group’s namesake possesses a voice that’s positively haunting. It travels to places that are undeniably dark, exploring their corners to find beauty and meaning — and a spot on the roster of Bella Union, the record label that Beach Houses and Laura Veirs call home. this journey unfolds with help from layers of guitar, piano and strings. Music history enthusiasts will hear hints of the British folk tradition, but there’s a strong strain of Americana as well.
  2. Canopies
    This synth-pop act is sure to make fast fans out of tame Impala enthusiasts. their grooves are eminently danceable, integrating spacey reverb and bongo drumming with ease. just try to stop singing “Getting Older,” the opening track on their 2014 album, “Maximize Your Faith.” the best cure is to hear it in its natural setting: a Milwaukee club.
  3. Whips
    Forget hushed ukulele solos: here’s an indie band that really rocks. Featuring members of other great Milwaukee acts like Space Raft and Call Me Lightning, this talented bunch goes straight for the jugular on 2014’s Turn It On. Vocalist Ashley Smith can channel the yeah yeah yeahs’ Karen O, but she’s got a swagger all her own, amplified by rip-roaring guitars and bone-rattling drums. saucy, sexy and thoroughly badass, “Xoxxx” must be witnessed live.
  4. The Sugar Stems
    Jangly 1960s garage rock and dynamic 1970s power pop fuel this band’s imagination. Whether they’re spazzing out in “next to you” or getting introspective on “Million Miles,” they’ll melt your heart while teasing out your craziest dance moves.
  5. Hugh Bob & The Hustle
    Even if you’re not a country music fan, don’t be surprised if this band catches your fancy. their self-titled debut album pays tribute to the motley characters who hang around many Midwestern dive bars. hold onto your hat if they play “Milwaukee Man,” a wild ride of a song about a scrappy country band living in the city.
  6. Vic & Gab
    This sister duo landed a track on MTV’s “Skins” a few years ago. Ever since, their dreamy indie pop has been cropping up in all sorts of interesting places, from political rallies to the vans Warped tour. their live shows are a fine pick for a first date or a gathering with longtime friends.
  7. The Cavewives
    The Cavewives make classic rock new again, in ways Robert Plant would certainly dig. Frontman Michael Marten doesn’t just sing; he crows and croons so passionately that he might burst into flame at any moment. In addition to picking up where led Zeppelin left off, the group explores Beatlesesque melodies on “Waking to a Dream” and “She’s Gone.”
  8. Klassik
    Kellen Abston, aka Klassik, makes smooth, delicious cocktails out of hip-hop and old school jazz. a Pharrell Williams vibe can be detected in some of Klassik’s material, but he goes places Pharrell seldom visits: speakeasies and the love boat, for starters.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

Art About Town

By Amanda N. Wegner

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

“Art,” famed artist Pablo Picasso once said, “washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

Take some advice from Picasso, and spruce up your next visit to Wisconsin (and perhaps your living room walls) by strolling around one of the state’s fine gallery walks.

Gallery Night & Day Historic Third Ward, Milwaukee
For 23 years, the historic third Ward association has made it easy to get an up-close look at the artists making their mark on Brew City with gallery night & day.

“Gallery night is unique because it is held four times a year and is still going strong after 23 years!” says Executive Director Nancy O’Keefe. “It’s an event that everyone looks forward to.”

This Friday-Saturday event is held quarterly; hours vary by venue. Each gallery night & day brings a special event, such as an ice-sculpting competition in January and Artscape, a sculpture walk, in October.

To make the most of it, O’Keefe suggests plotting out which galleries you’re most interested in and when they’re open. Friday is the prime day for browsing; just be sure to stop for dinner by 6 p.m. to beat the rush.

Beloit Artwork
In the border city of Beloit, art is an integral part of the community.

“In Beloit, we have built art into our infrastructure with more than 20 public pieces in and around Beloit’s City Center,” says Kathleen Braatz, Executive Director, Downtown Beloit Association. From industrial murals along the rock river to the Beloit international film festival and more, “all animate and spark the artistic imagination in Beloit’s downtown.”

ArtWalk 2007 059That includes ArtWalk, held annually in May, when businesses throughout downtown Beloit transform into fine art galleries, with many venues featuring live music and hors d’oeuvres. in its eighth year, ArtWalk often features special events and demonstrations; in the past, that included custom motorcycles, neon-blowing demonstrations, and chalk-friendly outdoor sculptures.

“Simply put, we host art for all the senses! It is all about the experience and appreciation of art in all its forms. and it’s all free,” says Braatz, “unless you would like to take it home.”

 

14 South Artists Fall Studio Art Tour, Dane County
Sometimes, you just have to explore.

“The 14 South artists fall Studio art tour allows the public the opportunity to explore a new area of the state not typically associated with art or natural beauty, yet those who live here know that [it] has much to offer in both areas,” says Susan Horn, Tour Chair of 14 South Artists, which is named for highway 14 south of Madison, which traverses the communities where artist-members live. “The artists primarily live in small communities and rural areas, and their art is greatly influenced by their surroundings and love of nature.

Held in September, it’s the perfect time (and weather) for an outing; download a tour map and plan your day. “If i wasn’t opening my own studio, I’d call some friends, book a bed & breakfast, and make a weekend of it,” says Horn.

Away from the city, the tour is a unique opportunity to learn more about the artists and see where and how they create their art … or, perhaps, try your hand at creating something.

Oshkosh Gallery Walk
In Oshkosh, art is a labor of love.

“It is truly … a grassroots event,” says participant James Evans. “It is not run by the city or any other organized group. Each place that participates books its own artist, and participation is free and voluntary.”

Held the first Saturday of each month, the Oshkosh Gallery Walk takes place rain or shine … or snow. “We are one of the few places in a cold climate location that hold Gallery Walk year-around.” Each month, 35 places, on average, participate, though that number is creeping toward 50 in the summer.

Held in downtown Oshkosh, it’s easy to make a day of it, says Evans.“Have dinner at one of our many downtown restaurants. Pick up a map at any participating location and stroll around the block. Afterward, top it off with a drink at one of our downtown bars.”

This article originally appeared in the 2011 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

Whimsical Wonderland: Bookworm Gardens

By Jennifer Bradley
This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Combine a botanical garden and a child’s book collection and you get a creatively wonderful destination for families located in Sheboygan, an hour north of Milwaukee. Bookworm Gardens is a collection of seven literary-themed gardens that feature more than 60 children’s books.

In summer, the gardens are in full bloom, offering space for kids to run, play and explore. Each garden features hands-on, experiential learning opportunities.

Within each garden visitors will find a number of smaller spaces featuring popular children’s books. for example, the “Animal Garden,” to the left of the main gate, is a big hit with my twin toddler boys. They love the dinosaur bones garden, where they pose for pictures on dinosaur eggs and dig in the sand for bones. Just a short walk on a stone path and they find themselves exploring the sticks, straw and brick houses of the Three Little Pigs and searching through the Playhouse for Monster.

On the way back, everyone stops to give Harry the Dirty Dog a bath! Kids love water, and on the other side of the secret garden, a large waterfall overlooks a musical garden, with a variety of instruments set among tall trees.

When we get to the “Farm Garden,” children are greeted by a life-size cow they can actually sit on. The typewriter at the desk in the barn brings us to a favorite book of my boys: Click Clack Moo. Enter Farmer McGregor’s barn, guarded by a scarecrow and imagine The Tale of Peter Rabbit.

After the farm, my boys relax on the wooden bridge at McElligot’s Pool pond, looking for frogs and fish.

In the “Woodlands Garden,” each child takes their turn to climb aboard a covered wagon and serve food in the log cabin, imagining they are living in the time of Little House in the Big Woods. We move past Winnie the Pooh’s house and the boys rake stones at a Japanese teahouse and garden, while older children stop to read the laminated One Leaf Rides the Wind.

IF YOU GO: Bookworm Gardens is open May 1 through Oct. 31. Admission is free of charge. For a list of hours, go to bookwormgardens.org.

This article originally appeared in the 2015 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

Raise The Curtain

By Lisa M. Schmelz

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Don’t let the dropping temperatures lead you to believe there’s nothing to do in Wisconsin until the next spring thaw. This fall and winter, the Wisconsin performing arts scene defies the thermometer with sizzling-hot line-ups across the state. Perhaps the most talked-about production of the season is Lombardi. Fresh from Broadway, the Milwaukee rep brings the legendary coach home to Wisconsin, where the play will have its post-Broadway regional theater premiere October 11 and run through November 13 on the rep’s Quadracci Powerhouse stage.

“The legendary Vince Lombardi, the beloved green Bay Packers — what more can I say? We are extremely proud to bring this Broadway hit home to Wisconsin and to bring a little piece of Lambeau field to the Quadracci Powerhouse stage,” says Mark Clements, The Rep’s artistic director.

Indeed, sports produces great human drama and there is no greater sports icon to bring to theatrical life than Hall of fame football coach Vince Lombardi, unquestionably one of the most inspirational and quotable personalities of all time. Based on the best-selling biography, When Pride Still Mattered: A Life of Vince Lombardi, by Pulitzer Prize-winning author David Maraniss, the Lombardi play was written and directed for stage by playwright eric Simonson, a Steppenwolf ensemble member. His first version, titled Lombardi: The Only Thing, premiered in 2007 with Madison Repertory Theatre at the Overture Center and then enjoyed a run at Milwaukee’s Next Act Theatre the following year.

When interest for bringing Lombardi to Broadway piqued, Simonson developed an entirely new play, leaving only one five-minute scene from the original script. On Broadway, Lombardi was portrayed by Dan Lauria of “the Wonder years” television series, and Judith Light, a two-time Emmy winner, was nominated for a Tony Award for her role as Lombardi’s wife. Why did Simonson, who will direct the Rep Run of Lombardi, tackle the famed Packers coach? “I grew up in Wisconsin, so he was always a part of the ether,” says Simonson. “When I started doing a play on him, it was not just to recount a famous man’s life story, it was really to find out and unearth the reasons why this man was famous. He’s a fully dimensional man, a complicated man, more complex than people realize.”

Lombardi is just one of many fall and winter performance highlights. The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center stages Les Miserables November 15 through 20. Maria Van Laanen, the center’s executive vice president, has seen Les Mis before, but she can’t wait for this run. Presented as a 25th anniversary of Boubil & Schönberg’s legendary musical, the new production has been acclaimed by critics and is breaking box office records.

“This is a new production, and I’m told the sets really are playing much more heavily off Victor Hugo’s artwork,” says Van Laanen.

The Grammy-winning Carolina Chocolate Drops, one of America’s few remaining African- American string bands, performs at Cedarburg Performing arts Center October 22. The group traces its roots to 2005 when its three members, Dom Flemons, Rhiannon Giddens and Justin Robinson, made a commitment to travel to Mebane, N.C., every Thursday night to sit in the home of old-time, African-American fiddler Joe Thompson for a musical jam session. Now in his ninth decade of life, Thompson’s short bowing style was learned from generations of family musicians. The band that the trio formed was more a tribute to Thompson than anything else, but they have found a wider audience than they ever imagined.

Their 2010 album, Genuine Negro Jig, won the Grammy award for best traditional folk album. Flemons, Giddens and Robinson all sing vocals and take turns on a variety of instruments, including banjo, fiddle, guitar, harmonica, snare drum, bones, jug and kazoo.

This article originally appeared in the 2011 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

Star Struck

By Barbara Sanford

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Images from A Little Night Music performed at Peninsula Players, photo by Len Villano.

Images from A Little Night Music performed at Peninsula Players, photo by Len Villano.

Nothing says summer like seeing a play under a canopy of stars, and before the play, gathering with friends and family for a picnic dinner, watching a beautiful sunset and taking a stroll through the woods. Here in Wisconsin, we’re lucky to have a choice of professional outdoor theater venues that fit this description — American Players Theatre in Spring Green and Peninsula Players Theatre and American Folklore Theatre in Fish Creek.

American Players Theatre
It’s well worth the climb to American Players Theatre’s (APT) Up-the-Hill Theatre in Spring Green for classical theater at its best performed in a natural outdoor amphitheater in the woods. Enjoy a performance of the greatest works ever written for the stage — plays by Shakespeare, Shaw, Chekhov, Ibsen and Tennessee Williams — by talented professional actors under the moon and stars. Smell the pine trees, listen to the crickets chirp and the whippoorwills call, and watch for the occasional bat soaring overhead. It’s a magical experience being surrounded by exquisite natural beauty in this unique outdoor setting where Mother Nature provides the special effects — a star-filled night, gentle fog, distant thunder and gust of wind.

Before the show, gather with friends and family for a gourmet picnic dinner in the tree-shaded picnic area at the foot of the hill. Gas grills are provided. You may pack a picnic basket or order from the picnic dinner menu online or through the box office. Special dining events including barbecues, pizza, and wine and food tastings are scheduled throughout the season.

Concession stands are available for snacks. At the sound of the trumpet calling playgoers to their seats, walk through the beautiful woods up the hill to the theater. (A shuttle is available for those unable to make the trek up the hill.)

From June through October, APT produces five plays in rotating repertory at the Up-the-Hill Theatre. This world-class theater ranks as the country’s second largest outdoor theater devoted to the classics.
www.americanplayers.org

Peninsula Players Theatre
Seeing a play at Peninsula Players Theatre in the woods on the scenic shore of Green Bay in Fish Creek is a very special experience. Plan to arrive early and bring a picnic dinner to share in the waterfront Beer Garden before the performance. Enjoy a spectacular sunset over the bay, a cocktail at the Luna Bar and a snack from the concession stand. Smell the fragrant cedar forest, stroll along the Green Bay shoreline and enjoy the enchanting gardens. You’ll see Chambers Island in the distance and, at times, white pelicans bobbing on the horizon. At intermission, enjoy a giant bonfi re in the Beer Garden.

Images from A Little Night Music performed at Peninsula Players, photo by Len Villano.

Images from A Little Night Music performed at Peninsula Players, photo by Len Villano.

Founded in 1935, Peninsula Players Theatre is the oldest professional resident summer theater in the country. It’s also one of the most popular. This theater in a garden is famous for its productions of classic and contemporary literature from Greek tragedy to British farce. The theatre’s original canvas tent, complete with sand fl oor and resident bats, has been replaced with an all-weather pavilion with open sides, plush theatre seats, and radiant fl oor heating to take the chill off cool nights. Five plays are presented from June through October.
www.peninsulaplayers.com

American Folklore Theatre
Nestled in the woods at Peninsula State Park in Fish Creek, the American Folklore Theatre is an idyllic setting for the feel-good Wisconsin-based musical comedies it performs. Each summer, this professional original musical theatre under the stars serves up a heaping order of Wisconsin culture and humor. The open-air amphitheater, fi lled with bench seats, is surrounded by tall trees. Wood chips cover the ground.

It’s a short stroll down the path from the parking lot to the theater. Enjoy a picnic dinner before the play. Picnic tables and grills are close by at Nicolet Beach, and several tables are right outside the amphitheater. You may also purchase snacks at the concession stand and enjoy them during the performance. Mosquitoes have been spotted around sunset; bug spray is available.

A live band plays music before the play begins and adds to the festive atmosphere. Watch the sun set, feel the cool breeze blow, listen to the chirping birds and smell the campfi res during the performance. It’s magical — the perfect fi nale to a day spent hiking, biking and beaching at the park. A repertory of three plays are performed from June through August. www.folkloretheatre.com

This article originally appeared in the 2012 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

Native American Tradition

By Lisa Schmelz

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Ask someone who doesn’t live here what they know about Wisconsin, and you’ll likely get answers involving Packers, cheese and frigid winters. What you probably won’t hear from this outsider is that Wisconsin is home to 11 federally recognized Native American Tribes – more than any other state east of the Mississippi River. Even many lifelong residents are ignorant of this impressive statistical fact.

“We’re just two percent of the overall population, so it’s not very often that people see us. We are also the most ethnically diverse race in the country,” says Siovhan Marks, herself of Ojibwe and Irish decent, and the spokeswoman for the Indian Summer Festival, held annually on Milwaukee’s lakefront since 1985.

While gaming opportunities at tribal casinos are typically well-known and help support tribes, tucked out of sight on the state’s nearly half million acres of tribal land are experiences that work to preserve Native American culture and tradition. Open to us all, is an invitation to explore Native American ways — past and present — and below are some excellent places to start. dancer2

Indian Summer, Henry Maier Festival Park on Milwaukee’s Lakefront
In its 27th year, Indian Summer is one of the state’s premier events celebrating Native American culture and traditions. This year, some 50,000 people are expected to attend. Here, you’ll find five different full-scale tribal villages. Huts, wigwams, long-houses and tee-pees are just a part of the experience. Inside these period dwellings you can learn how Oneida, Ojibwa, and northern woodland tribes of the Menominee and Stockbridge- Munsee prepared food and administered medicine and healing. Native American storytellers share history of long ago and explain how the First Americans of this region adapted to the unique state lands specific to their tribe. A contest pow wow runs all weekend. Friday and Saturday’s fireworks show are more than explosions of light in the sky. The shows begin with members of the state’s tribes rowing in canoes toward shore. The shows are set to live music and narrated, telling the Native American story as spectators look over the waters of lake Michigan. indiansummer.org

Native Games Exhibit at the Milwaukee Public Museum
For many Native Americans, games were a form of entertainment. But they also served important social, ceremonial and political purposes. Games taught skills and values necessary for adult life, such as patience, sportsmanship, dexterity, hand-eye coordination, endurance and critical thinking. Games also strengthened political and social relationships.

Most of the two dozen games displayed here can be found, with some variation, among tribes in the u. s. and Canada. All tribes played games of skill and chance, racing and relay, throwing and catching, and games that imitated hunting and war. The exhibit explores four specific game types: lacrosse and other stick games; games of skill; games of chance; and traditional European games adapted by Native Americans.

The exhibit will be on display through the end of the year (2012).
mpm.edu

Aztalan State Park
Considered Wisconsin’s most important archaeological site, Aztalan State Park enjoys status as a National Historic Landmark. The park showcases an ancient middle-Mississippian village and ceremonial complex that thrived between 1000- 1300 a.D. The people who settled Aztalan built large, flat-topped pyramidal mounds and a stockade around their village. Portions of the stockade and two mounds have been reconstructed in the park.

Archaeologists theorize that the occupants may have had cultural traditions in common with Cahokia, a large Middle- Mississippian settlement near east St. Louis, IL. The park is mostly open prairie with 38 of its 172 acres in oak woods. northern pike, catfish and walleye are caught in the Crawfish River, which is also used for boating and canoeing. open year-round, 6 a.m. to 10 p.m., the park also features a museum. The museum is open Fridays through Sundays from May 19 through September 30.

The park celebrates its birthday and national archeology Day on Oct. 20. Archeologists will provide guided tours from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and Native American artifacts can also be brought for identification.
dnr.wi.gov/topic/parks/ name/aztalan/

Woodland Indian Art Center, Lac du Flambeau
This northern Wisconsin landscape is a premiere place for those seeking an exciting cultural and hands-on historical experience. The Ojibwe culture is alive and well-respected in this community as evidenced by the Woodland Indian Art Center.

Traditional and contemporary artwork, including beaded work, carvings, birch bark baskets, jewelry, paintings, and more are displayed — and for sale — year-round. Providing technical support to Native American writers, musicians, dancers and other artists, the center is a link to some of the nation’s most respected Native American artists.

The center also offers year-round art classes, in a variety of media, to the general public. check their website or call for more information.
woodlandindianartcenter. org

This article originally appeared in the 2012 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

Bring Out Your Inner Artist

By Mary Bergin

This article originally appeared in the 2013 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Culture -- Marla and David credit Andy Stenz Photography

People see the world and make their mark in all sorts of ways. David Poytinger and Marla Hahn watch this happen several times a week at their bar, which also is a classroom. The owners of Splash Studio: a Painting Bar serve drinks as local artists bring out the little Rembrandt or Picasso that lives within all of us.

Almost every night, a designated artist uses one of her paintings as an inspiration for up to 50 students to create their own artwork. drawn to these three-hour sessions in Milwaukee’s Third Ward of boutiques and bistros are a thick assortment of ages, skill levels and relationships. It’s a prime bonding time for mothers and daughters, couples on dates, groups of friends or co-workers.

Everybody wears paint-specked aprons, borrows a set of brushes and squirts a rainbow of hues onto palettes. Each person pays $28 or $33 (depending upon day of week) and leaves with a unique masterpiece. Leaving with paint on clothes is of little concern because water-based acrylics are used.

Some students loosen up with what Splash Studio calls “creative juices” — sips of a cocktail, beer or wine — while mixing paint colors, contemplating brushstrokes or taking a break. All begin with a blank canvas and learn basic painting techniques as the teacher-artist offers step by step instruction.

It’s not a paint-by-numbers project. Although everybody hears the same words, remarkably different versions of the featured work are created.

“Equal parts red and blue, with just a little white” sounds straightforward but produces all sorts of tints. It is the same with paintbrushes: Give the same size of brush to 50 people and each produces a different mood because of the thickness of strokes and streaks.

This all is a good thing because the point is to enjoy yourself, feed creativity and trust instincts. Variations happen on purpose — or because the student doesn’t know any better. It doesn’t matter because the vibe is nonjudgmental, supportive and laid back.

Only painters who ask for advice will get it. A few will reawaken a long-dormant enthusiasm or talent to create something from nothing.

“For some people, painting can be a very private or emotional experience,” Poytinger says. “Some people share their stories. Many don’t have any art experience, but others talk about starting art school and never finishing, or letting other aspects of life take priority.”

He and Hahn, his wife, built Splash Studio to support the area’s emerging artists, who are commissioned to create the artwork that students are taught to paint. The business owners hold MBAs, not art degrees (although Hahn’s degree emphasizes arts management).

It is possible to just show up for a drink and watch others or paint a smaller picture on your own for as little as $10 (for a six-inch-square canvas). Need inspiration? Browse the studio’s library of visual art resources.

A class is offered on most nights and many fill to capacity, so reservations are advised. Corporations and other groups rent the studio, including instruction, in three-hour chunks.

Splash Studio also is a fine place to talk about or buy local art, even when a class isn’t scheduled. It is a good match for parents and their teen or adult children, but not youngsters.

A calendar at www.splashmilwaukee.com lists class days, hours and the featured paintings, which include lush landscapes, super heroes in action, abstracts and still life compositions. Artist styles also are diverse.

Beki Borman’s specialty is serene and moody slices of nature. John Kowalczyk mixes folk and pop art. Natalie Leroy adds cartoonish flashes of fun and whimsy. Dan Fleming looks at life with bright colors and broad strokes. All four of these artists pursued their craft at the Milwaukee institute of Art and Design.

Occasionally, students wear three-dimensional glasses while painting or use glow-in-the- dark paints while sitting in a darkened studio. Subjects for the latter classes — Super Secret Glow Projects — stay secret until shortly before painting begins.

Whatever the scene, the goal is to escape, unwind and have fun. Anything goes, on the canvas, and be assured that somebody else cleans up whatever mess is left behind.

For more about Splash Studio, 184 N. Broadway St., Milwaukee, consult www.splashmilwaukee.com or (414) 882-7621.

This article originally appeared in the 2013 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

Timeless Charm

By Mary Bergin

This article originally appeared in the 2013 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

image001

Nearly 200 years ago, Cornish immigrants lived where they worked in Mineral Point, chipping limestone from crude hillside caves and hoping to tap into veins of lead ore.

Now the community of 2,500 is home to artists who chisel, mold, paint, draw and weld. They gain inspiration from the area’s picturesque, rolling hills and deepen the cultural richness of this community of 2,500.

Wisconsin’s curvy Driftless Area was mineral- rich because glacial movement didn’t disturb it. Mineral Point remains unusual because of extraordinary efforts to preserve the city’s unusual architecture and Cornish culture.

This is a tranquil destination, especially on Tuesdays, when the fewest number of galleries are open. don’t take cell phone coverage for granted or expect late-night dining options. The southwest Wisconsin community is not a mecca for evening entertainment, which means an overnight is an opportunity to reconnect with yourself, companions and the rhythms of nature.

image003Much of Mineral Point is a historic district on the national Register of Historic Places, and city ordinances ensure the integrity and protection of these structures. Many are made with local limestone. Download a free walking tour map and podcast at mineralpointhistory. com.

Pendarvis, a restored mining settlement from the early 19th century, is an official state historic site and open for living-history tours through October. Hike Merry Christmas Mine Hill at your own pace; today the acreage is restored prairie.

At Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts are nine old-time buildings on 2.5 acres that are neatly groomed and gardened. novice and veteran artists come here year-round for classes that last one to multiple days. In the center’s catalog are 200-plus workshops for adults, a program for children and annual events.

Alley Stage is an outdoor venue for music, plays and readings of new works. Also on and near this campus is homey lodging to accommodate single travelers and groups by the room, suite or house.

Meander along steep High Street and notice the unusual and recently restored Mineral Point opera House, which hosts occasional stage productions, movie showings and the Driftless Film Festival, Nov. 7–10. The building is attached to City Hall, which also is connected to the Public Library.

Wherever you go, the vibe seems small-town friendly but savvy. some galleries cater to upscale incomes. Others, such as Longbranch Gallery, sell art from many at a blend of price points.

It is not unusual for artists to live in the same building where they create and sell their work, or to provide passersby with a chatty, behind-the-scenes look at their eclectic studios and collections.

Workshops nurture budding and eager artists in many disciplines. The southwest Wisconsin Book Festival on Sept. 14, for example, helps writers who struggle to define, publish and market their work. At least two dozen artists participate in an annual showcase of artisan-made jewelry, Nov. 8-10; the sale contains kitschy baubles and more expensive gemstone accessories.

Mineral Point celebrates its heritage during the Midwest Cornish Festival, Sept. 28-29. Events include lace-making demos, bus tours and Cornish language classes. A picnic of meat-filled pasties happens at the 1836 Walker House, an inn whose revival goes beyond bricks and mortar.

The Walker House mission involves “interactive stepping stones” that assist and encourage the personal renewal of overnight guests who choose to pursue self-improvement.

“It’s a school with no teachers, no lectures and no homework,” explains owner Dan Vaillancourt, a longtime philosophy professor at Loyola University Chicago.

He and wife Kathy, like their neighbors, take pride “in creating a powerful sense of place” that separates Mineral Point from the average Midwest small town.

This article originally appeared in the 2013 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

What’s Old Is New Again

Story by Jessica Steinhoff

This article originally appeared in the 2014 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Though tiny Spring Green, Wis., isn’t far from several major cities, it feels like a world away. If you’re coming from Chicago, you’ll know you’re almost there when you spot rolling hills dotted with grazing cows, golden bales of hay and quaint red barns. The most charming barn of the bunch may be the one affectionately known as the Shitty Barn. Though it looks like a relic of the past, it sounds modern inside, drawing live music acts from across the country while serving locally sourced drinks, including craft brews from Wisconsin’s Furthermore Beer.

Without Furthermore, the Barn would probably be history. Shortly before the 2008 economic downturn, the company, which leases brewing facilities from other beer makers, was looking for a place to build a brewery of its own. Chris Staples, who worked for Furthermore at the time, purchased a property near its offices with his then-wife, Martha McCamy. But soon the stock market crashed.

If You Go The Shitty Barn is a 45-minute drive west of Madison. The 2014 season runs Wednesdays through Oct. 8 with music beginning at 7 p.m. Events do sell out ahead of time, and tickets can be purchased at shittybarnsessions.com. If you go, bring a chair and warmer clothing, as the barn is not heated. Grills are available onsite; bring your own food to grill and ar rive early. (Alcohol available onsite, no carry-ins allowed.)

“The lending markets we needed to build the brewery dried up,” Staples recalls. “There was a building on the property, this old, beaten-up agricultural space. Our original intent was to tear it down so a semi truck could turn around there. Then we realized we could use it for something.”

Staples and McCamy got creative. Like many entrepreneurs, they saw the community’s lack of live music as an opportunity.

“When you have kids and live in Spring Green, it can be hard go to a concert in Madison that ends at 1:30 a.m. So we decided to have our own shows at the Barn. We could invite our favorite bands and start the shows early.”

At first, events at the 110-person venue were mainly a Furthermore family affair. But before long, word about the intimate venue spread, and Staples decided to open its doors to a larger crowd.

The Barn is clean and modern enough for the village to label it an outdoor music pavilion but rustic enough that it’s appropriate to wear mud-caked motorcycle boots or beer-stained Doc Martens. Cowboy boots are also a good choice, considering the Americana influences many bands bring to the space. Recently the Barn has hosted shows by Pokey LaFarge, Charlie Parr and Spirit Family Reunion, as well as local and regional folk and country acts like Madison’s Count This Penny and Milwaukee’s Hugh Bob & the Hustle.

The 2014 season even featured a “mystery” show whose headliner, Heartless Bastards, was revealed a few hours before sound check. It sold out without the band’s star power, in part because visitors love exploring Spring Green for the day.

“We try to make the Barn a reflection of what people want out of a trip outside the city. We want it to be a laid-back place for drinking and socializing and listening to music, something that feels homegrown and ‘real.’”

This article originally appeared in the 2014 fall/winter issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.

 

 

Mr. Monk Reflects On His Roots

BY LISA SCHMELZ

This article originally appeared in the 2014 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN.

Green Bay native Tony Shalhoub has a Golden Globe and three Emmy’s for his title role in the acclaimed “Monk” television series, and has starred on Broadway. Awards don’t get chores around the house done, though.

LOS ANGELES - FEBRUARY 11: Actor Tony Shalhoub arrives at the premiere of "Against the Ropes" at the Chinese Theater on February 11, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

LOS ANGELES – FEBRUARY 11: Actor Tony Shalhoub arrives at the premiere of “Against the Ropes” at the Chinese Theater on February 11, 2004 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Kevin Winter/Getty Images)

“I’m washing the dishes,” he admitted, when asked what the running water and clinking noises coming over the line were. “They don’t wash themselves.”

When you’re interviewing a celebrity, it’s the little things like this that restore your faith in the world. Raised in the shadow of Lambeau, Shalhoub doesn’t live here anymore but gets back as often as he can. Why does Shalhoub, one of 10 children, still return?

“For me going back, the pace is a little bit more human,” he says, “a little more civilized and just a great antidote for the hectic pace certainly of L.A., and I think that has a lot to do with it.”

For those who think L.A. has made his homecomings a fair-weather affair, think again. Pick a season, any season, and Shalhoub finds something to celebrate in Wisconsin.

A family home in Door County is a favorite destination when his daughters are out of school.

“We had our reunion in late July,” he says. “So I was in Wisconsin for about 10 days, and it’s always great to go back. The water is especially a big draw for us up there, and is still very beautiful and clean.”

Still a Packers season ticket holder, he loves baptizing those who’ve never experienced the nation’s only publicly owned team into a sea of green and gold.

“When I go in the fall or the winter,” he says, “I’m normally going back for a Packer game, so of course, Lambeau is always a thrill and taking friends or people who’ve never been is always fun. It’s always fun to bring the newcomers. No matter where they’re from or where their football loyalties lie, everyone loves it. They have a real appreciation for it.”

How do Shalhoub’s daughters feel about his homeland?

“I think they love it,” he says. “Again, they are going back to visit cousins and uncles and aunts, and I think they really do like it. It’s a completely different kind of vibe.”

So they love it enough to want to move here?

“They did until I took them there in the winter.”

WISCONSIN SHALHOUB-STYLE:

CHEESHEADS DO CHOCOLATE: Seroogy’s Chocolate in De Pere, that is. “It was started by my grandfather and his brother and passed onto my uncle and now it’s run by my cousins. It’s fantastic, hand-dipped, homemade chocolate.”

YOU GOTTA TRY: The fish boil in Door County. “Being outside, knowing that this fish, the white fish, has just come out of the lake that day, there’s this whole ritual about it.”

HE KNOWS HE’S IN WISCONSIN WHEN: “It’s 45 degrees out and people are running around in shorts and tank tops, jogging. It’s totally acceptable and they’re out their doing yard work or jogging with very little on, and it’s just a little above freezing.”

This article originally appeared in the 2014 spring/summer issue of experience WISCONSIN. Some of the written details may have changed since the article was published.

No portion of this article or magazine may be reproduced without prior written permission by the publisher.