July 13, 2011
“The most accurate and honest history is told through art,” Arlene Radtke told me. She and I were standing in the gallery at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center. The walls in front of us were filled with the art of local high school students.
“Our writers, our film-makers, our artists capture what is really happening in our time and weave this truth into their work,” Arlene said as we viewed the art of the students.
Arlene Radtke is one of the organizers of the Chippewa Valley Book Festival.
Last week I joined her and many other local people from Eau Claire and Pepin in two events with the Secretary of Tourism, Stephanie Klett. The Secretary traveled to western Wisconsin to award grants to further the work of local promoters of the arts.
For almost twenty years Wisconsin has invested in local events through the Joint Effort Marketing Grant or “JEM”. The investment of state dollars is used to match local money to get the word out about events. “Every dollar awarded through the JEM grant program last year produced a ten-fold return on investment,” said the former Secretary of Tourism Kelli Trumble. She awarded a previous grant to the Chippewa Valley Book Festival.
The Book Festival and the Pepin Stockholm Flyway Film Festival received JEM awards this year.
The Chippewa Valley Book Festival is in its twelfth year. This October 18th through the 23rd people can meet, listen to and share with Midwestern authors. The book festival brings literature alive. From cookbooks and joke books to fantasy, from frogs and fish to the unsung heroes of war, the festival brings an amazing diversity of authors to dinner, the stage and the classroom.
Participants in festival activities can get ‘up close and personal’ with the authors of the books they love.
Students and aspiring writers can pick up pointers on storytelling and adventure writing from the masters. Young writers can compete for recognition.
So book lovers mark your calendars and find more information at the Regional Arts Council at 715-832-ARTS.
The Flyway Film Festival also happens in October. Rick Vaicius began the festival four years ago as way to showcase independent film makers – especially Wisconsin artists. The four day festival will take place October 20th through the 23rd in Pepin and Stockholm. Film lovers can find more information on the website http://flywayfilmfestival.org/
Rick and his helpers screen hundreds of films and settle on about 70 each year. Some are short films; some are the usual hour or two. Each film is lovingly chosen to showcase the film creator’s special contribution to the art of filmmaking.
Films come to Rick as special submissions by the film-makers. The festival gained a reputation around the county, even internationally, but local people are still learning about the festival.
This is where the grant money helps. Money will be used for publicity around the Midwest. The goal is to attract film tourists who will come to Pepin and Stockholm and spend a few nights. Drawn by the film festival, people also buy food, lodging, sailboat rides and art.
Art soothes our soul. Art renews us, inspires us and challenges us. From painting, photos and film-making to literature and dance, art raises our spirits. Art helps us see beyond the limits of our lives. Art shapes history and culture.
Those in my profession often see themselves as leaders (and certainly some are) but the real leaders in our society, those on the cutting edge of society, the bearers of truth and wisdom, those who hold up the mirror to the times and show us a true picture, are artists.
This coming weekend is one of my favorite events of the summer – the Stockholm Art Fair. Take some time to travel to Stockholm on Saturday, July 16th from 10 am to 5 pm. Enjoy local music and over a hundred artists in Village Park along the Mighty Mississippi.
Celebrate the diversity of art. Maybe take home your own bit of Wisconsin history.