Here is a sample of some of the programs that have taken root as part of the WHC's Wisconsin: Making it Home project.
Musical Theater: Celebrating the Legacy of the CCC in Wisconsin
The Emergency Conservation Work Act, created by President Roosevelt, was signed in 1933 and thereafter the Civiian Conservation Corps put people to work on domestic infrastructure projects. The men, mostly ages 17-25, signed a contract to work 40 hours a week and made $30 a month, though $25 of that was sent directly to their parents. The men lived in camps, which produced newspapers, talent shows, and offered night classes for the corps. "Camp We-Kan-Tak-It" was produced as a musical theater performance by the Milwaukee Public Theatre and Voices Theater, with performances all over the state throughout the fall of 2009. The WHC was a proud funder of this creative interpretation of an important period in Wisconsin's history and the post-performance conversations, which helped audience members explore the connections between the CCC and proposed economic relief plans today.
Getting Creative: Literary Arts programs in northern Wisconsin
Broadening the discussion of sustainability to include Wisconsin’s literary tradition, a series of community writing workshops, reading and discussions with authors, and a writer-in-residence have been organized by UW-Barron County for communities in Washburn, Rusk, and Barron counties. The idea is to engage people in the literary arts as not only an academic study, but as a means of cultural connection with natural and human communities. The project culminates with a Local Lit Festival in April of 2010, which includes a poetry slam, open mic, and readings from the publication Red Cedar.
Stirring the Pot: Dinner and a Discussion in Green County
Three evenings during the summer of 2009 brought people from the Green County region together to enjoy a picnic in the lawn of the Monroe Arts Center and celebrate the bounty of the region’s local foods. The events, organized by a coalition of groups, spearheaded by the Green County UW Extension Office, include demonstrations by local chefs, group discussions and music. Additionally, folks can visit the Stirring the Pot Forum to join the on-line discussion about local food, see photos from the dinners at the Stirring the Pot Photo Gallery, and find featured recipes from each of the three events in the Community Cookbook.
Making Connections: Building Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic
In August of 2009, the Cable Natural History Museum will host a four-session learning experience, designed by the Telemark Educational Foundation, Inc., about the history of the northwoods, the natural resources unique to the area, and a growing interest in building a stronger regional community. Aldo Leopold’s writing about the Land Ethic will be used to guide a discussion throughout the series to help participants think about how they might find a deeper connection to the land on a personal level, and as a community.
Capturing the Spirit of the Garden
Artists, anthropologists, and gardeners are working together to create an exhibit to be temporarily installed in a community garden on the south side of Madison. The display will feature portraits of gardeners, who come from all over the world, speak many languages, and experience the world very differently. Alongside the portraits will be excerpts from interviews done with the gardeners to allow visitors, and other gardeners, to learn about the diverse backgrounds, experiences, and cultures that shape the way people garden, as well as why they choose to garden, and what they plant and eat. An opening event in August of 2009 will be an opportunity to sample the flavors of the garden prepared in ways that represent the many cultures at home in this community garden.
A Film Screening and Community Discussion
The Sixth Sense is a film about a immigrants from a small Mexican village who have organized their economic and political power to connect their Mexican and American homes. The film is by Alex Rivera, who is working with the organizers of the Tales from Planet Earth environmental film festival to use his new feature-length work as a catalyst for conversation. The film was screened for free in Madison on Monday, March 23rd at the Centro Hispano, and can be seen again at the Tales from Planet Earth II film festival, November 6-8, 2009. The filmmaker will be present at the screenings to participate in discussion with the audience about role of work in shaping relationships between people and landscapes in the U.S., Mexico, and across the globe. The Wisconsin Humanities Council has partnered with Tales from Planet Earth, and the Nelson Institute's Center for Culture, History and Environment at UW-Madison, to harness the power of film in the movement toward informed and reflective community conversation about land, water, and the places we call home.
A Book Discussion Featuring the Writing of Four Wisconsin Authors|
In Fort Atkinson, winter book discussions have become a regular opportunity for comradery and inspired conversation at the Dwight Foster Public Library. During the early months of 2009, readers were engaged in the works of four Wisconsin authors known for their place-based literature. The discussions, held on Monday evenings, were led by humanists from the area who brought their own ideas about our state's unique place in the natural world and in the environmental movement. Amy Lutzke, who organized the program at her library, said she researched and selected the titles specifically so that the literary tradition of Wisconsin would be a part of the discussion. The books read and discussed were: The Wisconsin: River of a Thousand Isles by August Derleth; Black Hawk: The Battle for the Heart of America by Kerry A. Trask; The Man from Clear Lake by Bill Christofferson; and In a Pickle: A Family Farm Story by Jerry Apps. The books are relevant any time of year, not just in the winter!
A Series of Talk on the UW-Baraboo/Sauk County Campus
UW-Baraboo/Sauk County is a liberal arts college that serves the student body and the regional community with programs that enrich cultural and intellectual life. In the spring of 2008, with support from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Campus Culture & Community Committee planned a six-part series of free events on the theme of “Sustainability.” Students, faculty, and lifelong learners from the Baraboo area came together for presentations and discussions about rain gardens, crane breeding programs, a cultural geography approach to nature, the significance of wilderness, wetland restoration, and how to motivate environmental behavior on a community level. The series continued in the fall of 2008 on the theme “Human Interaction with Wisconsin’s Natural Landscape.” These events, all free and open to the public, included presentations on the Ice Age Trail, Native American beliefs about land, Wisconsin’s rivers, and the influences of agricultural technology and human civilization on the land. A video of Michael Goc's presentation, "Social History and the Natural Landscape," given on September 25, 2008, can be viewed at portalwisconsin.org.
The campus hosted Paradise Lost?, an exhibition on climate change, from January 15 through March 10. The exhibition brought community members to campus and tied together the ideas explored in the previous year of programs.
Terry Tempest Williams
On Tuesday, November 18th, 2008 beloved author and scholar Terry Tempest Williams returned to Madison in celebration of the WHC’s Wisconsin: Making It Home project. Terry presented from her latest book, Finding Beauty in a Broken World, at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art in Downtown Madison.
Terry Tempest Williams has focused her life on opposing resource destruction, especially that affecting human health; a love for the desert, and other naturally beautiful places; and land stewardship over many generations, which ties her to Utah where she was born and still lives. Williams is perhaps best known for her book Refuge: An Unnatural History of Family and Place (Pantheon, 1991), in which she chronicles the epic rise of Great Salt Lake and the flooding of the Bear River Migratory Bird Refuge in 1983, alongside her mother's diagnosis with ovarian cancer, believed to be caused by radioactive fallout from the nuclear tests in the Nevada desert in the 1950s and 60s. Refuge is now regarded as a classic in American nature writing, a testament to loss and the earth's healing grace. Williams’ other books include the latest Finding Beauty in a Broken World (Pantheon, 2008), Red: Patience and Passion in the Desert, 2001, a collection of essays, An Unspoken Hunger (Pantheon, 1994); Desert Quartet: An Erotic Landscape (Pantheon, 1995); Coyote's Canyon (Gibbs M. Smith, 1989); and Pieces of White Shell: A Journey to Navajoland (Charles Scribner's Sons, 1984). She is also the author of two children's books: The Secret Language of Snow (Sierra Club/Pantheon, 1984); and Between Cattails (Little Brown, 1985).
In 2004 Terry Tempest Williams published The Open Space of Democracy, in which she tries to define how we can break down the partisanship and polarization in our society so that we can come together to solve the political and environmental problems which threaten our democracy and our land.
Ladysmith Film Festival
On weekend in early April 2008, people gathered from Rusk County and beyond at the Miner Theatre in Ladysmith, Wisconsin for the first Making it Home film festival. It was a collaborative effort between the Wisconsin Humanities Council, the Rusk County Community Library, and the Miner Theatre with the goal of screening some films and getting people talking with one another about agriculture and environmental concerns. The films shown included The Real Dirt on Farmer John, Sweetland , Fly Away Home, and Under An Autumn Moon. The films seem to have touched on issues that are at the heart of rural life today - changing economies, changing farm realities, and different attitudes about these changes that sometimes cause rifts within communities. The panel discussion and post-film conversations were lively, addressing how culture, history and traditions can inform our choices for the future. Bill Berry, columnist for the Capital Times and participant in the film festival wrote: “[D]ialogue is bubbling up, not trickling down. That's democracy at work, and may be one of our best chances for the future.”
Gatherings to inspire reflection and action
Around the state, conversations about the health of Wisconsin communities, and the land and water that sustain them, are taking on a greater sense of urgency as communities experience changes in land use and demographics, as well as recent events like flooding and increasing gas prices.
The Wisconsin Humanities Council and the Wormfarm Institute offer their services to communities interested in creative ways to encourage fun and meaningful public conversations about the places we call home, the challenges to their vitality, and new ways to envision a future of land, water and community health.
Using the tools of the arts and the humanities, the WHC and Wormfarm are helping community groups host gatherings that provide a space for shared inspiration. From these gatherings, projects emerge that offer new ways for community members to think and talk about the past and present, and imagine the future.
Gatherings have taken place in Mineral Point, Amery, and Milwaukee. Contact Jessica Becker at the WHC if you are interested in learning more.
Global Warming in Wisconsin: Causes, Effect, Politics, and Solutions
In the spring of 2008, the University of Wisconsin-Fond du Lac organized and hosted a multi-disciplinary symposium, funded in part by the WHC, on the impacts of global warming on our state within a global framework. Over four days, scholars, experts, and community members with diverse backgrounds came together to watch films, hear ideas and opinions, consider challenges and solutions, and reflect deeply on the concerns that are most relevant here in Wisconsin.
Preserving Ojibwe Treaty Rights
In 2009, the Great Lakes Indian Fish and Wildlife Commission will celebrate its 25th anniversary. In approaching this milestone, Tribal leaders have acknowledged the importance of preserving the history of their tribe’s efforts to reaffirm and implement Chippewa Treaty rights from an Ojibwe perspective. A WHC grant will be used to fund a four-day symposium called Minwaajimo-Telling a Good Story: Preserving Ojibwe Treaty Rights, which is planned for July 2009 on the Bad River Indian Reservation.
Poetry on the Kinnickinnic River
For three years running, young people (ages 12-14) in River Falls have spent part of their summer days exploring nature and developing their own literary voices to express themselves. A WHC grant supported the 2008 summer workshop, which encouraged participants to see poetry as a compliment to nature itself. Throughout the week, budding poets spent time getting to know the Kinnickinnic River and some basic biology while getting familiar with the work of well-know and local poets. CAB, or the River Falls Community Arts Base, who sponsors the summer workshops, sees this as part of their larger mission to support the arts and humanities in Pierce, St. Croix, and Polk Counties.
Creating a Local Food Economy
The Tomorrow River Chautauqua in Amherst understands that the strength of communities depends on an educated, active, and diverse citizenry. They use the power of Chautauqua presentations to educate, entertain, motivate, and energize people. The group has partnered with the Central Rivers Farmshed to organize events to do just that around the local food economy. The WHC provided a grant to support a half-day gathering bringing Dr. Ellis Jones, a sociologist from the University of California - Davis and author of “Better World Shopping Guide,” to Amherst to talk about social change, consumerism, and community building through education in the fall of 2008.
Talking about Corn
The Bay Area Film Society, in cooperation with the Chequamegon Food Co-op and Northland College, screened the film “King Korn” in the spring of 2008 to encourage viewers to think more about how corn is a part of their lives. A WHC grant funded two events using the film to spark conversations with local experts on food economies, Northland College students, and community members interested in considering the history of and concerns about our country’s relationship with corn as an agricultural crop and food ingredient.