State of the Arts: The Northwoods arts corridor
By Melinda Childs
Development Director, ArtStart Rhinelander
Now that I am approaching my one-year anniversary of living in Rhinelander, I have started venturing outside my neighborhood more often. From some outsiders’ point of view, rural communities are small and so there must not be much to offer in the way of culture. The truth is that we have more cultural resources and opportunities than many urban areas–we just have to drive a little farther to get to them!
Recently I have been on the road attending arts meetings and workshops all over the state, and there seems to be a buzz about the “Northwoods Arts Corridor”. We might not think of Rhinelander as a gateway to an arts corridor, but once you take a step back and look at all our region has to offer culturally, a new identity for Rhinelander and the area as an arts destination seems to be taking shape.
Rhinelander is home to Nicolet Art Gallery and the Northern National Art Competition. Did you catch a key word in that sentence? National! Artists from all over the country apply for this highly respected juried visual art exhibition. This is just one of many engaging art exhibits Nicolet College hosts, often highlighting the work of local artists. Right next door to the gallery is the Nicolet Theater, hosting The Nicolet Live Arts and Speakers Series and the Nicolet Players.
In Rhinelander’s downtown there are a number of arts venues, including ArtStart, which features exhibitions of work not generally seen in this area, as well as cultural events. Then there is the Hext Theater, businesses like Diane’s Frame Shoppe, exhibiting the work of local artists, and the Northwoods’ beloved community public radio station, WXPR.
Of course, I have to mention an arts institution that has been a part of Rhinelander’s summer season for 52 years: School of the Arts at Rhinelander, offering dozens of workshops from watercolor to poetry to baking.
A short drive north leads you to the Three Lakes Center for the Arts in Three lakes and the Warehouse: Four Seasons Center for the Arts in Eagle River. The Warehouse will shortly open their new space where they will host a variety of art classes and events ranging from pottery to cooking. The Three Lakes Center boasts live events and film in its art deco theater space, as well as exhibiting Wisconsin artists in its gallery. Head over to Minocqua and check out the Campanile Center where world-class performers grace the stage. In nearby Woodruff you can view the exhibitions at The Howard Young Art Gallery located in the Howard Young Medical Center. Drive a bit farther west to Lac du Flambeau and you will find the George W. Brown, Jr. Ojibwe Museum & Cultural Center offering one of the most complete collections of Lac Du Flambeau history and the Woodland Indian Art Center featuring Native American art. Then there are the Dillman’s Creative Art Workshops at Dillman’s Bay Resort in Lac du Flambeau. Keep going north and you will discover LOLA, the Land O’ LakesArea Artisans, which brings the Arts Corridor all the way to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula!
To make the Arts Corridor even more accessible to residents and visitors, area organizations are working together to launch the Northwoods Arts Calendar later this month. This online resource calendar highlights arts related events happening throughout the region and even includes arts organizations located in the virtual realm, such as The Mill Paper and Book Arts. The opportunities are limitless for artists and anyone who wants to be part of the northwoods art scene.
In addition to all these great organizations, and I’m sure there are many more that I have yet to discover, there are hundreds of individual artist studios, music teachers, performers, writers, poets, and artists of all stripes hidden in the pines or opening up their studios on our Main Streets. Plus, there are all the art leagues like the Lakeland Art League and the Manito Art League who exhibit and promote the visual arts throughout their regions. We shouldn’t be surprised to find all this art blooming alongside the spring flowers, because after all, The Northern Arts Council led the way as the first arts organization of its kind in the state.
So next time you contemplate a trip to Madison, Milwaukee or the Twin Cities to get your culture fix, consider staying home instead. Maybe even call your city friends and invite them up here for the weekend. Tell them you are lucky enough to live in the Northwoods Arts Corridor. That’s what I’ll be doing this summer!
Melinda Childs can be reached at mchilds@ArtStartRhinelander.org or 715-362-4328.