Neighboring counties become giant canvas

Miles of Art back for its third year
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Contributed Photo Musicians perform at the Old Feed Mill on Pleasant Street in Gresham at the 2012 Miles of Art event. This year’s event is Oct. 5-6.

There will be no escaping the art in Shawano and Menominee counties next weekend as the third annual Miles of Art kicks off.

With several area artists throwing open their studios to the public, local galleries hosting guest artists and the College of Menominee Nation showing the best of the Menominee Nation — not to mention Shawano County’s barn quilts, Gresham’s community quilts, the Walls of Wittenberg and the coming fall colors in the great outdoors — art lovers will get more than their fill.

Miles of Art has turned into something bigger than Richmond artist David Rand, one of the driving forces to get the event started in 2011, could have imagined.

“The number of people, the enthusiasm, it makes me feel good that I did something worthwhile,” Rand said.

Rand was inspired to work with the Shawano Country Chamber of Commerce and other local artists to make this happen because of the positive work happening in the village of Gresham. Besides community quilts going up at local businesses, residents are beautifying Main Street and restoring a community mural.

“There was a strong sense of, ‘Wow! Look at what these people are making,’” Rand said.

Many of the studios hosting are only open for this event, providing a rare glimpse into the hidden artistry that speckles the reservation and its southern neighbor. Rand and Simon Levin do pottery, while David Aschenbrenner creates bronze sculptures, and Judy Pubanz makes portraits from oil, pastel and charcoal.

The event will also be a chance to see the Menominee Tribe’s array of artists. Susan Waukau, who coordinates the event for the College of Menominee Nation, reported that more than 500 people visited the Keshena campus in 2012.

“I think the event is definitely helping the American Indian artists here in the community,” Waukau said. “We had 10 artists here last year, and they did very well. The exposure was definitely a plus for them.”

Menominee artists get a chance to shine in other venues, too, such as the annual tribal contest pow-wow in August. However, Waukau noted, Miles of Art provides an extra opportunity to showcase them on an alternate stage.

“It draws in a whole other group of people,” Waukau said. “We are probably attracting a different group.”

The word is definitely spreading across the state. Miles of Art received a full-page spread in The Country Today — a statewide rural newspaper — on Sept. 18, and the Wisconsin Department of Tourism featured the event in its fall publications.

“We’re definitely doing a good job of getting the word out to people earlier,” said Patti Peterson, the chamber’s tourism manager. “We did our direct mailing of our brochure to 16,000 people, and we had our brochures out locally to all of the high-traffic areas by the Fourth of July, so hopefully people are planning for it.”

Part of the allure is to see the artists at work on their craft, Peterson said. Some of the artists will be doing demonstrations throughout the day Saturday and Sunday.

“These are things that aren’t typically open for people just to pop in,” Peterson said. “They can actually get the whole history, and they will also be treated to music at a lot of the stops.”

Shawano County is primarily known for its agriculture, especially its dairy industry. What Miles of Art does is show there are more than farmers in the area.

Peterson noted that many artists are not out and about in the community with their pieces, which could be a contributing factor in the number of artists who have jumped to the forefront in recent years.

“We’re not always top of mind for art in this area, and that’s why it’s nice to be able to showcase the talent we have, something the typical visitor doesn’t know we have,” Peterson said. “The talent and the diversity of the artists that we have … it’s just beautiful.”

Levin, who makes his home near Gresham, sees the artists’ work as another way to show what the area is all about.

“The artists in Shawano County are one of its resources, producing high quality, rare, expressive works that are tied deeply to this community,” Levin said. “We all benefit through this tourism, and the artists enjoy the support. It makes it a little easier to make a living and expand our customer base.”

Miles of Art is expected to fill a variety of interests, and Rand feels it is an event for everyone.

“You’ve got food. You’ve got music. You’ve got art. What else do you need?” Rand said.

AT A GLANCE

Miles of Art studios will be open to the public from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Oct. 5-6. These are the venues for 2013:

• David Aschenbrener, W10181 Cherry Road, Gresham

• College of Menominee Nation, N172 State Highway 47-55, Keshena

• Simon Levin, W11561 Mill Creek Road, Gresham

• Mielke Arts Center, N5649 Airport Road, Shawano

• Old Feed Mill, Pleasant Street, Gresham

• Judy Andrews Pubanz, N6725 Balsam Row Road, Shawano

• David Rand, N4933 Pine Lane, Shawano

• Woodlands Studio, 116 W. Division St., Shawano

• WOWSpace, 114 Vinal St., Wittenberg

For more information and details about what is happening at each studio, go to smartwisconsin.org.

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