By Bill Coady
Opening this Saturday was a new exhibit at the Leigh Yawkey Woodson Art Museum (I can occasionally get out the correct name of something.) The exhibit is entitled, “Living with Art” and it is a collection, according to their website that “document[s] the vitality and symbiotic relationships within America’s art community in the first decades of the twentieth century.” It features works by Charles Demuth, Rockwell Kent, John Marin, and Georgia O’Keeffe. It sounds like a wonderful exhibit and I can hardly wait to see it and I have until April to do so. But the exhibit itself is not what I want to talk about today.
I want to talk about the “vitality and symbiotic relationships” among the artists that inhabit the Wausau area a little bit.
First let me say that my actual knowledge of art is approximately equal to my knowledge of ancient Sanskrit, that is to say, bumpkis. I do like art and more than a few pieces have really moved me, especially those with an element of humor or whimsy to them. But for the most part, the process of creation was a complete mystery to me and I thought of “ARTISTS” as alien creatures with special genetic talents that expressed themselves in some kind of super human way. Partially correct, but also completely wrong.
My education in art really began when I met Catherine Reinke, one of the owners of Funky Findz (full disclosure: I am doing their website for them.) After several conversations Catherine confidently declared to me that I am in fact, an artist. Anyone who has read my prose and seen my pictures can feel free to disagree, and I certainly did at the time. But, I have come to learn – wrong again.
Not because I am some super talented alien being (and thank you very much to those of you who have said that I am, you can’t believe how much that means to me) but because I have now come to believe that we all are artists. Yep – each and every one of you, an artist. Especially you – you know who you are.
Human beings are innately creative, it is hard wired into our brain structure. We are pattern making, problem solving animals. We are constantly creating, we can’t help it. Frankly, I think television was invented to keep a lid on all that creative power because it scares the powers that be. If your creative urge seems gone, it is not. Only blocked. Or so misdirected it no longer looks like creativity. If given a chance, it can flow again. At first it drips a little. And then a small trickle. A flow and then a flood. It lies within your grasp.
And Wausau, I have found, is a perfect place to start that flow again. It is a great place because, as Dino has often times pointed out, people give you a chance here. If you fall down, folks will pick you up. But more importantly there are folks who will not only pick you up when you fall, they will find you a ladder to help you go higher.
Wausau is a happening, arty town because of those kinds of people. My goodness, look around. The Woodson is a world class museum. The CVA features local artists in one of the most fantastic spaces you will ever see. The Wisconsin Valley Visual Art Guild’s wonderful “Peace on Earth” show at the new Marshfield Clinic office out in Weston. And this is not even mentioning ArtRageous weekend every year and the various shops around town.
Of course it is the people behind the alphabet soup of organization names and the beautiful buildings that make everything happen. In my brief and shallow foray in to the art world, I have met some of these people. Amazing people, giving and supportive people. Life changing people. People who have opened my eyes, heart and soul both through their works and their friendship.
Some people think Wausau is a backwater sort of town, starched and conservative to the point of stifling. Maybe it is in places, but this has not been my experience. The doors and windows I constantly see swinging open belies this image. Maybe you just have to know where to look.
Find your passion. Find your art. Express it, let it out. At the nexus I found this bit of wisdom: “Everything you need is within you.” Absolutely. And in a place like Wausau you can make what is within, without. And for that I am supremely grateful.