Living with Art

Bill CoadyBy 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.

Reaching New HeightsHuman 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.


8 responses to “Living with Art

  1. Bill, what a fabulous post and it rings so true, too. One interesting thing you might want to consider is participating in Exhibitour on the ‘artists’ side’ of the event. I think the next one is in late May. I’ve done it a couple of times and while I’m probably better suited to just walking around downtown from shop to shop having wine and schmoozing, it’s also interesting to have the perspective from the other side as an exhibitor.

  2. Jim is correct Exhibitour’s spring edition is May 18th, the fall edition will be held September 22nd. Contact Wausau Area Events if you are interested in participating as a exhibitor.

  3. Thanks for the kind words Jim. This seems to be a constant refrain of mine lately. I have met so many people with generous souls here in Wausau it never ceases to amaze me.

    There are many times when I think this is nothing special, that surely people are people and what happens here happens everywhere. And maybe it does. But when I tell folks what happens they often say, “You are so lucky, nothing like that happens here.” So, I just don’t know.

    A small example happened this morning. I was sheparding the kids into the van to take them to school when the recycling pick-up truck pulled in front of the house. Dang! I had forgotten. The driver of the truck, seeing that look on my face, and nothing more, stopped and waited while I ran back into the garage to grab the little bucket. Not a huge moment, but very telling.

    Frankly, all the kindness I have been shown and have seen is enough to turn this cynical boy’s head a bit. It reminds me of a story my father always used to tell.

    Seems there was a salesman who, though he tried and tried never sold dick. And then suddenly he was the company’s number one salesman! So, the sales manager called the guy into his office and asked the salesman what had changed. The salesman grinned and said, “It was simple, really. Now, when I talk to the clients, no matter what they say, when they are done, I smile and say ‘Fantastic!’”

    “What did you used to say?”


    Wausau is truly a fantastic place and I thank everyone for giving us a chance to say it.

    And we will see about cobbling together some prints to exhibit. I might need some help with that. Do I see any hands on that?

    Thanks 🙂 I knew you would.

  4. God, not to be a dick or anything, or the consistent malcontent, but you gotta appreciate consistency…but from that post we make the leap to the exhibitour?

    I love the tour. I have done it each and everytime.

    I like art.

    But the fact is this is not a post about that, is it? Its a post about the artist within. Look at the amazing thing Bill shared about himself, and we leap to what?

  5. i have always thought o you as a very creative person writing first but your pictures are fast catching up ( told you would like that digital camers) so glad we saw you under that cabbage plant. keep up the good work

  6. Some comments just mean more than others. What can I say. And I always thought it was a turnip plant. 🙂

  7. Bill writes, echoing remarks from Dino and others, that, in Wausau, “people give you a chance…If you fall down, folks will pick you up. But more importantly there are folks who… will find you a ladder to help you go higher.”

    I gotta admit, as much as I admire the sentiment, I find this comment slightly disquieting. There are plenty of people in Wausau – like everywhere else – who struggle to make it day to day, and many of those folks do so without much of the benevolence described in the comment. (It also, frankly, seems to come from a very limited perspective of race, class and status.) To suggest that the city is so totally Samaritan-minded is to essentially place all the blame on the shoulders of individuals, and to imply that complaints about the city’s infrastructure or institutions are illegitimate.

    I love my hometown, and I’ve certainly seen tremendous kindness and generosity exhibited by many people, in many different contexts. Still, to suggest that it’s some sort of Shangri-La of charity and compassion does nobody a service, least of all the people (including some who populate this blog) who work hard to make it better.

    I’m not trying to attack anybody, but I felt the need to make my thoughts clear.

  8. Charles, thanks for the comment. First understand, I was speaking in the limited sense of the artistic community, and even within that community support for the process of creating art, not necessarily in any financial terms.

    And even within that limited sense, I am a realist and understand that some people will still “fail.” And that given human frailties, that artists, like everyone else, are prone to gossip, back biting, jealousy and so on.

    But I will also say again, that in my limited experience in the art world here in Wausau, the support, encouragement and opportunities I have seen and the support and encouragement that I have personally received has been quite amazing. And I remain very grateful for that and encourage others to follow their creative muse.

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