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Artsminded: Holidays come alive with artistic touch

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Have you thought about how essential artists are to the celebration of seasonal traditions we take for granted?

Consider the history of the Christmas elves, introduced to the world by author Louisa May Alcott in 1856. Santa Claus took on an elfin form in European lore. Rivaling the Irish Leprechaun who came into existence a couple of centuries earlier, Santa's rise to fame was nothing short of meteoric.

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Of course, Santa is known under other names, St. Nicholas, Tomte, Sinterklaas and Father Christmas. His reputation for gift giving is described over the years in countless poems, stories, songs, paintings, drawings, movies, plays and performances.

Clement Clarke Moore's 1823 poem is ubiquitous in Western culture. "Twas the Night Before Christmas" not only describes Santa as "a right jolly old elf" but also names the hardworking reindeer on their momentous flight into the dark, night sky of Dec. 24 to reward the world's children.

One reindeer, not included in the original flight crew, nonetheless secured solid stature, as every year millions sing with glee, "Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer." The 1939 story by Robert L. May was later adapted into the popular song by his brother-in-law, Johnny Marks, and became a hit when recorded by Gene Autry in 1949.

There is a sizable body of secular creations with other themes that have become perennial, favorites. They create an ongoing record of our existence as humans, held by nature in the everlasting cycle of the Solstices.

Many artistic creations come to mind: Charles Dickens' immortal volume, "A Christmas Carol," Irving Berlin's song "White Christmas" (popularized in his classic 1942 movie, "Holiday Inn") and a plethora of pieces describing the longing to be home during wartime.

Bing Crosby's 1943 recording of "I'll be Home For Christmas," written by Kim Gannon, Walter Kent and Buck Ram, is a poignant example.

In churches adorned with paintings, sculptures and stained glass, congregations stand to sing Handel's magnificent "Hallelujah Chorus."

It's clear, even from this brief overview, that the season is rich with emotional power thanks to a tapestry woven by artists of many disciplines over the centuries.

River Falls Community Arts Base thanks all area artists, musicians, poets and elves who have, once again, salved our souls as the days grow shorter. An artful holiday and a creative New Year to all!

A few lines from of my Solstice song, "In Peace We Journey Here:"

"Sisters, brothers of the Solstice,

Sweet Earth we hold so dear,

Live truly by the wish

In peace to journey here

In peace we journey here"

Unique holiday gifts

--A membership in the River Falls Community Arts Base supports your premiere local arts organization. Memberships also include arts partner benefits and discounts at local businesses. Visit www.inforelatedsite.com

www.rfcab.org or call 715-425-7645 ext. 2109 for more information.

--Adopt a musician and help keep the St. Croix Valley Symphony Orchestra strong. More information at www.inforelatedsite.com

www.scvsymphony.org.

Upcoming events

--Continuing through Thursday, Dec. 20: Gingerbread constructions at the River Falls Public Library, Main and Union. Delightful creations for young and old alike. Also, the fascinating Motorcycle show in the downstairs gallery. Work by Cheryl Maplethorpe will be on display until March in other parts of the library.

--Continuing at The Phipps Center for the Arts, 109 Locust, Hudson: A Gift by the Hand sale of local and regional artists' work. Information on art exhibitions, concerts and plays available by calling 715-386-8409 or at The Phipps..

--Local and regional artists display and sell their work at Seasons on St. Croix and Kelley Gallery in Hudson, The Little Parrot Gallery in Stillwater, Minn., Karma Gifts and Global M.A.D.E. (also featuring international artists) in River Falls.

--For more regional offerings contact Artsreach in Stillwater, Minn., HPAAC in Hastings, Minn., Franconia near Interstate Park in Minnesota. For St. Croix Valley online events calendar St. Croix Splash. Pick up a free copy of What's Playing, call 1-866-342-9624 or go to What's Playing.

--Saturday, Jan. 5, 12:30-2:30 p.m.: 72 Years of Listening to Loons, with Sam Lewis from LoonWatch at the Hudson Public Library, 700 First Street.

n Saturday, Jan. 12, 7 p.m.: Community Barn Dance with the Rush River Ramblers at the Renaissance Academy Gym. Adults $5, children 12 and under $2.50.

--Tune to Channel 16 for Dr. Camilla Horne's weekly show "Arts Alive in River Falls. Visit Arts Alive for more information.

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