Artsminded: Flowing together in the name of artIt’s about time we in River Falls learned about the art venue just outside our sister river city of Prescott: Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center.
It’s about time we in River Falls learned about the art venue just outside our sister river city of Prescott: Great River Road Visitor and Learning Center.
If you haven’t been to “Freedom Park” — the park that houses the GRR Visitor and Learning Center, it’s worth the drive.
Highway 29 to Prescott is bucolic and beautiful; Prescott itself is a charming old river town in more ways than one. Just outside that village — just where Freedom Park is, in fact — the St. Croix River joins the mighty Mississippi, the most important of the confluences in our area.
That confluence is recognized at the learning center by a permanent exhibit about its history and geology. The center also sponsors many arts and educational events:
For example, next Saturday, a plant sale featuring most everything that grows in these parts, but especially area native plants and plants grown by UWRF horticultural students.
In late February, the Learning Center began a restoration of its “globally rare” oak savannah river bluff prairie which had become overgrown with invasive plants. These were removed so that the native oaks and cottonwoods can reclaim their habitat.
May 20, Caitlin Smith, private lands biologist for the United States Fish and Wildlife Service, will speak about the place of this project in national efforts to restore native habitats.
But, of course, here we are concerned with the arts, and Freedom Park offers its share of arts events: On May 27, from 2 to 4 p.m., Margie Jean Balwierz, best known here as a tile artist, will open her exhibit.
Balwierz created the butterfly tiles on the pathway through the Freedom Park butterfly garden. Her work is featured in museums, galleries and archaeological sites in many venues worldwide. Not only does she exhibit in many parts of the globe, she has learned her craft here and abroad including UW-Madison, The Sorbonne in Paris, and the Minneapolis College of Art and Design.
Then there’s the “Adopt a River Found Objects Sculpture”: In mid-April, the learning center accepted the 2011 Minnesota State Fair Adopt a River Sculpture. Each year, the MN DNR commissions a sculpture made from objects salvaged by volunteers along a selected river.
And each year, a commissioned sculpture made from those objects is displayed at the Minnesota State Fair; afterward, it is donated to an organization that features the confluence of art, nature and conservation. A visit to Freedom Park includes the 2011 sculpture as well as the confluence and the bluff under restoration
Another confluence is brewing: The River Towns Confluence. Arts and nature organizations in Prescott, Hastings, Afton and, now, one hopes, River Falls — all River Towns, all related to a river confluence that flows into the Mississippi, all host to significant arts and nature organizations (CAB, of course, is central to the local effort).
The object of River Towns Confluence is for our towns and our rivers — from the meandering, lovely Kinnickinnic to the mighty Mississippi — to make sure everybody in the region knows what the communities, their arts organizations and their civic efforts offer for residents and visitors alike.
In this effort the River Towns have agreed to publish a calendar of events; they’re working on other joint ways to promote the wonders we have in each city and in the confluence region. Watch this space for updates as the project continues.
Other Arts Events Coming to the River Falls Area:
-- Music in the Park: June 10, 12:30 – 3 p.m.; Wolf River will play in conjunction with Cruisin’ on Main classic car show.
-- Beginning June 22, Music in the Park will be both Friday and Saturday evenings; Artists TBA, but we know those concerts are always fine.
-- All School Art Show: River Falls Public Library continues through May 25. Our local art teachers do a wonderful job of selecting representative art from their students’ work and the array is fascinating, colorful and full of imagination.
-- Dollar a Day Boys: River Fall Public Library; 7 p.m. May 21; a musical and educational evening about the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC).
-- All Automobile Silent Film Festival: Phipps; May 11, 7:30 p.m.; Dennis James on the Wurlitzer with old-time movie races, chases, and crashes galore. Adults $22, Students $15.
-- Exhibits at the Phipps: May 11 - June 10 in the Phipps Galleries; opening reception: May 11, 6:30 - 8:30 p.m.
-- Gallery 1, Lauren Herzak-Bauman: Opening reception, May 11, 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. Art made with broken porcelain objects mimics emotional cycles of bereavement.
-- The Commons: Sarah Stone, paintings explore symbols from various sources including history, religion, folk art, popular media and more.
-- Galleries 2, 3 & Overlook: Guy Baldwin transforms “dead discarded stuff” into works of art; Bernie Marks “If there is one thing I attempt to convey in all my work, it is a sense of the profound complexities of human nature.”