Rural artists and farmers celebrate "home-grown culture"While some may think of big, urban centers when they hear the phrase "the arts," savvy Wisconsinites know that art in all of its forms happens throughout our state, in places large and small. In fact, Wisconsin has historically been a pioneer in the field of rural arts; for example, John Steuart Curry was the first artist-in-residence at a major university when he was invited to the University of Wisconsin's School of Agriculture in 1936. Curry encouraged all members of farm families to paint, feeling that their deep connection to their land was more important than art-school techniques.
To examine the current state of rural arts, a special project at the University of Wisconsin, "Putting Culture Back Into Agriculture," was funded through a 2005-06 UW-Extension Cross-Divisional Grant. As part of this project, four communitiesAmery, Kewaunee, Reedsburg and Spring Greenresponded to this theme in ways that made sense for local needs. Now the findings of those projects, as well as plans for future work, are available to the public. To help share these findings, PortalWisconsin.org is making available several project reports online. You will need Adobe Acrobat Reader to view these files. If you do not have Adobe Acrobat Reader you can download a copy from Adobe's web site.
- Putting Culture Back Into Agriculture: Final Report, by project leader Miranda McClenaghan and project coordinator Maryo Gard Ewell
- Community report: Amery
- Community report: Kewaunee
- Community report: Reedsburg
- Community report: Spring Green
- Summary of the four projects, by Jerry Apps
The project concluded that rural arts are not simply scaled-down versions of urban arts offerings. Rather, they must arise out of and share a connection with local people and places.
Reedsburg's Wormfarm Institute has coined the provocative term "cultureshed" to describe "an area nourished by what is cultivated locally... fed by pools of human and natural history... the efforts of writers, artists, performers, scholars and chefs who contribute to a vital and diverse culture."
Integrating culture and agriculture is not always seamless; in some situations, project participants in the four communities found that sometimes there is a lack of trust between artists and farmers. However, a positive aspect of the project was that conversation was sparked among people from different walks of life, and it was done in a proactive waynot as a response to a community crisis, but in looking forward to a vibrant, healthy future.
To find out more about "Putting Culture Into Agriculture," contact Miranda McClenaghan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 608-265-8041.