Monday, Oct. 31st, 2016

How Much Money Makes a Wisconsinite Happy?

In a 2010 Princeton study, Daniel Kahneman and Angus Deaton found that, on average, annual income beyond $75,000 doesn't have a major impact on a person's happiness. The Huffington Post put this map together, looking at the "plateau salary" by each state. The map measures the point at which additional annual income no longer has a major impact on happiness. Wisconsin sits at $74,100, just below the national average.

Image: The Huffington Post

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Wednesday, Oct. 19th, 2016

A Flag for the People

People’s Flag of Milwaukee, adopted earlier this year.
People’s Flag of Milwaukee, adopted earlier this year.

What does Eau Claire look like? That’s a question that C.J. Krueger has been asking himself lately, and it’s not a rhetorical one. It’s a question of symbolism and civic pride, the kind of question that could potentially be answered in the form of a city flag, something Eau Claire doesn’t have – yet. Krueger hopes to change that with a new initiative to select a People’s Flag of Eau Claire.

“It would be very nice to have a uniting symbol, especially in a divisive time.”– CJ Krueger, founder, People’s Flag of Eau Claire

“It would be very nice to have a uniting symbol, especially in a divisive time,” he explains. Krueger’s desire to see the creation of a city flag was inspired by two sources. The first is a 2015 TED Talk by Roman Mars, host of the popular design-focused podcast 99% Invisible. The title of the talk was “Why City Flags May Be the Worst Designed Thing You’ve Never Noticed.” Mars explained that many city flags are aesthetically displeasing jumbles of symbols, colors, and words, and he singles Milwaukee’s flag out for specific criticism, calling it a “hot mess.” This critique helped spur Krueger’s second inspiration, a successful effort to create a People’s Flag of Milwaukee. Judges in that city selected finalists from more than 1,000 entries, and online voters chose a winner earlier this year.

“Very selfishly, I thought, ‘Why doesn’t Eau Claire have something like this?’ ” Krueger says. With a newly launched website – – Krueger is running a local version of the idea up the proverbial flagpole. Now through March 31, Eau Claire County residents are invited to submit their flag designs to the website. If your creative juices are flowing, check out the North American Vexillological Association’s “five guiding principles of flag design” on the website (keep it simple, use meaningful symbols, stick to two or three colors, avoid lettering or seals, and be distinctive or related to other flags), then fire up Adobe Illustrator.

Krueger created the website and is assembling a panel of judges – including graphic designers and “local luminaries” – who will help winnow the entries. Finalists will be announced on April 30, public voting will run through May 31, and a winner will be announced June 5. Krueger has already heard from a few people interested in designing flags, but he’s received no submissions to date.

At this point, Krueger isn’t concerned with getting the winning flag officially adopted by the City Council (although that’s always a possibility), nor is he trying to make money off the idea (the winning design will be available for anyone to use). He simply wants to create a fun process that encourages Eau Claire residents to think about their hometown’s aesthetic possibilities. Rivers? Eagles? Paul Bunyan? Look around you, then let your imagination go to work.

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Tuesday, Oct. 18th, 2016

Developer Has Plans for Downtown's Block 7, but Creative Financing Needed

Commonweal Development’s conceptual drawing of Block 7 development in downtown Eau Claire
Commonweal Development’s conceptual drawing of Block 7 development (currently a parking lot) in downtown Eau Claire.

Creative financing will be key to the success of a proposed mixed-used project in downtown Eau Claire that would include space for a grocery store, a public market, and 85 apartments, says developer Stuart Schaefer. His firm, Commonweal Development, has proposed building an $18 million, two-building project on what’s known as Block 7, a temporary parking lot at the southeast corner of North Barstow and Wisconsin streets.

Because of its proximity to the farmers market and the downtown business district, the block is ideal for a long sought-after downtown grocery – potentially a relocated Just Local Food Cooperative – and public market, Schaefer says. However, he adds, paying for that part of the project with conventional funding methods isn’t commercially viable. Instead, Commonweal recently asked the city Redevelopment Authority, which owns the land, to consider providing $3.25 million in tax incremental financing to pay for the public market portion of the project. The RDA considered the proposal in closed session at its Oct. 12 meeting. After reconvening, chairman Mike DeRosa instructed city staff to continue to negotiate with Commonweal but to take possible TIF funding off the table.

Despite the potential setback, Schaefer believes the project is still possible, particularly if grant funds or other creative financing methods are found to pay for the public market. That approach was suggested in a public market feasibility study commissioned by the city and presented in late August.

Noting that Just Local Food has indicated a desire to move and expand and that the community is interested in creating a public market, Schaefer says he’ll continue to push the project forward. “I really think there’s a way to get this done,” he says.

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Tuesday, Oct. 11th, 2016

Eau Claire Journalist’s Articles on Homelessness Inspires Music, Fundraising

For several years, journalist Julian Emerson has examined the problem of homelessness in the Chippewa Valley through words. Now those words have inspired songs as well, songs that will be performed on a musical and literary tour that kicks off Thursday, Oct. 13, in Eau Claire.

In the summer of 2015, Emerson – a longtime reporter with the Leader-Telegram newspaper – took part in an artists’ retreat on Mallard Island in Rainy Lake, near the Minnesota-Canada border. On the first night, the participants were asked to share their work with one another, but Emerson didn’t have anything new to present. Instead, he decided to read aloud from an in-depth series of articles he had written about homeless people struggling through the brutal winter of 2013-14 on the streets of Eau Claire. While his descriptions of frigid urban homelessness stood in stark contrast to the scenic summertime idyll provided by the retreat, they nonetheless motivated four other attendees to start creating words and music.

“I absolutely did not ever envision those homeless stories having the kind of impact they have had, and I certainly never thought they would inspire musicians to want to create/perform music to them.” – Julian Emerson

“While listening to … Emerson’s stories of the homeless surviving that long, cold winter, we were inspired to craft a series of songs antithetical to our beautiful wilderness surroundings,” Pepin County singer-songwriter Yata Peinovich, who took part in the retreat. The creative collaboration continued in subsequent months, and the participants gathered in an Eau Claire recording studio to put down some tracks. Now, an album is forthcoming.

“I absolutely did not ever envision those homeless stories having the kind of impact they have had, and I certainly never thought they would inspire musicians to want to create/perform music to them,” Emerson says.

Now, Yata and his partners – harmonica player Joel Kroenke of Shawano, and violinist Dalyce Elliott and poet Timothy Young, both of St. Paul, Minnesota – are launching a mini-tour to raise awareness and funds for organizations in their hometowns that help the homeless. The tour begins at 7pm Thursday, Oct. 13, at the Volume One Gallery inside The Local Store, 205 N. Dewey St., Eau Claire. Other concerts will follow: Friday, Oct. 14, at Accola Gallery in Durand; Saturday, Oct. 15, at Como Cottage in St. Paul; and Saturday, Oct. 22, at Zion Lutheran Church in Shawano. Emerson will read adaptations of some of his articles to accompany a few of the songs.

At each concerts, donations will be accepted for local groups that aid the homeless. In Eau Claire, funds will go to the Eau Claire school district’s Homeless Children and Youth Fund for Today. The show will launch a one-month fundraising effort for the school district’ program. If you can’t make it to the concert – or just can’t wait to pitch in – you can do so online.

Find the event on Facebook.

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Friday, Oct. 7th, 2016

Over 4 Years Later, Confluence Project Finally Digs In

A groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 6 for the Confluence Art Center.
A groundbreaking ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 6 for the Confluence Arts Center.

One-thousand six-hundred and five. That’s the number of days that passed between the May 15, 2012, announcement of the Confluence Project and Thursday’s ceremonial groundbreaking for the downtown Eau Claire performing arts center. During that four-and-a-half-year span, an enormous amount happened: Countless meetings were held. Two referendums landed on the local ballot. Funds were raised – and raised and raised. Money for the project was put in the state budget, then taken out, then put back in again. Plans were drawn and bids were opened. While the backhoes and bulldozers won’t get to work on the construction site for a few more weeks, the nearly two dozen hard-hat wearing people who flipped ceremonial shovelfuls of dirt on Thursday, Oct. 6 had already done much of the metaphorical heavy lifting to bring the Confluence Project from a single conceptual drawing to an honest-to-goodness construction project.

“We can rightly say that we built this building – all of us. No one person gets to claim that honor. We did it. The idea came from you, the money came from you, the energy came from you.” – Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid

Hundreds of others – from City Council members to college students to donors – gathered to watch the ceremony, held on a sandy lot just yards from where the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers flow together and in the shadow of Haymarket Landing, the mixed-use residential-commercial element that will complement the Confluence Center. The $45 million shared university-community performing arts center is slated to be completed by 2018. While much work remains, Thursday was a time for reflection and celebration by those with a stake in the project.

“Soon there will be a beautiful building here that will make us proud and help us revitalize our downtown,” Eau Claire City Council President Kerry Kincaid, one of those who donned a white hard hat and wielded a gold-painted shovel, told the crowd.

“We can rightly say that we built this building – all of us,” Kincaid added. “No one person gets to claim that honor. We did it. The idea came from you, the money came from you, the energy came from you.”

Tom Barland, a retired judge who serves as one of four co-chairpersons of the fundraising effort, praised the project as a unique partnership that succeeded against the odds. “This project began with opposition from some, doubt and questions by others, and a relatively small cadre of strong supporters,” Barland said. “Now, four years later, we have an outpouring of love and support for the project from many. We have arrived at the point when construction can begin on the building of a remarkable educational arts center. … Already we have seen vibrant results in the renaissance of Eau Claire’s downtown and the additional music festivals drawing thousands of visitors to Eau Claire. There is new life where previously pessimism prevailed.”

The effort also brought bipartisan praise from state lawmakers, who worked together to ensure that Gov. Scott Walker put funding for the project in the 2015-17 state budget.

“I truly believe this public-private endeavor will be a model for other college towns in Wisconsin and – just possibly – the nation,” said state Rep. Kathy Bernier, R-Lake Hallie.

The Haymarket Plaza building watches over the groundbreaking, eagerly awaiting its mate.
The Haymarket Plaza building watches over the groundbreaking, eagerly awaiting its mate.

State Rep. Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire, agreed, noting that he grew up in Eau Claire at a time when the future looked much dimmer for the city’s center. “I think we’ve found the key to urban development in this state,” he said.

While it may be located in downtown Eau Claire, the future performing arts center will enrich the lives of people from across the Chippewa Valley, emphasized Jerry Jacobson, president of Chippewa Falls-based Northwestern Bank and chairman of Eau Claire Confluence Arts, the nonprofit entity that will own the building. “We know it’s not just designed for bankers in suits,” he said. “We want to see everyone here.”

The approximately 130,000-square-foot, three-story arts center will include two theaters, a large lobby, a small performance space, scene and costume shops, a recording studio, dance studio and music and theater rehearsal rooms, offices for Visit Eau Claire, and more.

The Confluence Project is a public-private partnership that will be built with funding from many sources, including the state of Wisconsin, the City of Eau Claire, Eau Claire County, federal new market tax credits, and private donors. While nearly $15 million has been raised from donors, fundraising continues, in part to obtain the entirety of a $1.5 million anonymous matching grant. About $1.3 million was raised toward that total as of Sept. 30, the original deadline. However, the deadline for the matching grant has been extended through the end of the year.

Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, one of the project’s partners, said ongoing fundraising will be targeted to specific potential donors, and that naming rights for some elements of the center are still available. While the budget is still flexible – for instance, extra financing could go toward improved technology in the facility – “We’re at the point that this is the building we’re going to build,” Way said.

And it’s a building that is destined to be a downtown landmark for generations. As Kincaid said in her remarks, “In our time, Eau Claire built something important, and it changed everything.”

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Thursday, Oct. 6th, 2016

Submission Deadline, October 22: Annual Ink & Paper Print Sale Offers $2,500 in Cash & Prizes

Artists interested in submitting their work for the Volume One Gallery’s annual Ink & Paper Print Sale now have another incentive to do so: This year, $2,500 in cash and prizes will be available to the artists. Volume One has partnered with the Powertex Group – a design, printing, and e-commerce firm in Eau Claire – to bring the event to this next level. There will be a “Best of Show” prize that includes $500 in cash and $1,000 in product printing credit from Powertex, as well as five separate $100 cash prizes (paired with five $200 printing credits) in five sub-categories (Illustration, Photography, Printmaking, Digital Media, and Painting). A professional juror will select the winners. The Ink & Paper Sale annually features more than 500 pieces of 2D printed work on paper by nearly 100 local and regional artists.

➜ To submit your work, you must register online by Saturday, Oct. 22. For full details visit The sale opens with a reception on Friday, Nov. 4, and runs through Jan. 7, 2017.

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Wednesday, Oct. 5th, 2016

More Time to Double Your Confluence Donation Dollars

If you missed the Sept. 30 deadline for doubling your donation to the Confluence Project, don’t panic: You now have until the end of the year to make a pledge that will be matched by a challenge grant. Back in June, an anonymous group of donors offered to match, dollar-for-dollar, up to $1.5 million in pledges, and as of midnight on Sept. 30, community members had pledged and donated $1.3 million. Because of that generosity, the challenge donors decided to extend the deadline until Dec. 31, meaning you have nearly three more months to procrastinate on helping raise the remaining $200,000 (which, thanks to the challenge grant, will turn into $400,000).

“We have been overwhelmed by the number and extent of gifts that were received, especially over the last week,” said Jill Barland, philanthropy committee co-chairwoman. “As it looked like we were going to be close but not quite there, the donors who issued the initial $1.5 million pledge contacted us and offered to extend the deadline to Dec. 31. They know that many people make their giving decisions closer to the end of the calendar year. They wanted us to take advantage of potential year-end gifts that come because donors consider their tax situations and giving plans. We also know of donors who for whatever reason missed the crucial Sept. 30 deadline. We want to make sure people know that they still can give to the arts center construction and have their gifts qualify for the match.”

Overall, nearly $15 million in philanthropic pledges and donations have gone toward the shared university-community performing arts center. While fundraising will continue, ground will be broken on the project at 5:30pm Thursday, Oct. 6. The public is invited to the ceremony at the corner of Graham Avenue and Gibson Street in downtown Eau Claire. The arts center is expected to be finished in 2018. 

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Dancing With the Carts: UW-Stout Library to Make Noise at Homecoming Parade

The University Library book cart drill team will perform in the UW-Stout homecoming parade Oct. 8 in Menomonie. The drill team will execute synchronized maneuvers while wheeling book carts along the parade route. Members are, from left, Robin Sweeny, Elizabeth Steans, Gretchen Yonko and Ann Vogl.
The University Library book cart drill team will perform in the UW-Stout homecoming parade Oct. 8 in Menomonie. The drill team will execute synchronized maneuvers while wheeling book carts along the parade route. Fom left, Robin Sweeny, Elizabeth Steans, Gretchen Yonko, and Ann Vogl.

Don’t expect UW-Stout librarians to shush revelers at the homecoming parade. Instead, they’ll rattle book carts while blaring rap music.

“We’re trying to break the quietness in the library,” said circulation supervisor Elizabeth Steans, who organized the University Library book cart drill team. “I think that’s why we chose the Beastie Boys.”

The University Library will participate in the UW-Stout homecoming parade Saturday, Oct. 8, in Menomonie. While spinning book carts along city streets, six staff members will perform synchronized maneuvers to the hip-hop jam “So What’cha Want.”

“We’re kind of walking with a swagger,” Steans said. “We got a little attitude.”

UW-Stout is celebrating its 125th anniversary. To highlight campus history, drill team members will decorate book carts with vintage library photos. Staff also have invited library retirees to join the parade.

“It’s been a good team effort,” librarian Ann Vogl said. “We hope it will be good PR for the library. We want them to come cheer us on.”

Book cart drill teams traditionally have been confined to library conferences. However, the University Library recognized the homecoming parade as an opportunity to shed the stuffy librarian stereotype.

“It’s a great way for the library to be part of campus and show our whimsical side,” interim director Susan Lindahl said. “We need to reach out and be seen outside the building.”

Although practices have built camaraderie, the book cart drill team is eager to bust a move for Blue Devils fans. “It’s that people know that we’re a fun, approachable place for students,” Vogl said. “We hope it will get our name out there.”

What: UW-Stout homecoming parade
When: 11am to noon, Saturday, Oct. 8
Parade start: Broadway St. South and 10th Ave. East, Menomonie

UW-Stout homecoming schedule:


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Monday, Oct. 3rd, 2016

7 Inventions for Which You Can Thank Wisconsinites

Wisconsinites can make some pretty crazy innovations when we put our cheesey minds to it, just look around during a Packers tailgate at Lambeau. What we sometimes forget is that we also make a lot of really amazing things of which the whole world is pretty fond. Such as ...

1. Kindergarten

That's right, Wisconsin is home to the first American kindergarten. Thanks to German native Margarethe Schurz, kids in Watertown, WI could start attending kindergarten in 1856. The downside? They had to learn how to spell things like "karlshuegel" (Carl's Hill in German) which is way harder than learning your name.

2. Cheesy Road Salt

Leave it to the Dairy State to incorporate cheese into their road clearing. In 2014 a few cities started using a cheese brine in addition to road salt to help clear the roads. The drawback? Apparently it doesn't smell the greatest.

3. The Keyboard

When the typewriter was first put into production the keyboard was laid out in alphabetical order and as the story goes, typists would hit certain letters that were side by side in quick succession and the levers would jam. That's where a Wisconsin politician by the name of Christopher Latham Sholes comes in. In 1873 he created the QWERTY keyboard layout we're familiar with today. We don't need to worry about levers getting jammed anymore, but old habits die hard.

4. Splinter Free Toilet Paper

The first official toilet paper came from China in 1391 but toilet paper more like what we use today was invented in 1879 by the Scott Paper Company in Philadelphia. In their simple paper making process Scott and other companies were using, small splinters usually made it into the packaged product. In 1953 Northern Tissue used a process called linenizing to make toilet paper softer and splinter free (hopefully making them national heroes).

5. Circuses!

Okay. not exactly. But the famous Ringling Brothers started in the great state of Wisconsin, and even today they're one of the biggest names in the industry, so we're taking partial credit for this one.

6. American Girl Dolls

The second highest selling doll of all time was invented in Middleton, WI by the Pleasant Company in 1992. Inventor Pleasant Rowland saw a gap in the market between infant dolls and the popular Barbie, so she created a doll designed to be a young girl. The line was later expanded to include historical figures as well as books, movies, soundtracks, and magazines.

7. The Supercomputer

Chippewa Valley's own Seymour Cray changed the world in 1975 when he created the world's first supercomputer. Three years earlier he opened Cray Research Inc. in Chippewa Falls.

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Wednesday, Sep. 28th, 2016

Bon Iver Event in Eau Claire Wednesday Night Sets Off Global Listening Party

Update: Check out our live Periscope stream from the event...

Bon Iver's much anticipated new album, 22, A Million releases to the world on Friday, but hundreds of fans got their first full listen of the album Wednesday evening at 6:30pm in front of the Bon Iver mural outside The State Theatre at the corner of Eau Claire Street and Farwell Street. Check out some photos.

As we now know, there are ten other murals related to 22, A Million across the globe in cities like London, Berlin, Mexico City, Brooklyn, Los Angeles, Minneapolis – each representing one of the ten tracks on new album, with different obscure iconography and abstract numerals by artist Eric Timothy Carlson. These all seem to point back to the eleventh mural right here in Eau Claire, which is one of the collection’s largest and depicts the album’s actual artwork. 

Photo: Nick Meyer
Photo: Nick Meyer

So here's what's happening ...

Starting Wednesday evening, the album is being played out in full – via boombox and cassette – at the site of each mural in each city’s respective time zones, starting with Eau Claire. So we're basically the kickoff to a global listening party. 

Fans who showed up to the listening party in Eau Claire got their mitts on a sweet new Bon Iver zine – a collection of poster-sized artwork from 22, A Million printed on broadsheet newsprint. Some of the artwork in the zine mirrors the art found on murals around the world.

It’s a pretty cool way to roll out a record, a strategy that mixes visual art, viral marketing, music, community … the list goes on. Justin Vernon and company are definitely doing things differently with 22, A Million, an album which marks a turning point in the Bon Iver saga, musically, aesthetically, and metaphysically. And we’re all along for the ride.

The album is out on Friday Sept. 30, and you can pick up a copy at The Local Store (where you’ll enjoy 15% off your entire purchase when you scoop up the vinyl), online at, or through many major retailers digitally and physically.

Listen: New Bon Iver Tracks

33 “GOD”

22 (OVER S∞∞N) [Bob Moose Extended Cab Version]

Bon Iver - 10 d E A T h b R E a s T ⚄ ⚄ (Extended Version)


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