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Friday, Feb. 16th, 2018
Chippewa Valley, say hello to Pablo.
With a $5 million donation, a newly formed philanthropic foundation has secured naming rights for downtown Eau Claire’s new performing arts center: The Pablo Center at the Confluence will be the official name of the $60.5 million facility, which is scheduled to open in September. The investment by the Pablo Foundation, a philanthropic arm of Pablo Properties, was announced Friday at a media event in Eau Claire.
“This arts center being built is a catalyst for everything that’s going on in downtown Eau Claire,” said Zach Halmstad, one of the founding board members of the Pablo Foundation. That includes the formation of Pablo Properties – which, among others things, built the Jamf office building next to Phoenix Park and was involved in remodeling and reopening two downtown hotels.
The joint community-university effort to build a performing arts center overlooking the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers was dubbed the Confluence Project when it was announced in 2012, and the building that is now rising has generally been called the Confluence Arts Center. However, naming rights were available to a $5 million donor, said Jason Jon Anderson, the center’s interim director.
The Pablo Center at the Confluence released this special video Friday
The Pablo name will join those of other businesses who have made major gifts toward the arts center, including Royal Credit Union, Jamf, Oakleaf Surgical Hospital, Market & Johnson, Orgel Wealth Management, Lasker Jewelers, BMO Harris Bank, and Commonweal Development Corp. Twenty-seven other naming opportunities remain for those who donate between $100,000 and $500,000. Anderson said that additional philanthropy, coupled with grants, should fill the $7.2 million gap that remains to fully complete the arts center, including lighting and audio equipment and furniture.
Pablo Properties and the Pablo Foundation were created by Halmstad, Julia Johnson, and Jason Wudi, all of whom are affiliated with Jamf, the successful Eau Claire-born software firm. Halmstad, Jamf’s co-founder, said the Pablo Foundation will focus its philanthropic efforts on housing, health, education, and the arts in the Chippewa Valley. Donating $5 million to the Confluence is its first major step toward that vision of community improvement.
“The overall goal is creating a healthy and sustainable community – to help close opportunity gaps and help individuals be successful,” Johnson said.
“We’re proud to have our name as part of (the arts center), but really it’s the Confluence Project that made it possible,” she added.
Jerry Jacobson, a member of the board of Eau Claire Confluence Arts Inc., the nonprofit that owns the building, said he was pleased that “Confluence” name will remain part of the facility’s moniker. He said he hopes that inspires other businesses and entities located where the rivers meet to refer to their locations as “at the Confluence,” too.
“We hope that the name serves the project well,” Halmstad added. “We are going to have to get used to it.”
So who’s Pablo? Halmstad, who was a music major at UW-Eau Claire before he started his software firm, said the property company was named after his favorite record label. Starting in the 1970s, Pablo Records put out albums by jazz greats such as Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Dizzy Gillespie, and Sarah Vaughan – a heritage that fits well with Eau Claire’s status as a jazz hub. And, indirectly, the name comes from that of another legendary artist: Pablo Records was named in honor of Pablo Picasso, as fitting a figure as to inspire an artistic project.
Learn more about the Pablo Foundation and Pablo Properties at pablo.com.
Thursday, Feb. 8th, 2018
Would you be willing to pay a little extra when you eat out or stay in a hotel in Eau Claire to help build a proposed convention center? That’s the gist of a bill pending in the state Legislature, which would allow the cities of Eau Claire and Superior to create special expo center districts funded by new taxes on food, beverages, and hotel rooms.
But before you get excited by the possibility of a shiny new convention center or angry at the thought of new taxes, take a deep breath: This is a long way from happening. The bill still needs to be approved by both the state Assembly and Senate and signed into law by Gov. Scott Walker, and time is running short: The Legislature is only scheduled to be in floor session 16 more days this year. And even if the bill does become law, the Eau Claire City Council would have to approve a resolution asking for the new taxes and then the majority of Eau Claire voters would have to approve the taxes in a referendum.
1 Cent for Every $4 ... but Only by Referendum
If all that happened, the city could impose a food and beverage tax of 0.25 percent (that’s one-quarter of a percent, or 1 cent for every $4) and a room tax up to 2 percent. According to an estimate by the state Department of Administration, the 0.25 percent food and beverage tax could raise $600,000 annually in Eau Claire, while a 2 percent room tax would raise $470,000 in the city. (The city already imposes an 8 percent room tax, which raises money for Visit Eau Claire, the Hobbs Municipal Ice Center, Fairfax Pool, and other tourism-related activities.)
Presumably, in Eau Claire’s case, the newly collected taxes would help pay for the proposed Sonnentag Event and Recreation Complex, which UW-Eau Claire hopes to build on Menomonie Street. That complex, first announced in 2014, could include a 130,000-square-foot major event center; a recreation center shared by UWEC, the Eau Claire YMCA, and Mayo Clinic Health System; and private development such as a hotel.
The bill’s support among major interest groups is mixed: Wisconsin Manufacturers & Commerce, the state’s biggest business organization, the Wisconsin Realtors Association, and numerous Superior-area groups registered to lobby in favor of it (Superior has been pushing for a convention center for years), but the Wisconsin Association of Convention & Visitors Bureaus and the Wisconsin Hotel and Lodging Association registered in opposition.
The bill is sponsored by a bipartisan group of lawmakers from the Eau Claire and Superior areas, including Sens. Terry Moulton, R-Chippewa Falls, and Kathleen Vinehout, D-Alma, and Reps. Warren Petryk, R-Eleva, and Dana Wachs, D-Eau Claire.
To read the bill and other background materials, visit https://docs.legis.wisconsin.gov/2017/related/proposals/sb727
Wednesday, Feb. 7th, 2018
Dust off your vintage formal wear, the Snow Ball is back!
UW-Stout has issued a news release covering the decision to hold their Snow Ball once again. Up until the mid-1970’s, the Snow Ball was a popular social event for students during UW-Stout’s Winter Carnival. Chancellor Bob Meyer, the 1978 Winter Carnival king, explains, “The Winter Carnival was basically a way to shake off the doldrums of winter and have fun.”
This festival had been a tradition for approximately 60 years, and offered activities such as winter sports competitions, an ice sculpture contest, and toboggan races. At Snow Ball, a king and queen were crowned, live music was played, and students donned their finest dresses and tuxedos. The university and the historical society chose to bring back the Snow Ball to “create new memories for a new generation,” says Frank Smoot, the executive director of Dunn County Historical Society.
The Russell J. Rassbach Heritage Museum in Menomonie will be hosting the Snow Ball at 7pm on Saturday, Feb. 10. Returning to the stage are the Thundermen, a rock band formed in Eau Claire decades ago. Party dress, especially vintage wear, is encouraged.
Tuesday, Feb. 6th, 2018
The Winter Olympics will be half a world away in South Korea, but that doesn’t mean Wisconsin won’t be represented when the torch is lit on February 9. Athletes form the Badger State will be competing on behalf of the red, white, and blue in at least six sports at the XXIII Winter Olympiad. Here they are:
1. NORDIC COMBINED
Eau Claire native Ben Loomis will fly – and race – for the gold in the Nordic Combined event as part of Team USA next month. Although he’s just 19, Loomis is a veteran of international competition: He’s taken part in the Junior World Championships four times, the World Championships last year, and the 2016 Youth Olympic Games in Norway, where he won a silver medal. He earned his spot on this year’s Olympic team because of his strong showings in the U.S. Olympic trials in December and the World Cup in France this month. “I am very honored,” Loomis told the Leader-Telegram. “I’ve been watching the results of my teammates, and I knew I had a good chance. But it’s setting in slowly.” As you might guess, Nordic Combined encompasses two Nordic sports, ski jumping and cross country skiing. First competitors jump, then they take part in a ski race in which their starting time is based on the distance of their jump. Ben and his brother, Adam – who is also a member of Team USA – moved to Park City, Utah, a few years ago for better training opportunities, but they’re still making their hometown proud. According to Leader-Telegram sportswriter and local ski jumping historian Ron Buckli, Loomis is only the fifth Eau Claire skier to compete in the Olympics, and the first since 1984.
2. WOMEN’S HOCKEY
The U.S. women’s ice hockey team heading to PyeongChang, South Korea, is full of Badger State talent. In fact, four of them played for the University of Wisconsin: goaltender Alex Rigsby and forwards Meghan Duggan, Hilary Knight, and Brianna Decker. A fifth, forward Amanda Kessel, grew up in Madison but attended the University of Minnesota. Several of these women were on the silver medal-winning teams in 2014 and 2010, to they’re sure to be eyeing the gold in South Korea.
3. MEN’S HOCKEY
The men’s hockey squad has plenty of Wisconsin ties, too, starting at the top: Team USA is coached by Tony Granato, who also happens to coach the Badger men and is a Wisconsin alum himself. Assistant coach Chris Chelios and general manager Jim Johannson also skated for the Badgers, while team member Bobby Butler plays professionally for the Milwaukee Admirals.
The Upper Midwest is the center of the bullseye for curling in the United States, and that’s clear from this year’s Olympic roster: Every member of Team USA is from Wisconsin or Minnesota. The squad includes siblings Becca and Matt Hamilton (who will compete with the women’s and men’s teams, respectively, as well as in the mixed doubles tournament) and Nina Roth. All are from the Madison suburb of McFarland.
5. SPEED SKATING
Wisconsin has a long history of speed skating excellence (including Olympic legends such as Eric Heiden, Dan Jansen, and Bonnie Blair) and is home to the U.S. Olympic training site, the Pettit Center in West Allis. It’s no surprise there are two Wisconsinites on the 2018 edition of Team USA, namely two-time Olympian Mitchell Whitmore of Waukesha and Emery Lehman, a Marquette University junior and 2014 Olympian.
Even among all the speedy and slippery events of the Winter Olympics, the skeleton stands out for its daredevilry: Competitors ride face down and head-first on an icy track at speeds up to 90 mph. (Don’t try this at home, kids!) Matt Antoine – a native of Prairie du Chien – won a bronze medal in the sport at the Sochi Olympics in 2014, and he’s aiming for the medal stand again in PyeongChang.
Friday, Feb. 2nd, 2018
In a recent press release from UW-Stout’s Office of University Communications, they announced a collaborative project between UW-Stout, UW-Madison, and UW-Milwaukee jewelry students. Together, they will join professional jewelers and Radical Jewelry Makeover, an organization whose mission is to educate the public about recycling and cutting down on material waste. Instead of throwing away old or unwanted jewelry, Radical Jewelry Makeover is encouraging people to recycle it by making donations to their project team.
Donations of all jewelry types and materials can be made starting Feb. 20 at a number of drop-off sites. In Menomonie, drop off your donations in the Applied Arts Building at UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design Office. By donating your jewelry, you will get a coupon to buy repurposed jewelry items. Donation forms are available at drop-off sites or online.
Radical Jewelry Makeover has been established since 2007, but this will be the first project held in Wisconsin. Overall, the project will last through March, with the final proceeds of jewelry sales going to Ethical Metalsmiths – a nonprofit organization dedicated to using ethical materials for jewelry, and to fund student scholarships.
Kathleen Kennedy, co-director of Radical Jewelry Makeover, says, “It’s allowing the students to use the techniques they are learning in their regular classes and how to apply those to make old materials new.”
Thursday, Feb. 1st, 2018
If you’re looking for ways to get out of the house in the coming weeks, take a peek at some upcoming winter celebrations listed below. Most of these festivals are a reasonable distance from Eau Claire – perfect for a day trip with your friends or family.
1. The Ice Castles
Stillwater, Minnesota (1 hr 16 min from Eau Claire)
Jan. 6-Feb. 28 – The ice castles of downtown Stillwater are still open! Besides touring the ice castles, the princesses from Frozen will be there from noon to 5pm on Saturdays and Sundays. Fire shows will be performed Fridays and Saturdays 7pm until 10pm, too. For more information about their hours of operation, tickets, parking, and events, go here.
2. Rochester WinterFest
Rochester, Minnesota (1 hr 59 min)
Jan. 18-Feb. 18 – Enjoy community-centered activities at this 16th annual festival in Rochester, Minnesota. Anticipate wintertime events filled with food, music, and entertainment. Among them will be the Candlelight Ski, Baconfest, sleigh rides, and the Cool School Plunge. View their website.
3. Saint Paul Winter Carnival
Saint Paul, Minnesota (1 hr 23 min)
Jan. 25-Feb. 10 – Consider taking your family to the Saint Paul Winter Carnival this year. There will be special attractions such as a Fire & Ice art show, parades, the Ice Palace Lighting Show, and much more. The carnival takes place near Rice Park and the Landmark Center, and the Minnesota State Fairgrounds. The majority of events are FREE and open to the public. Go here for more information.
4. Madison Winter Festival
Madison, Wisconsin (2 hr 47 min)
Feb. 3-4 – Join the Madison community in celebrating their Winter Festival in Elver Park. Look forward to snow carving, the Ice Age Challenge, and the Frosty 5k. Read all about it.
5. Winter Carnival
Luck, Wisconsin (1 hr 35 min)
Feb. 8-11 – You’re in Luck! Check out the Winter Carnival for traditional fair festivities, an ice fishing contest, a parade, and fireworks. View their event information.
6. Ham Lake Snowbowl
Ham Lake, Minnesota (1 hr 50 min)
Feb. 10 – The events of the Ham Lake Snowbowl include a fat tire bike race, a broomball tournament, and a snow sculpture contest. Follow clues to locate the Snowbowl Medallion and win some cash! Find out more.
7. Freeze Fest
Whitewater, Wisconsin (3 hr 16 min)
Feb. 10-11 – The Freeze Fest of Whitewater will benefit the Special Olympics by hosting the Polar Plunge and a chili cook-off. More details here.
8. Bar Stool Races
Drummond, Wisconsin (2 hr 12 min)
Feb. 17 – How do you race bar stools on snow? Attach them to skis! The participants decorate their own bar stools and will begin racing at 12pm. Fill up on food and drinks, then join in the raffle for a chance to win prizes. Check it out here.
9. Winter Fest
Chetek, Wisconsin (42 min)
Feb. 23-24 – Have fun at Winter Fest in Chetek. They’ll have activities for all ages including races and sledding, and other winter-themed events throughout Friday and Saturday. Learn more about Winter Fest here.
10. Grumpy Old Men Festival
Wabasha, Minnesota (1 hr 7 min)
Feb. 23-24 – Did you enjoy the 1993 comedy Grumpy Old Men? If so, you may want to check out the 25th annual Grumpy Old Men Festival where the movie was set. This festival will feature a showing of the film, an ice fishing contest, live music, a spaghetti dinner, and more. Go here for more details.
11. Neillsville Winter Carnival
Neillsville Wisconsin (59 min)
Feb. 23-25 – Head out to Neillsville for their Winter Carnival to see a Variety & Comedy Show, eat some pancakes, or volunteer for the Polar Plunge. To read more about this event, go here.
Tuesday, Jan. 30th, 2018
It’s an extremely huge year for Rock Fest, one of the Valley’s craziest music festivals that celebrates that most powerful of musical genres and the culture of fans that make it great – rock. This summer’s fest – which blasts from July 12 through 14 (it's an extra spooky Friday the 13th weekend to boot) – marks 25 years of awesomeness in Cadott.
And the lineup of rock excellence, which released today, is nothing to shake a flying-V guitar at. Heading up the silver anniversary is heavy-hitters Disturbed and Incubus (who are both making their Rock Fest debut) along with Godsmack, Halestorm, Rise Against, Black Label Society, and Seether, plus a ton of great bands – classic and modern alike. There’s some solo performances from some legendary classic rock acts like Dee Snider of Twisted Sister and Ace Frehley of KISS. And two of the Chippewa Valley’s own – picard and Filthy Sweet – will get to melt some faces on the Rock Fest stage as well.
More artists will be added later, but here’s the current lineup in full...
Black Label Society
Dead Girls Academy
The Missing Letters
Cowboys From Hell
Screaming For Silence
Hammer Down Hard
Lydia Can’t Breathe
Strate Jak It
Greater Than Three
Benjamin Raye Band
There’s always tons to do at the unique festival between the sideshows, tons of different vendors, dozens of tattoo artists with guns loaded, and the myriad activities all day each day.
Presale three-day general admission tickets for 2018 sold out in under two hours, and keep in mind, three-day ticket holders are invited to an exclusive Bonus Bash on Wednesday, July 11 that will feature some of the biggest names coming to the festival this year.
So rock fans, now is not the time to dawdle. Make sure to grab your tickets and buckle in because after 25 years of finessing their vibe, Rock Fest 2018 is ready to blow the doors off.
Friday, Jan. 26th, 2018
A woman who most recently served as senior director of an arts center at Columbia University in New York City has been hired as the director of artistic programming for the Confluence Arts Center.
Brenna St. George Jones, who has roots in Wisconsin and Minnesota, was announced as director of arts programming Friday after a two-month search. The Confluence Arts Center is under construction in downtown Eau Claire and is scheduled to open in fall 2018.
“I am thrilled to join the Confluence team, and the Chippewa Valley community, as we embark on this exciting new venture,” St. George Jones said in a press release. “It’s not often you are offered the chance be a part of something extraordinary, in the truest sense of the word. I look forward to highlighting the best of an already thriving regional arts scene, while bringing to the Confluence Center the world-class performers and diverse audiences worthy of its world-class venues.”
St. George Jones will be tasked with creating the inaugural season for the performing arts center, which is a partnership between UW-Eau Claire and community groups and is being built with city, county, state, and philanthropic funding.
Check out the full press release ...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Confluence Arts Center
CONFLUENCE HIRES DIRECTOR OF ARTISTIC PROGRAMMING
Director of Artistic Programming Brings Over 20 of Years Experience to the Confluence
(Eau Claire, WI, January 26, 2018) – After a two-month national search, the Confluence Arts Center is pleased to announce that the position of Director of Artistic Programming has been filled. Brenna St. George Jones of New York, New York will fill this vital role and create the inaugural season. She is eager to bring her experience and talents to the Chippewa Valley and the Confluence Arts Center. She has built her career on the idea that the arts have a unique power to shape the world around them.
St. George Jones said, “I am thrilled to join the Confluence team, and the Chippewa Valley community, as we embark on this exciting new venture. It’s not often you are offered the chance be a part of something extraordinary, in the truest sense of the word. I look forward to highlighting the best of an already thriving regional arts scene, while bringing to the Confluence Center the world-class performers and diverse audiences worthy of its world-class venues.”
St. George Jones’ career highlights include being Company Manager for Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble as well as an extensive freelance career. St. George Jones worked for the Miller Theatre and Lenfest Center for the Arts at Columbia University School of the Arts over the past nine years where she most recently led as the Senior Director. The Confluence Arts Center is looking forward to bringing St. George Jones’ skills to this unique community arts project and its community partners that also include the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire.
Acting Executive Director, Jason Jon Anderson said, “After an extensive national search I am excited to be adding Brenna’s skills and talents to the Confluence team. I know she will work with local artists, local musicians, literary artists, theatre groups and stakeholders to ensure an inaugural season that will fulfill the Confluence’s mission as well as highlight the incredible creative economy of this region. She will ensure that the Confluence Arts Centers programming meets and exceeds our regions expectations.”
St. George Jones has roots and ties in both Minnesota and Wisconsin making this an exciting move to a city that straddles big city and small-town life. She is eager to start her new position which will allow her to use her skills with new and exciting challenges.
About the Confluence Arts Center
Scheduled to open in fall 2018, the Confluence Arts Center will be located in downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin and will include a 1,200-seat theatre and a flexible 400-seat theatre, rehearsal, dance and community rooms; visual arts studio and galleries, labs for sound and lighting, set and exhibit design, recording arts, multimedia production and costume design; a scene shop equipped to support the maker space and vocational training initiatives; administrative offices for management, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and Visit Eau Claire staff. The Confluence Arts Center offers the community a facility capable of providing transformative training, learning and creative opportunities. The Confluence Arts Center will operate in support of a mission that is focused on augmenting and developing regional education opportunities in the performing and visual arts for people of all ages and backgrounds.
For more information, please contact Elaine Coughlin, Marketing Coordinator at the Confluence Arts Center, at 715-492-0300 or Elaine@ConfluenceEauClaire.com.
Monday, Jan. 22nd, 2018
In a press release from UW-Eau Claire, we have learned that the university has received the honor of being ranked as the best college in Wisconsin in terms of LGBTQ student support. UW-Eau Claire has gained this recognition from BestColleges.com in collaboration with Campus Pride, which can be seen on their “Best Colleges for LGBTQ Students in Every State” list.
In light of this status, UW-Eau Claire has claimed the third spot on the “50 Best Colleges for LGBTQ Students” list by College Choice in 2017. The staff at the Gender and Sexuality Resource Center of UW-Eau Claire has shared their excitement for the honor, and anticipate a future where the efforts of the students and staff can continue to foster a LGBTQ-positive community on campus. Chandler Roberts, a UW-Eau Claire student, comments, “I would add that although we’ve received this recognition in Wisconsin, that doesn’t mean there still isn’t room for necessary improvement to further the environment for the LGBTQ+ community here, but I am hopeful UW-Eau Claire will continue to move forward.”
Christopher Jorgenson, UW-Eau Claire’s Gender and Sexuality Resource Center Director, says, “To have achieved this ranking speaks to the collaborative efforts on the part of faculty, staff, administrators and students to ensure that UW-Eau Claire is a safe and welcoming campus for LGBTQIA+ people.”
Wednesday, Jan. 17th, 2018
Plays and art shows aren’t just a form of evening entertainment, there is a real economic benefit to the arts and culture industry – locally and nationwide.
Take Eau Claire County, for example. In a 2017 press release by the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, they tell us that Americans for the Arts completed a study demonstrating the economic impact of nonprofit arts and culture organizations. The Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 study gives us insight into the specific economic data in Eau Claire County.
Here are some standout numbers from that study ...
This is the annual amount of money brought in by Eau Claire County’s arts industry. Arts and culture organizations spend money locally to run their businesses, adding economic gain. Also, events hosted by these groups attract people to other Eau Claire destinations. If you’re from out of town, what will you need? Perhaps a meal at a local restaurant or an overnight stay at a nearby hotel.
The number of full-time jobs created by the nonprofit arts and culture sector in Eau Claire County. In comparison, 4.6 million full-time jobs have been created by the arts industry across the United States.