Friday, Apr. 19th, 2019

Infamous “Walmart House” FINALLY Hits the Market

Above: $2,500,000
Above: $2,500,000

Looks like that old, single-story brick house standing in front of Walmart on Eau Claire’s southeast side (3801 Gateway Drive) is FINALLY up for sale (see listing). A holdout from when the area was developed decades ago, the house has inspired many comparisons (like maybe five or six) to the iconic property which may have inspired the movie Up! 

Until recently, the home was occupied for many years by a single owner.

So if you’ve got a mere $2,500,000 on hand, your dream home awaits. As of Friday, it’s been on the market for three days. ACT NOW.

Sure, the property listing seems geared toward developers looking to install a Kwik Trip or a Taco Bell or a Dunkin’ Donuts or a mattress store. But don’t let that stop you, Potential Homeowner.

In a house like this you can let the gentle woosh of nearby U.S. Highway 53 lull you to sleep each night. All night. And all day. The irregular, 2.3 acre lot will surely attract new parents. Imagine the amazing games of hide-n-seek your kids will have in the adjacent parking lot(s).

Great for romping.
Great for romping.

According to the scant listing, the 1,064 square foot structure is built upon a block foundation and includes a full basement. Additional interior features include “restrooms.” Plural.

Yes, it’s a bit of a fixer-upper and taxes last year came in at $9,651, and your estimated monthly payment is $11,163, but who can put a price on convenience? Not us. In a home like this, you’d literally be a hop, a skip, a jump, and a short stroll from the front doors of the world’s largest big box retailer. And Sam’s Club. And Petco. And Kohl’s. And Fazoli’s.

And right across the street you’ve got the neighborhood Best Buy, Office Max, and T.J. Maxx. All the best Max’s are right there – if you’re agile enough to sprint across a U.S. Highway and scale at least one chain link fence.

The property lies within the Eau Claire School District.

Also: detached garage.
Also: detached garage.

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Wednesday, Apr. 17th, 2019

Watch Local Tiny Desk Concerts from Converge Radio

Check out the press release from Converge Radio 99.9 FM on the great videos they produced for National Public Radio's Tiny Desk Contest ...

EAU CLAIRE, WISCONSIN – April 16, 2019– Converge Radio 99.9 FM is proud to present the National Public Radio (NPR) Tiny Desk Contest featuring talented artists from Wisconsin and Minnesota.

Since its launch in 2008, hundreds of performances have been recorded by artists for the Tiny Desk Contest. 

Tiny Desk Contest is the creative concept of NPR Music host Bob Boilen, where he invites the winners– a diversity of guest artists to perform in his festive workspace adorned with years of music mementos and memorabilia. 

The series has provided a welcoming stage for artists at all points in their career and from across the music genre spectrum.

The winner of the contest will go to NPR headquarters in Washington, D.C. to play their very own Tiny Desk Concert.  In the summer of 2019, the winner will go on a tour of the U.S. with NPR Music.

The team at Converge Radio 99.9FM has produced, directed and edited the music videos for the 23 talented artists from the state of Wisconsin.

Each video presentation features a song that is the entrant’s original work.

Meet the Artists:

Billy Krause
Caitlin McGarvey*
D. Janakey
Davey J
Greg Gilbertson
Histrionic Creature
Howard "Guitar" Luedtke
Jim Pullman
Loi!L Pride
Miles Blvd
Olive Sings
Past & The Present
The Outlaw Renegades
The Third Ward*
Travis Lee

* Artist is UWEC Student

Converge Radio 99.9FM, has created a unique, artistic set (including a tiny desk!), where the 23 music videos were produced, located at The Venue, at 209 Graham Avenue in downtown Eau Claire, Wisconsin. 

The Venue is owned by Benny Haas, who is known in the community and a champion of the music and cultural scene in Eau Claire.

You can see all of these talented artists perform for the NPR Tiny Desk here: 

The Judging Period begins on April 15, 2019, and ends on or about May 10, 2019. More:


Cinematographer – Sarah Ferraro (20 bands)*
Assistant Cinematographer - Eli Klatt (3 bands)* 
Set Design – Karen Wells Verlander
Live Audio Engineers – Brent Kuechenmeister, Brad Murphy*, Alex Stadtlander*
Audio Mixing – Scott Morfitt, Evan Middlesworth, Justin Andersen, Neal Sipress, Kyle Culver
Audio Mastering – Sprinter Studios
Video Editors – Jack Ross Bertelson, Phil Dedman, Bre Ferraro*, Lindsey Kvern*, Sarah Ferraro*, Eli Klatt* 
Set Assistants – Sarah Ferraro*, Patric Tillery*, Vanessa Nielsen*, Caitlin Plaisance*
Executive Producer – Scott Morfitt

* Team member is UWEC Student


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Tuesday, Apr. 16th, 2019

Work Begins to Light up Grand Ave. Bridge

The revamped Grand Avenue Bridge  during last year’s Grand Evening on the Bridge
The revamped Grand Avenue Bridge during last year’s Grand Evening on the Bridge event.

Weekday walkers, bikers, and other peddlers and perambulators will have to find a new way around downtown for the next few weeks because of the second phase of work on the Grand Avenue Pedestrian Footbridge. The installation of architectural lighting on the bridge began April 8, and will continue for between two weeks and a month, depending on weather conditions, the City of Eau Claire said. For safety reasons, the bridge will be closed 7am-5pm weekdays (although it will be open at other times and on weekends). Those who use the bridge to get around are encouraged to follow a detour path that goes east on Grand Avenue to Graham Avenue, north across the new Confluence Crossing Bridge, west across the Phoenix Park Bridge, then south along the trail toward Grand Avenue. The bridge was completely closed for several months last year during the first phase of a $1.7 million renovation project that included replacing the bridge’s decking and railings and widening its surface. The latest phase includes the installation of lighting on the bridge’s piers, overlooks, and abutments, City Engineer David Solberg said. These lights – as well as those that illuminate the bridge’s walking surface – will be able to change colors, similar to the lights on the Phoenix Park Bridge. Eventually, the downtown light show will encompass a continuous strip including the Phoenix Park Bridge, the Confluence Crossing Bridge, the Pablo Center at the Confluence, Haymarket Plaza, and the Grand Avenue bridge, Solberg added. 

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Wednesday, Apr. 3rd, 2019

2019 Election Results: Eau Claire City Council Will Have a New President

Later this month, Terry Weld will trade his at-large seat for the president’s chair.
Later this month, Terry Weld will trade his at-large Eau Claire City Council seat for the president’s chair.

Eau Claire has a new City Council president after Tuesday’s election, although he will only hold the title for one year. With 53 percent of the vote, Terry Weld beat acting President Andrew Werthmann, who will nonetheless retain his seat on the council.

Weld will serve out the remaining year of former President Kerry Kincaid’s council term. Kincaid resigned last summer, which elevated Werthmann, then the council’s vice president, to acting president. Werthmann has served on the council 10 years, making him the body’s longest-serving member, while Weld was originally appointed to fill a vacancy two years ago.

According to unofficial election returns, Weld received 6,790 votes while Werthmann got 6,087.

Later this month, Weld will trade his at-large seat for the president’s chair. If he wants to retain the job after 2020, however, he’ll have to run for a full three-year term next year. Meanwhile, Werthmann will keep his District 5 seat until 2021.

City voters also elected five at-large council members Tuesday, several of them newcomers. The top vote-getter was John Lor, a first-time candidate who had his name checked on 7,622 ballots. The other winners were Kate Beaton (6,215 votes), David Klinkhammer (5,803), Laura Benjamin (5,394), and Catherine Emmanuelle (5,190). Beaton and Emmanuelle are incumbents, while Klinkhammer is a former councilman who served for 11 years before losing his District 2 seat last spring. Benjamin, a business owner, joins Lor as the only political newcomer on the council. (Two current incumbents, Michael Xiong and David Strobel, didn’t seek re-election.)

“I’m excited for our new council members, and I look forward to sitting down with them,” Weld told the Leader-Telegram after the election results were clear.

Werthmann posted the following on his official Facebook account: “I want to congratulate Terry Weld on becoming the new President of the Eau Claire City Council. While it was a close race – I am proud that we kept it positive and focused on issues that will lift up our entire community. As I continue to serve on the City Council I look forward to working with him, with all of our City Councilmembers, and with all of you to make Eau Claire a place that works for everyone.”

Candidates who did not win seats on the council were challengers Dale Poynter (4,514 votes), Kate Martin (4,340), Kirk Ausman (4,010), Don Motzing (3,442), and Kyle Woodman (3,408).

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Monday, Apr. 1st, 2019

5 Biggest Political Plays in Wisconsin History

A schoolhouse in Ripon, WI was the birthplace of the Republican Party.
A schoolhouse in Ripon, WI was the birthplace of the Republican Party.

1. 2020 DNC

While the 2020 Democratic National Convention hasn’t happened yet, it undoubtedly will be one of the biggest political events ever to occur in Wisconsin. In early March, the Democratic National Committee chose Milwaukee to host the 2020 convention that will pick the party’s nominee. With dozens of potential candidates and a party eager to unseat Donald Trump, expect fireworks in Milwaukee.


An 1854 gathering of 53 voters in a Ripon schoolhouse may have been modest in size, but it was momentous in impact. Foes of the Kansas-Nebraska Bill – which would have allowed new states to decide whether they wanted to allow slavery – met there and decided to form the new Republican Party. The party soon spread nationwide, and the first Republican president, Abraham Lincoln, was elected six years later.


“It takes more than that to kill a Bull Moose,” declared Theodore Roosevelt to a Milwaukee audience in 1912. Just a few minutes earlier, Roosevelt – an ex-president again seeking the Oval Office on the Progressive (a.k.a. Bull Moose) Party ticket – had been shot by a mentally ill assailant. A thick speech and an eyeglass case in the candidate’s pocket likely saved his life. Teddy delivered the speech, lost the election, and spent the rest of his life with a bullet in his chest.


Another Progressive Republican, Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette, served as Wisconsin’s governor and U.S. Senator in the early 20th century. A firebrand opponent of monopolies and proponent of higher taxes on the wealthy, La Follette led the Progressive ticket in the 1924 presidential race. La Follette won nearly 17 percent of the vote nationwide – one of the best third-party showings in U.S. history – and won his home state’s 13 electoral votes.


In the wake of his legislation that virtually eliminated the power of public-sector labor unions, Republican Gov. Scott Walker became the focus of a recall effort in 2011. By the following spring, Walker opponents had collected more than 900,000 signatures, prompting a recall election. On June 4, Walker won 53 percent of the vote, defeating Democratic opponent Tom Barrett and becoming the first governor in U.S. history to survive a recall attempt. Walker was re-elected in 2014 but was defeated in a bid for a third term last fall.

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Tuesday, Mar. 19th, 2019

WATCH: Night’s Still Young (a short film by a local writer and his brother)



You can now watch a short film written and c0-produced by Chippewa Valley author and UW-Eau Claire English professor B.J. Hollars. The film – entitled Night’s Still Young – was directed and co-produced by Hollar’s brother, Brooklyn-based Brian J. Hollars.

The film, which runs just under 15 minutes, is set in Louisiana and focuses on Kate (Shanna Vincent), a woman who decides to host a 26th birthday party for herself. Surrounded by close friends. The guests (apart from Kate’s  brother Austin and her lifelong friend Jeanie) are unaware the get-together also functions as Kate’s farewell party.

The film’s world premiere took place in May at the ninth annual NYC Independent Film Festival, and it was screened at the NYCIndie Film Fest and selected for the the New Hope Film Festival. The film’s Midwest premiere took place July 5 in UW-Eau Claire’s Davies Center. The film was released online on March 18.

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Friday, Mar. 15th, 2019

How Ya Doin'?: Michael Perry takes his wisdom and comedy to the small screen

“How YA Doin’?”
“How YA Doin’?”

There are only 24 hours in each day and Michael Perry fans might be wondering if the guy ever gets some sleep. The author, singer, and “itinerant pig farmer” returns to the small screen this month in Wisconsin Public Television’s “How Ya Doin’?” – a special that debuted in March. Long-time Perry fans may remember his “Clodhopper” series that ran several years ago on WPT. “How Ya Doin’?” is kind of a fresh take on that show.

In the preview, Perry jokes that this time around his hair is shorter – sorry, the old trademark is gone for good – and his beard is whiter. What hasn’t changed, though, is Perry’s trademark wit. At the heart of “How Ya Doin’?” is humor, what it means to be a Wisconsinite, and yes, a tractor or two.

You can catch “How Ya Doin’?” on Saturday, March 16 and Sunday, March 17.

WPT Passport members can watch the show online anytime. If you’ve been putting off becoming a WPT member, now’s a great time to join. As thank you gifts, the station is giving new members a DVD of the special.

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Thursday, Mar. 14th, 2019

Downtown Eau Claire's 'Downtowny Award' Winners

The Pablo Center at the Confluence was voted the Best New Development. (Photo by Levi Polus)
The Pablo Center at the Confluence was voted the Best New Development. (Photo by Levi Polus)

Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. announced the winners of this year’s Downtowny Awards at a ceremony at the Lismore Hotel on Wednesday evening. More than 1,000 votes were cast by members of the community to determine the victors in five categories ranging from Best Business to Best Renovation. The District took home the gold for Best Business overall, while Best New Business went to SHIFT Cyclery and Coffee Bar, which opened in spring of 2018. The people chose the Clearwater Winter Parade as the Best Downtown Event, and the Grand Avenue Footbridge, with its widened pathway and additional lookouts, as the Best Renovation. Pablo Center at the Confluence, which opened to the public in September, was elected the Best New Development.

The DECI Board and staff worked together to choose a few people and businesses to honor outside of the voting for what they have contributed to the downtown area. Marianne Klinkhammer was named Volunteer of the Year, Brent Douglas Flowers for Every Day was Member of the Year, and recognition for Outstanding Achievement went to Dan Market of Market and Johnson. “Most of these folks are people who over the course of the past many years have been advocates and have helped make Downtown Eau Claire what it has become,” Dustin Olson, the DECI Communications and Promotions Coordinator, said. “We thought it would be appropriate to honor them this year.”

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Wednesday, Mar. 6th, 2019

Let’s Talk Winter: Wintermission Initiative Wants Your Input

A new initiative to improve the quality of life in Eau Claire during the winter will begin Thursday, March 7 with pop-up engagement sessions at the L.E. Phillips Senior Centre, the Altoona Public Library, and Winter After Hours in Pinehurst Park.  All citizens are welcome to attend the first of several such listening sessions, where they can discuss the things that make winter great – and ways to make it better. In January, 8 80 Cities, a non-profit organization based in Toronto, Canada, announced that Eau Claire would be a vanguard city in the Wintermission initiative, which aims to combat social isolation and increase physical activity in winter for people of all ages and backgrounds.  Along with Buffalo, New York and Leadville, Colorado, Eau Claire will take the lead on addressing barriers to social engagement, mobility, and recreational opportunities over the winter months. The official kick-off event for Wintermission will take place Friday, March 8 from 6-8pm at the Visit Eau Claire Experience Center at the Pablo Center, and engagement sessions will continue the following day at Shift Cyclery and Coffee Bar, La Luna Grocery Store, and the Pablo Center.  These sessions will be used to inform the creation of a series of pilot projects that will improve the livelihoods of Eau Claire residents during the darker months. Locals are also encouraged to fill out a survey about their experience with Wisconsin winters, including their activity and obstacles, online. The survey, and more information about the pop-up engagement sessions and Wintermission, is available here.

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Thursday, Feb. 21st, 2019

Chippewa Valley Artist Invited to Prestigious Italian Art Festival

Chippewa Valley artist Eric Lee.
Chippewa Valley artist Eric Lee. (Photo: Andrea Paulseth)

The Eau Claire art community is banding together to raise $15,000 to support local artist Eric Lee, who recently received an invitation to display his work at a prestigious international gallery exhibit that runs in partnership with the Venice Biennale in Italy later this year. Hosted by the European Cultural Center, an organization that promotes the arts through exhibitions and education, the “Personal Structures,” art exhibition complements the world-renowned Biennale by inviting artists from many cultures, styles, ages, and stages in their career to show their creations. During the last show in 2017, about 200 artists from 40 countries were chosen to participate. This year, Lee would likely be the only Midwest artist on a roster that is often flooded with New York City names.

Lee is the first to admit that his paintings, prior to 2016, sucked the life out of a room. They were dark and colorless explorations of his past, attempts to make sense of the struggles of his 20s.

“There’s a lot of anxiety, a lot of depression, a lot of problems,” he said of his work. “It comes to the point where you’ve got to ask, am I expressing this, or am I just feeding it?”

In 2015, feelings of anxiety and depression were weighing on Lee. “I was really struggling at this point and could not see anything positive anywhere, though my beautiful family was right in front of me,” he said. He knew he had to take a more positive approach to art, and to life. With this in mind, Lee began work on the last painting he would make for two years.

Eric Lee’s triptych was influenced by his need to reinvent his approach to art, by literature he was reading at the time, and by his grandfather, a WWII veteran of Polish descent.  From left to right, the pieces are titled: In Broad Daylight, Foundations Near Hughitt Slip, and Łódź.  This work earned Lee an invitation to participate in the Venice art exhibition. (Click for a closer look.)
Eric Lee’s triptych was influenced by his need to reinvent his approach to art (by literature he was reading at the time) and by his grandfather, a WWII veteran of Polish descent. From left to right, the pieces are titled: In Broad Daylight, Foundations Near Hughitt Slip, and Łódź. This work earned Lee an invitation to participate in the Venice art exhibition. (Click for a closer look.)

It’s a triptych – three canvases intended to be displayed as one cohesive work – featuring a collage of tattered canvass, broken matches and match heads, and various other scraps arranged on top of swirls of oil paint, ink and tiny images of graffiti-touched buildings. With splashes of rust, aqua, and pea-green, it’s a rainbow compared to his older works.

Upon completion of the paintings in 2016, the younger of Lee’s two sons, Vinnie, was diagnosed with terminal cancer. Lee stopped painting altogether while his family endured the child’s illness. Six-year-old Vinnie died the day after Easter last year. Lee’s long-brewing paradigm shift snapped into place.

“Needless to say, it changes absolutely everything,” Lee said. “Everything stopped.” Vinnie’s death put things into a perspective Lee could never have imagined. “It may seem weird, but I am a way more positive person than I was before.”

Painting wasn’t as important to Lee from there on out. He used to labor over each piece, perceiving them as direct indicators of his success and status, never finding satisfaction in the finished product. When he began painting again late last year, he took a more playful approach, and a more hopeful one.

Just after he put brush to surface again, the European Cultural Center reached out. One of the event organizers had seen his triptych from two years ago on Instagram, and wanted him to show his work in Venice.

“I thought this was a hoax,” Lee said. “It was an email from someone named ‘Svetlana’ in Russia.” Out of caution, he researched the organizations mentioned in the email, and asked the woman who reached out – Svetlana Eroshina, one of the exhibition organizers – questions about the piece and how she found it to verify that the opportunity was authentic. And it was.

But it comes with a price tag. Participating artists are responsible for transporting their work to the event, which takes place May-November this year. Between the cost of shipping and navigating Venice’s strict laws regarding art, getting just the painting – not Lee himself – to Venice will cost $12,000.

“There was really no question of what to do, because we believe in supporting each other as artists,” fellow artist Jo Ellen Burke, owner of 200 Main Gallery & Wine Bar, said. She set up an online fundraiser Wednesday to help pay Lee’s shipping – and potentially travel – expenses.

“Italy is a mecca for art in the entire world,” Burke said. “We’d really like to see someone like Eric who is really humble, and so focused on his work and family, to give him a chance to attend something like this as well.” She would like to see the community lend enough support to allow Lee’s entire family to go.

“It’s like Justin Vernon making it,” Terry Meyer, another Eau Claire artist, said. “We’re actually going to have a visual artist who is world renowned.”

“If they had picked one of (my older paintings), I would probably have not gone through with it,” Lee said. “I don’t want to put that kind of thing out into the world anymore.”

A few of Lee’s older, gray paintings are currently hung in the Graham Avenue Walking Gallery at the Pablo Center at the Confluence. The pieces, “Verehrung” and “Springtime on Winter Street,” are sobering bookends to a display of works by elementary students: explorations of symphonic music in technicolor.

When Lee received his old pieces back from an art show in New York in late 2018, he wasn’t sure what to do with them. A friend advised him to sell the works, and direct the proceeds to a local charity. Lee chose the Beacon House in Eau Claire, which helps people with housing insecurity transition into permanent living arrangements. Doing something good with his older art is Lee’s way to say goodbye to his old worldview.

Though Lee has painted for more than 10 years, it has always been a private practice. If he is able to send his work to Venice, he hopes the increased exposure will allow him to do more to help others.

“I am completely blown away by the generosity, by the interest people are taking,” Lee said. He was featured on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Spectrum West Thursday morning, and several people and organizations, including UW-Eau Claire and the European Cultural Center itself, have reached out to him with financial support.

“I still don’t understand for the life of me why they’d find me in the first place or choose me, because there are many thousands of artists out there who would love to be a part of this,” Lee said. “I’d be happy to frame the invitation.”

The online fundraiser for Lee can be reached here:

More information about the Venice Biennale is available online at The exhibition Lee has been invited to show in, “Personal Structures,” has an online presence at  Lee will need to raise the funds to ship his work by mid-March.

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