Friday, Feb. 24th, 2017

WATCH: Haymarket Plaza Concept Video

Haymarket Plaza concept.
Haymarket Plaza concept.

A week after releasing new concept images for the forthcoming Haymarket Plaza, planners have produced a video to match. Downtown Eau Claire Inc. posted it to their Facebook page Friday, Feb. 24. Check it out ... 

Features shown include a large fountain, sculptures, multiple small “fire plazas,” access to the water, and plenty of natural seating. And of course, you’ll also see the much-talked-about pedestrian overlook bridge spanning the Eau Claire River, connecting the new plaza to Phoenix Park. 

In case you’ve forgotten, the Haymarket Plaza is a public park area to be located between the new Haymarket Landing building, the forthcoming Confluence Arts Center, and the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers itself – right up to where the land meets the water. 

Designs are by Garret Perry of Design Studio Etc. of Madison, Wis.

 

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Thursday, Feb. 23rd, 2017

Do You Even Lyft, Bro? Well, Now the Chippewa Valley Does

Beginning today, you can use your smartphone to order up some wheels via the ride-sharing app Lyft. The San Francisco-based company announced that as of today it is offering service in more than 50 additional cities, including Eau Claire, Fond du Lac, Janesville, La Crosse, and Sheboygan. According to the company’s blog:

In our largest launch to date, Lyft rolled out the welcome mat to 50+ new cities today. The move is part of this year’s massive expansion, which we kicked off with a 40-city launch just one month ago. Now, millions more people across the U.S. have access to reliable, affordable transportation. 

If you’re not in the know, Lyft (and a similar service, Uber), works through a smartphone app that allows users to connect with a nearby driver, who – much like a taxi – will pick them up and deliver them to their destination. The user can then pay instantly through the app, without worrying about cash.

For those pushing for Eau Claire’s continued evolution into a 21st century metropolis – or even for those dreading this transformation – the addition of Lyft is officially a Big Deal. The service is particularly popular with car-shunning urban dwellers who don’t want to (or perhaps can’t) depend on public transportation or their own feet to get around. Unsurprisingly, it’s particularly unpopular with traditional cab companies.

Counting the 50 cities announced today and a 40-city expansion in January, Lyft now serves more than 400 cities nationwide – and that’s not even counting Altoona. (Presumably, your Lyft driver will take you past the city limits if you’re trying to get to Woodman’s.)

To learn more about the company, find how to get a ride, or apply to be a driver, visit www.lyft.com.

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Tuesday, Feb. 21st, 2017

Grassroots Literary Journal Joins Eau Claire's Thriving Literary Scene

STREET TEAM. The group behind the new literary journal Barstow & Grand includes, left to right, poetry editor Kate Hinnant; consulting editor B.J. Hollars; editor Eric Rasmussen; and prose editor Charlotte Kupsh.
STREET TEAM. The group behind the new literary journal Barstow & Grand includes, left to right, poetry editor Kate Hinnant; consulting editor B.J. Hollars; editor Eric Rasmussen; and prose editor Charlotte Kupsh.

Awhile back, Eric Rasmussen and some friends were sitting on the deck, throwing out potential names for an Eau Claire literary magazine. None of them – even the Justin Vernon-inspired “The Falsetto Woodsman” – made the cut, but that summer night planted the idea that would grow to become the Valley’s first literary journal.

Rasmussen’s wife, Arwen, came up with Barstow & Grand, a title that encapsulates Eau Claire’s humble beginnings and subsequent creative expansion.

“Eau Claire has very blue-collar roots,” said Rasmussen, an Eau Claire writer, educator, and the journal’s founder. “Now, we’re building towards something grand and artistic.” 

The Chippewa Valley literary scene evolved from Midwest bar culture. Barstow and Grand, two streets that intersect the heart of downtown Eau Claire, speak to the creative potential behind the city’s simple small-town origins.

That potential has been harnessed by local artists and innovators over the past several years. Eau Claire is a hub for small-business owners. Downtown is peppered with independent eateries, start-ups, and shops filled with locally sourced goods. Thanks in part to Bon Iver, the Valley’s music scene has earned an international reputation. The annual Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival brings in tens of thousands of music fans from across the globe. As the arts scene continued to grow, a literary community emerged.

The Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild was born last year. The nonprofit – founded by local author and UW-Eau Claire English professor B.J. Hollars – was started to support the writers pouring into Eau Claire and the authors who were born and raised here. Following the success of free craft talks and readings, Rasmussen saw an opportunity to help local writers take the next step: publishing.

Communities of writers from senior citizens to Christians and more already existed. Despite bountiful opportunities to hone their craft, there were few outlets through which authors and poets could share their work with the community. Barstow & Grand changes all that.

“We want to help our writers by giving them a professional opportunity, a legitimate publication credit in a print journal that has gone through the reader process,” he said.

The submission process will rival that of any legitimate literary journal. Writers will need to have their pieces in tip-top shape. That includes industry-standard format, something many people who are new to publishing are often unaware of. During the submission period, the journal will periodically post formatting and submission tips on its Facebook page. Rasmussen hopes to host informational Q&A panels with his staff prior to publishing future journals.

As submissions roll in (between March and April for this year’s issue), the Barstow & Grand selection teams will read each piece. The teams are composed of one editor and three readers each – one team for poetry and another for prose. Readers will select the best prose and poetry and send it to their editors. From that pool, the editors will pick the content that will appear in the journal and work with the authors on edits and revisions.

Maintaining a connection to the Chippewa Valley is the journal’s primary goal. Rasmussen’s volunteer team is 100 percent local. Many are affiliated with the university and all are members of the Chippewa Valley Writer’s Guild. With each submission, writers are required to attach a short note describing how their experience is linked to the Valley. That’s not to say Barstow & Grand will be limited to Eau Claire natives. People with any connection to the area – Eau Claire lifers, UWEC alumni, and one-time Eaux Claires festival-goers alike – are welcome to contribute.

“We want to be as inclusive as possible while still maintaining status as a local publication,” Rasmussen said.

The journal is not only open to a diversity of contributors, but also a diversity of genres. Rasmussen and his team are not looking for any specific themes or forms. They are open to any literary genre, from sci-fi to nonfiction to more traditional literary fiction. Poets need not adhere to any style or school. Even cross-genre and hybrid pieces are welcome. The team at Barstow & Grand aims to create a stylistic collage wholly representative of the Valley’s literary community.

The revenue generated through submission fees and journal sales will directly benefit the Eau Claire literary community. One hundred percent of net proceeds will be donated to the Writer’s Guild to continue funding free craft talks, readings, and resources for local writers.

This year, Rasmussen will focus on making the journal an institution in the Chippewa Valley. When it comes to print this fall, the Writer’s Guild will host a release party and readings around town to celebrate contributors. The journal will be available at the Local Store and other Eau Claire retailers. Rasmussen hopes to connect with the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, the Eaux Claires fest, and other Wisconsin publications to promote future journals statewide.

Learn more about Barstow & Grand at barstowandgrand.com.

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Monday, Feb. 20th, 2017

5 Numbers: Eau Claire on the Money

The City of Eau Claire recently published its annual Development Update, which detailed construction in 2016. A few highlights:

1. $159 Million

The total value of building permits issued in the city during 2016. This is the fourth-highest total ever (the record is $197 million in 2009), and a 2.5% increase from 2015.

2. $94.4 Million

The value of commercial projects in the city last year, up from $87.5 million in 2015. Nearly two-thirds of this was for new buildings; the rest was for additions and alterations.

3. $41 Million

The value of the permit for the Confluence performing arts center, by far the largest issued in 2016. No. 2 was a $12.5 million Mayo Clinic Health System project.

4. $46.1 Million

The total value of residential construction in Eau Claire in 2016, a sharp rise from $29.6 million the previous year. Permits were issued for 273 total units, including 75 single-family homes.

5. $276,724

Average value of a new single-family home in Eau Claire, the highest average on record. This average grew from $231,431 in 2015. One single-family home was valued at $1.27 million.

 

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Thursday, Feb. 16th, 2017

NEW IMAGES: Haymarket Plaza Concept

NEW IMAGES: Haymarket Plaza Concept

check out what's in store for downtown Eau Claire's next public space


Released Tuesday (2-14) during a work session following the Eau Claire City Council’s bi-weekly meeting, we can now check out concept renderings for the Haymarket Plaza which are far more official than anything we’ve seen before. These concepts aren’t just for scale and size, they actually show features based on planning and public input, though we doubt everything is set in stone.

Designs are by Garret Perry of Design Studio Etc. of Madison, Wis. Images via the City of Eau Claire.

Designs
Click the image for a closer look.

Features shown include a large fountain, sculptures, multiple small “fire plazas,” access to the water, and plenty of natural seating. And of course, you’ll also see the much-talked-about pedestrian overlook bridge spanning the Eau Claire River, connecting the new plaza to Phoenix Park. 

In case you’ve forgotten, the Haymarket Plaza is a public park area to be located between the new Haymarket Landing building, the forthcoming Confluence Arts Center, and the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa Rivers itself – right up to where the land meets the water. 

More details here!
Designs
Designs

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Monday, Feb. 13th, 2017

V1 and The Local Store to Host 4th Annual Cribbage Championship

Do you have cribbage skills? Do you enjoy testing them out in bracketed-style competitions? The Local Store is gearing up to host the fourth annual Volume One Cribbage Championship, right in the Volume One Gallery at the Volume One headquarters on Saturday, February 18 at 11am. Interested in playing?  Here's what you need to do:

1. Click here to sign up!  We are accepting up to 32 registrations on a first-come first-served basis. Cost: $5

2. Practice. Let's face it, you're a little rusty, and you don't want to be caught missing points.

3. Show up on Saturday, February 18 no later than 11am.

And that's all! All game materials are being provided by the Chippewa Valley Cribbage Club, and the top finishers will receive Local Store prizes.  All participants are guaranteed at least two games and maybe some high-fives.

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Friday, Feb. 10th, 2017

Local Snow Carving Team Takes 4th National Title

The winner of the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. – by Eau Claire-based team The Starvin' Carvists. Photos via Steve Bateman.
The winner of the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition in Lake Geneva, Wis. – by Eau Claire-based team The Starvin' Carvists. Photos via Steve Bateman.

The sculpture is amazing. It's a fantastic mix of artistic expression, intricate detail, and advanced technical voodoo. The sculpture's main feature is a life-sized, life-like dancer suspended from an arching, curving, coiling column of ghostly people woven into a massive vine.

And all of it, every square inch of it, is made of snow.

The central figure – that dancer – appears to be barely touching the supporting arch, both arms and a leg pressing lightly against the twisting column. She's floating, the tips of her toes dangle inches above the ground. When you stop to consider the design, and the material, it's almost breathtaking.

"I'm really happy with this piece. It was figurative, expressive, beautiful and dark. It was not a cute crowd pleaser, it really pushed the materials and kept the art of the sport in the forefront." – Starvin' Carvist Steve Bateman

But that's the level craft we've come to expect from The Starvin' Carvists, a snow-sculpting team based in Eau Claire who, with the work described above, have claimed their fourth title at the 2017 U.S. National Snow Sculpting Competition on Saturday, Feb. 4.

Held each year in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, the competition draws artists from all over the country and beyond. This year saw not one, but two Wiscosnin teams grabbing top honors, with another team from Wisconsin taking second place.

A Labor of Frosty Love

You've probably seen the work of the Starvin' Carvists over recent years next to the skating rink in Eau Claire's Boyd Park. Their sculptures have been a special attraction at the park's Thursday night Winter After Hours series, hosted each year by Volume One and Eau Claire's Parks, Recreation & Forestry department.

But the team steps it up for Nationals. Carvist Steve Bateman (the local artist behind the "Garbage Goose" next to Banbury place, the goldfish on Water Street, and more) says over two months of sketching, modeling, and other prep time went into this year's winning entry. The rest of this year's team was filled out by David Andrews and Kevin Sawicki both of Wauwatosa, Wis.

Longtime teammate and Eau Claire artist Jason Anhorn was unable to attend this year, but was on board for the group's previous victories in 2013, 2014, and 2015, not to mention a first place finish at an international competition back in 2007, when they traveled to Italy and carved against teams from 12 other countries.

Bateman says team captain David Andrews designed this year's entry, taking input from the rest of the team. On the sculpture's nerve-wracking challenges, he says, "There was so much detail and so many fragile areas that we had to work in a certain order on things, and in close quarters on parts without bumping into it."

Looking back at the team's past winners, it's obvious they like to create dynamic pieces, shaping the snow show movement and even tension. Bateman says, "I'm really happy with this piece. It was figurative, expressive, beautiful and dark. It was not a cute crowd pleaser, it really pushed the materials and kept the art of the sport in the forefront."

From the back.
From the back.

Want to See More?

You can learn more, see photos of this year's entries, and even watch a time lapse video of the Starving Carvists sculpting the piece at www.usnationals.org and the event's Facebook page.

And also! Bateman and Anhorn were recently featured in a cool commercial for blueberries produced by Fatherly. Check it out!

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Wednesday, Feb. 8th, 2017

[UPDATED] Eaux Claires Unleashes 2017 Lineup

UPDATE (2-9-17)

A limited supply of advance two-day general admission and Chippewa passes for Eaux Claires – which come with catered meals and free drinks are on sale right now at www.eauxclaires.com. Advance regular two-day tickets are $159 while the Chippewa passes go for $325. Once initial passes sell out, prices hike up to $169 and $350, respectively.

And if you plan to camp at the nearby Whispering Pines Campgrounds, camping passes are sold separately for $165 and $300 for oversized vehicles and include a campsite and camp access for 1 attendee for three nights. Campers will also have the option to add additional camp access passes for $35 per attendee.

Above: To many, a ray of sunlight within the deep folds of winter. (Photo: Scott Kunkel)
Above: To many, a ray of sunlight within the deep folds of winter. (Photo: Scott Kunkel)

Today, when unsuspecting Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival presale ticket buyers opened their mailboxes, what should appear but an illustrious zine called Troix packed with abstract wintry images, poetically-stated details about the upcoming fest, and what looks to be the full lineup of artists – which includes Wilco, Chance The Rapper, Paul Simon (performing with yMusic), Feist, John Prine, Danny Brown, Perfume Genius, Sylvan Esso, and tons more artists and collaborators.

Here’s the lineup listed in the Troix zine

The Autumn Defense
Big Red Machine
Bon Iver Presents John Prine and the American Songbook
Chance The Rapper
Collections Of Colonies Of Bees
Cup
Danny Brown
Feist
Francis and the Lights
Happy Apple
Julieta Venegas
Mountain Man
Mouse On Mars
Music For The Long Emergency
Paul Simon with yMusic
Perfume Genius
Quindar
S. Carey & Glenn Kotche
Spank Rock
s-t-a-r-g-a-z-e
Sylvan Esso
This Is The Kit
Tweedy
Velvet Negroni
Wilco
Zebulon Pike

That Zine, Though

If you were one of the lucky ones, you’ll notice some familiar imagery within the zine’s pages like photos from within The Joynt and even that infamous house at the corner of Third and Lake that Justin Vernon sang about once. The zine has Michael Perry’s signature words washed all over it and starts with a short letter about this time of year in Wisconsin: “We resent the darkness more than the cold,” it reads. "It is the darkness that makes us long for spring. The cold chills your bones, but the darkness deadens your heart. It is the darkness we are desperate to dispel. So we are making plans for the light."

Year three is packed with big names, big ideas, and big ambition, but as the opening lines of the zine put it, they’re purposefully downsizing a little bit with reconfigured grounds and fewer stages. That means there won’t be any conflicting musical acts, and festival goers can take in everything without missing anything. “We are doing this so that we will all experience more of the festival together.”

The lineup is eclectic as all get out. From the hard-hitting rap force of Danny Brown to the legendary Paul Simon teaming up with neo-classical ensemble yMusic, to the indie splash of Feist, to the soulful hip hop of the one-and-only Chance The Rapper, to folk royalty John Prine performing with the members of Bon Iver, to alt-country great Wilco – there’s a lot to take in. Plus, when you book Wilco at a festival like Eaux Claires, you’re gonna get the many side projects and collaborations of its members, in the form of Tweedy, Cup, The Autumn Defense, Quindar, and even a team up between S. Carey and Wilco’s drummer Glenn Kotchke.

Another cool thing outlined in the zine is this list of "artists in residence” – musicians and collaborators who aren’t specifically on the lineup, but will contribute in ways seen, unseen, and unforeseen. “Ever evolving, the residents will serve as a creative core, one set to bolster the musical performances and interactions of the festival with the flexibility to contribute with whomever, however, and whenever they desire,” the zine reads. This list includes Justin Vernon, Sam Amidon, Phil Cook, Sean Carey, Aaron and Bryce Dessner (of The National), Jenny Lewis, Anaïs Mitchell, Ryan Olson (of GAYNGS and Marijuana Deathsquads), The Staves, and others.

This festival, which is happening on June 16 and 17 this year at the festival grounds outside of Eau Claire, is starting to come together and – like always – there’s plenty to be astonished and excited about. And – like always – we’ll join you there.

“For now, this place is rimed with ice and studded with slush knobs,” Perry writes of the festival grounds. "What sweet antidote it is to envision how we might dance in the grass. There is great power in wanting what we cannot have."

Eaux Claires will announce the lineup formally and in full as well ticket options at noon on Thursday, and we’ll have that covered at www.VolumeOne.org, so check back throughout the day.

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Tuesday, Feb. 7th, 2017

A Place for Pride: Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center Reopens

A NEW HOME. After years of fundraising, organizers recently collected enough money to rent an office space for the new Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center.
A NEW HOME. After years of fundraising, organizers recently collected enough money to rent an office space for the new Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center.

Just nine months after being forced to leave their original location at an Eau Claire church due to high renovation costs, the Chippewa Valley LBGTQ+ Community Center had run out of money. They were forced to vacate their Woodland Avenue offices in 2011, marking the beginning of a six-year struggle to find an affordable space.

A lot has changed in the interim. Since December 2013, the group has been spearheaded by President Jason D. Bennett-Hardy, former Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ secretary. Jason’s husband, Dan, took his place as secretary when he became president. Ann Hoeppner is the anchor of the organization, weathering times of calm and tempest as treasurer since 2006.

Along with volunteers and past board members, the Bennett-Hardys and Hoeppner have organized countless fundraisers in efforts to open a new space to house the center.

The Chippewa Valley Pride celebration is the biggest moneymaker for CV LGBTQ+. Every year, they organize a weekend of food, fun, and fellowship for the entire Eau Claire community to enjoy. Last year’s fundraising festivities included the Pride Dinner, the Pride Picnic, and the Christopher Iannone Memorial Ice Cream Social and Boat Ride.

To keep the organization afloat after Pride, CV LGBTQ+ has historically held monthly to biweekly bingo nights at The Plus where each $10 ticket buys bingo cards, tokens, and access to donated prizes and gift cards. They also host an annual volleyball tournament to raise money and awareness for the Chippewa Valley’s LGBT community.

Finally, after years of fundraising, the group recently collected enough money to rent an office space. On Dec. 31, the new Chippewa Valley LGBTQ+ Community Center opened its doors on the fourth floor of historic Banbury Place.

The weeks since have been a whirlwind of settling in, keeping up with ongoing events, and planning for the future. The board is in the preliminary stages of transforming the group from a virtual organization to a physical one. 

“We’re working on becoming more of a physical resource center where people can come in and look at a book, get pamphlets, and find what they need,” said Jason Bennett-Hardy.

The Bennett-Hardys and Hoeppner hope to offer a support network for the entirety of the local LGBTQ+ community as the center continues to build and expand. The organization is currently in the process of organizing a transgender support group to be housed at the center, added Hoeppner.

Amid dwindling participation in Bingo Night, the group is looking to revamp its fundraising and activity programs. The board is exploring low-cost events such as ice cream nights, movie nights, and game nights to supplement smaller activities like mini-picnics and spontaneous volleyball games.

They also hope to revitalize the Pride Variety Show for next summer’s event.

But in order to widen their support network and create new programs, the board needs bodies. On top of running the center, the Bennett-Hardys and Hoeppner all have full-time jobs. They hope to fill several volunteer and paid positions to fulfill community needs and keep the center open for walk-ins.

How can you help? Donate time or money, interact with the CV LGBTQ+ on Facebook and Twitter, give feedback via email, attend a board meeting, or participate in fundraisers and events such as Pride. Above all else, spread the word. Tell your friends, your family, your neighbors, your great aunt in Augusta, your pet parakeet. Let it echo across the Valley: CV LGBT is here, and they’re ready to help.

Looking to occupy your open hours and give back to the community? Check out the center’s open positions at cvlgbt.info/board and shoot them an email.

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Micon to Bring Movie Magic to Wausau

Micon Cinema 7 Eau Claire
Micon Cinema 7 Eau Claire

Micon Cinemas plans to expand beyond the Chippewa Valley by building a 10-screen movie theater in downtown Wausau by next year. The Wausau City Council recently approved Micon’s plans to demolish a former Sears store at the Wausau Center Mall to make way for a new 10-screen multiplex. The agreement between Micon and the City of Wausau includes a $1 million forgivable loan from the city, which is contingent on Micon adding jobs and building a complex worth $6 million, the Wausau Daily Herald reported. Micon, which is owned by Connie and Mike Olson, has an eight-screen theater in Chippewa Falls, a seven-screen theater on Eau Claire’s London Road, and the two-screen Downtown Budget Eau Claire. Connie Olson said Micon had been looking to expand beyond the Chippewa Valley for several years and has been negotiating over the Wausau location for six or nine months. The Wausau theater will feature the kind of amenities that have been added to Micon’s Chippewa Falls and Eau Claire theaters in recent years, such as bigger seats, larger screens, and possibly a restaurant. Connie said the Wausau theater likely won’t open until April or May of 2018, but when it does, it will be the only movie theater in the city of Wausau.

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