Wednesday, Jan. 17th, 2018

5 Ways the Arts Impact Our Economy (Right Here in the Chippewa Valley)

Orchid Eaton, Saturday, January 13 at Haas Fine Arts Center in Eau Claire
Orchid Eaton, Saturday, January 13 at Haas Fine Arts Center in Eau Claire

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 ...

1. $10,310,089

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.

2. 393

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.

3. $1,079,000

Local and state government revenue gains generated by the arts and culture industry.

4. $4,509,343

The monetary amount spent by local nonprofit arts and culture organizations within the 2015 fiscal year. They contribute to the local economy while developing their businesses as well.

5. $166.3 billion

This is the amount of money nonprofit arts and culture industries across the United States produce each year.


In the press release, Ben Richgruber, Executive Director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council, says, “Our community has seen significant growth over last decade. The nonprofit arts sector has played a major role in that success. These numbers will only increase with the opening of the Confluence Center for the Arts.”

More from the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center website at

Comments 5

Friday, Jan. 12th, 2018

Despite Frigid Temps, New Year’s Shindig Raised $42K for Confluence

Images: Visit Eau Claire
Images: Visit Eau Claire

The year that will see the official opening of the Confluence Arts Center began with a successful fundraiser for the much-anticipated downtown arts venue. The second-annual “Light Up Eau Claire” New Year’s Eve celebration raised $42,000 for the Confluence, Visit Eau Claire announced this week. This topped the previous year’s total despite the subzero conditions that threatened to keep many New Year’s revelers at home and indoors.

“It warmed our hearts to see families, couples, groups of friends, and business colleagues enjoying the indoor venues, and even bundling up for the lantern parades and fireworks,” said Linda John, executive director of Visit Eau Claire. “The arts vibe was incredible, with live music, a spectacular Lumière Claire lantern creation by artisan Pam Rindo, food, and fireworks displays all representative of the depth of Eau Claire’s creative culture and local talent.”

In addition to celebrating the new year and raising funds for the Confluence, the downtown events that welcomed the new year were designed to help draw visitors to Eau Claire during the winter. The money raised will go toward the operating reserve fund for the Confluence Art Center, which will include two theaters, galleries, a visual arts studio, and labs for set design, recording, sound, lighting, and costume design.

Ideas are already in the works for the Light Up Eau Claire events that will welcome 2019. “We still really want to have a rooftop viewing party for the fireworks, and will be charting weather contingencies moving forward,” John said.

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Jan. 10th, 2018

Wisconsin Public TV Show Highlights Jamf, Halmstad, and Eau Claire’s Rebirth

Zach on Wisconsin Public Television documentary, Start Up Wisconsin
Zach Halmstad on Wisconsin Public Television documentary Start Up Wisconsin

The entrepreneurial success of Zach Halmstad and Jamf Software – and how it has reflected and spurred the revival of downtown Eau Claire – is the subject of a new Wisconsin Public Television documentary, Start Up Wisconsin. The half-hour program (which aired last week and is now streaming on the WPT website) focuses prominently on Halmstad, the software firm he co-founded, and the efforts he had his partners undertook to remodel a defunct downtown hotel, which re-opened in 2016 as The Lismore.


“We wanted to feature entrepreneurs who have not just had a great idea and capitalized off of it, but who are driven by something ‘beyond the bottom line,” executive producer Laurie Gorman said. “In Zach’s case, (that was) his desire to use his successes to benefit his hometown.”

“We’ve been blessed to be very successful in our company. And if we’re not using that success to actually drive our entire community forward, we’re failing our friends and family.”  – Zach Halmstad

The program tells the stories of two Wisconsin entrepreneurs – Halmstad and UW-Madison scientist Katie Brenner – while also examining issues in the state’s economic and business climates. “The vast majority of businesses that are in Wisconsin are here because this is where the business owner lived when they started the business,” Steven Deller, professor of agriculture and applied economics at UW-Madison, explained in the program. That’s certainly the case for Halmstad: While a student at UW-Eau Claire, the Eau Claire native worked in tech support and saw the need for better software to manage Apple computers and devices. This led him to found Jamf in 2002, and the start up persevered despite being constantly told that to be taken seriously, Jamf should focus on software for Microsoft Windows machines instead. Now, the company has eight offices worldwide and 650 employees, including about 200 in downtown Eau Claire.

For the most prominent segments of the program about Eau Claire, check out the 4 minute and 17 minute marks. The program also discusses the role Halmstad and other like-minded visionaries had in pushing for the Confluence Arts Center, which will open later this year, as well as the challenge of turning the former Ramada Inn into The Lismore.

“We’ve been blessed to be very successful in our company,” Halmstad said in the program. “And if we’re not using that success to actually drive our entire community forward, we’re failing our friends and family.”

In addition to telling the story of Jamf, the program also includes plenty of images of downtown Eau Claire at its best, including Phoenix Park, the Eau Claire Downtown Farmers Market, Revival Records, Red’s Mercantile, The Informalist, and Grand Avenue Café.

Add a Comment »

Thursday, Dec. 28th, 2017

Year in Review 2017 - Take the Quiz!

Things are moving fast in the Chippewa Valley. Crazy development projects, notable locals doing amazing things, creatives putting out stunning work, businesses reaching new levels of innovation — we really do live in a special place. But here’s our question for you: Were you paying attention? We do a Year In Review feature every year, and it's time to be tested by our editors, who have written questions designed to stump, befuddle, confuse, confound, and bewilder you. Are you a master of all things Western Wisconsin? Or did you let 2017 blow right by you?

Take the Quiz Here »

Add a Comment »

Friday, Dec. 22nd, 2017

No-Go on Former Huebsch Property Condos: Developers Pivot to Apartments

A demolition crew ripped down the former Huebsch building, 101 N. Dewey St., in downtown Eau Claire on Nov. 29, 2016.
A demolition crew ripped down the former Huebsch building, 101 N. Dewey St., in downtown Eau Claire on Nov. 29, 2016. Current owner of the property JCap Real Estate has new plans for the land.

Plans to build a riverside condominium development in downtown Eau Claire have been shelved in favor of building a complex with market-rate apartments and commercial space.

JCap Real Estate recently told people who had expressed interest in the previous plan that a condo development on the former Huebsch Services building site wasn’t financially feasible.

Based on the input that JCap had received from potential condo buyers, the construction cost of the condo development – dubbed The 101 – would have forced JCap to charge those buyers far above market rate for the condos, said Alex Padrnos, JCaps’s project manager.

“We don’t feel comfortable putting that price tag on the units in this market,” Padrnos said. “We’re still relatively blue collar in Eau Claire.”

This floorplan shows what the first level of a proposed five-story apartment complex at the corner of Galloway and North Dewey streets could look like. Most of the parking on the east end of the image would be covered by the higher floors of the building. Source: JCap Real Estate/Kaas Wilson Architects.
This floorplan shows what the first level of a proposed five-story apartment complex at the corner of Galloway and North Dewey streets could look like. Most of the parking on the east end of the image would be covered by the higher floors of the building. Source: JCap Real Estate/Kaas Wilson Architects. Click for a closer look.

Instead, the company has switched to plans for a five-story, 139-unit apartment building with commercial space on the first floor. Units would range in size from 600 to 1,400 square feet. Most would have market-rate rents, while a few luxury apartments on the fifth floor would be aimed toward those who had been interested in condominiums. In addition, the development would include 224 parking stalls – including a 26-stall lot facing North Dewey Street – and a public space and canoe launch next to where the Dewey Street bridge crosses the Eau Claire River.

The two-acre site at the intersection of North Dewey and Galloway streets has been empty since the long-vacant Huebsch building was demolished in November 2016. JCap, which owns numerous rental properties in Eau Claire, purchased the property from Jack Kaiser, owner of Banbury Place.

Padrnos said JCap has had preliminary discussions about the proposal with the city, and has met with a positive response. A site plan still must be approved by the city Plan Commission. JCAP hopes to break ground for the project this spring with completion by the spring or summer of 2019.

The city also has plans for that part of downtown, including relocating part of the Chippewa River State Trail which currently runs on the north side of the property (just south of Galloway Street). That trail segment would be moved to the south side of the property, where it would overlook the Eau Claire River, then pass under the Dewey Street bridge and connect with the trail adjacent to the Eau Claire Area Chamber of Commerce building, City Manager Dale Peters said. The bike trail underpass would be built as part of a long-term plan to renovate and re-deck the bridge, which is slated for 2020 or 2021. Peters said connections would be built to allow visitors and bikers to access other parts of downtown to and from this trail segment.

Peters said the former Huebsch site is “an integral part of downtown and we’d be excited to see something in that space.” And while the city has yet to receive official plans from JCap, city officials are “open to discussions about a site development that provides appropriate open space ad access to the downtown and the river,” Peters said.

Add a Comment »

Wednesday, Dec. 20th, 2017

Winter After Hours Roars Back Like a Blizzard of Fun (New Location)

The Chippewa Valley’s annual hangout celebrating outdoor winter activities is back. Escape your winter bunker and bring the family to Winter After Hours, presented by Mayo Clinic Health System in partnership with Outdoor More, Volume One, and the Eau Claire Parks, Recreation, and Forestry Department. Beginning Jan. 4, this snow-based social will be held from 6-8pm every Thursday during January and February (weather permitting, of course). But this year, everything's new. 

From its new base at Pinehurst Park on Eau Claire’s north side, Winter After Hours challenges residents to embrace the beautiful snow rather than grimace at it. Pinehurst is the perfect place to engage in winter fun such as sledding, ice skating, cross-country skiing and snowshoeing on groomed and lit trails, and much more. No snowshoes or skates? No problem. Thanks to Outdoor More and Riverside Bike and Skate, there will be inexpensive equipment rentals: Ice skates will be only $3 and a limited number of snowshoes will be available for $5. Still not willing to leave the comfort of your couch? Impromptu hockey games are encouraged, downhill fat tire biking is available, and you can feel free to make a snowman or snow angel. And if none of these things are your thing, then check out the giant fire pit, music, free hot cocoa, and the warming house. And (unlike Winter After Hour’s previous home in Boyd Park) visitors will find plenty of parking at Pinehurst Park. 

Winter After Hours is supported by Mayo Clinic Health System, Deborah Becker State Farm Insurance, Riverside Bike & Skate, Trust Point, and Markquart Motors. 

to find more information and updates
about Winter After Hours. 

Add a Comment »

Tuesday, Dec. 12th, 2017

Eau Claire Author Featured in New York Times Book Review

Molly Patterson
Local author Molly Patterson

UW-Eau Claire assistant professor and local author Molly Patterson’s novel, Rebellion, was featured in the New York Times Book Review on Nov. 22. The book, which was published in August, tells the story of four women from different homes and times who are impacted by the 1899 Boxer Rebellion in China. In praising the book, reviewer Jan Stuart wrote that, “Patterson adroitly zigzags in time, threading the women’s journeys with subtle detail and embellishing them with metaphors specific to each character." Patterson, a Pushcart Prize-winning writer, will host a dramatic reading from her novel in The Local Store gallery on Thursday, Dec. 16, at 3pm.  She will also be available to answer questions and sign copies of the text.

Add a Comment »

Clash With the Ash: Tree-Killing Ash Borer Finally Reaches Eau Claire County

Eau Claire County residents can no longer transport firewood in or out of the area upon the discovery of emerald ash borers in a local tree. The ash borer is a species of iridescent green beetle that kills ash trees. The beetles themselves eat foliage, causing little harm. The larvae, however, feed on the inner bark of the trees, which damages the plant’s ability to transport water and nutrients throughout its system. Infestations are generally difficult to detect until the tree is beyond saving. In recent years, the insect has gradually spread across most of Wisconsin’s counties, including Chippewa, Buffalo, Trempealeau, and Jackson.

Arborist Lucas Stelter recently discovered the infested tree on the UW-Eau Clare campus just south of Water Street. He noticed extensive woodpecker damage caused by the birds eating the larvae.  Other signs of infestation include drying or thinning of tree crowns, D-shaped exit holes on the trunk, splitting bark, and tunneling marks under bark.

The City of Eau Claire has been preparing for the arrival of the emerald ash borer for the past five seasons. The city has made efforts to plant a diverse range of tree species in public spaces, and developed a plan to selectively treat and remove affected trees.

“Ash trees will die due to this insect, unless they are chemically treated with insecticides,” a Dec. 4 press release from the City of Eau Claire said. Residents with ash trees may consider treating them with pesticides in order to stave off infestation. Products are available for homeowners to handle the issue themselves, although larger trees might merit the attention of a professional.

Affected trees may pose risk of injury as their branches weaken and potentially fall off.  Proper disposal methods of infested trees include chipping to pieces ½ inch or smaller, burning, or covering cut wood to dry for two years.

More information on the emerald ash borer can be found at

Image: Howard Russell/Michigan State University

Comments 2

Wednesday, Dec. 6th, 2017

Blue Ox Unleashes 2018 Lineup

Greensky Bluegrass at Blue Ox 2017
Greensky Bluegrass at Blue Ox 2017

For its fourth year, the Blue Ox Music Festival is back with a loaded lineup of rootsy greats to come play some tunes in the pine and hardwood forests just outside of Eau Claire. Hosted by Minneapolis band Pert Near Sandstone (who will again play two nights of the three-day fest this year), Blue Ox showcases some of the brightest talents American roots, folk, and bluegrass music has to offer for three summery nights in the Chippewa Valley.

In 2018, Blue Ox takes place June 14-16 at the Whispering Pines Campground, and we’ll see some familiar faces like Greensky Bluegrass, Sam Bush, Del McCoury, The Infamous Stringdusters, and Charlie Parr as well as some newcomers like The Devil Makes Three, Margo Price, and The Steeldrivers. It’s always a downright hoot with the best of the best pickin’ and pluckin’ right in our backyard.

Tickets are on sale now at and the full lineup is available below, but keep in mind that additional artists and collaborations will be announced for the late-night stage in the near future – as well as any plans for pre-parties or similar events.

Blue Ox Music Festival 2018 Lineup 

Billy Strings
Brothers Comatose
Buffalo Gospel
Charlie Parr
Chicken Wire Empire
Danny Barnes Trio
Del McCoury Band
The Devil Makes Three
Greensky Bluegrass
Horseshoes & Handgrenades
The Infamous Stringdusters
Jack Klatt
Jeff Austin Band
Kind Country
Kitchen Dwellers
The Last Revel
The Lil’ Smokies
Lindsey Lou
Mandolin Orange
Margo Price
Pert Near Sandstone
Pistol Whippin Party Penguins
Sam Bush
The Steeldrivers
Steep Canyon Rangers
Them Coulee Boys
The Tillers
Tyler Childers

Add a Comment »

Thursday, Nov. 30th, 2017