Thursday, Apr. 19th, 2018

Eaux Claires 2018, Artist-Led Festivals, and the No-Lineup Lineup

Eaux Claires 2017
Eaux Claires 2017

At this point, it’s been well established that the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival is doing stuff differently for its fourth annual installment on July 6 and 7. Most significantly, curators Justin Vernon and Aaron Dessner are intentionally not releasing a lineup of music acts. At least not in the traditional sense.

If you’ve listened to the slew of audio clips the festival released over the winter with your Shazam app open or followed Vernon’s subtle-not-so-subtle nods on Twitter, you can probably piece the slate together for the most part. Those bread crumbs lead to names like Noname, Phoebe Bridgers, serpentwithfeet, Julien Baker, Moses Sumney, Hiss Golden Messenger (plus, it wouldn’t be Eaux Claires without the likes of Francis and the Lights and Phil Cook).

But that’s really not the point.

The idea is to subvert the norm of bloated music festivals that have heavily proliferated the country as they become trendier and trendier. The Coachellas and Lollapaloozas of the world are doing their thing and raking in cash, but Vernon and Dessner feel like they have an opportunity with Eaux Claires to create a weekend haven that’s less about a bottom line and more about a collective experience.

Attendees willing to fork over their trust are going in blind, which will be an artistic boon, but how it shakes out financially is anyone’s guess. Either way, changing the conversation and the money-heavy mindset of major music festivals is worth the risk for Eaux Claires, Vernon says – the festival is prominently featured in a Pitchfork story today that discusses how artist-led music festivals like Eaux Claires are changing the game around the country for the better, but it’s not easy.

Here’s a few salient quotes from the piece:

That longevity is the crux. In the first year of Eaux Claires, when Bon Iver returned to the stage after a three-year hiatus, the festival was instantly profitable. Then Eaux Claires lost money for the next two years, Vernon admits, requiring organizers to make some changes. But the bottom line is not the primary focus.

“You can’t just sign up for profit every time,” says Vernon. “But we’re not blindly throwing money down the toilet—we’re adjusting to a more sustainable model.” He compares the festival’s balance sheets to the decades he spent toiling in groups that never made much money, long before he found fame with Bon Iver. “You have to be committed,” he adds. “This is a 20-year thing.”

“There is something artist-driven happening with festivals, even if I don’t think it’s clear where we’re going with it yet,” says Adam Voith, a longtime booking agent for the likes of Bon Iver and Vampire Weekend. “Artists are much more excited about these events than standard festivals now, because there’s a recognition that it’s music-forward and collaborative from the jump.” Voith pauses, then sighs. “But it’s going to take a lot of smart people to figure out how to make these viable long-term.”

With Eaux Claires keeping this year’s lineup a secret until the festival begins, they’re betting they don’t even need a traditional promotional poster at all. For Vernon, his team, and, it seems, most every artist risking their own time and money to build such an idealistic event, the risk seems to be a test worth taking. The broad goal is to push back against entrenched festival rules and change the tone of a conversation in which, sooner or later, they all participate. These bands still play major festivals with corporate boosters, after all, because those outsized paydays help fund everything else they do. But that doesn’t have to be the only option.

“Why does it have to be about maximizing profits every time there’s a question about everything? That bugs me,” says Vernon. “We’re not trying to be the biggest festival in the world. We’re just trying to be the best we can be.”

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Tuesday, Apr. 17th, 2018

Eau Claire: One of the "Best Budget Destinations in America"

Check out this slideshow of Eau Claire action shots from BudgetTravel.com, which included Eau Claire in its list of Best Budget Destinations in America 2018, Part II: The Midwest.

They say, "We’re rounding up value trips across the U.S. (one in each state, plus DC) to inspire Budget Travelers to see more of America for less money. Here, the best of the Midwest."

Of Eau Claire, they say, "In 2014, Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary included “Brooklyn” as an adjective. Eau Claire, Wisconsin, is very Brooklyn. Often referred to as the “Indie Capital of the Midwest,” the college town with a decidedly collaborative spirit has become known as an incubator for emerging musicians. They’re even one of the many homegrown attractions at the weekly downtown farmers’ market ..." Read more.

Thumbnail image: Visit Eau Claire

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Thursday, Apr. 12th, 2018

Sculpture Tour 2017 removed! New sculptures on the way ...

Image: Julie Pangallo
Image: Julie Pangallo

This year, a third of the sculptures to be featured in the tour were created by local artists, a significant increase since the tour’s inception in 2011.

Notice something missing in downtown Eau Claire?  This morning in the wee hours, workers were hustling to take down last year’s Sculpture Tour installations; and according to Program Director Julie Pangallo, they did it in record time.  Stay tuned over the next several weeks as new art is placed around downtown.  The official Installation Day is May 9, but you might see a dinosaur stomping around near a downtown parking garage as early as Monday.

This year, a third of the sculptures to be featured in the tour were created by local artists, a significant increase since the tour’s inception in 2011. “I’m so excited because we haven’t sacrificed quality to do that,” Pangallo said. “We have so much talent here in Eau Claire and in the Chippewa Valley.”

“There’s some really neat pieces we have, that I think people are going to be really impressed with the variety,” she said.

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Tuesday, Apr. 10th, 2018
Thursday, Apr. 5th, 2018

Pablo Center Releases Update on $60 Million Budget

WINDOWS TO THE FUTURE. The floor-to-(almost)-ceiling windows in the main art gallery of the Pablo Center at the Confluence overlook the Chippewa River. The gallery is just one of the many airy spaces to be found within the new art center, which is slated to open September 22.
WINDOWS TO THE FUTURE. The floor-to-(almost)-ceiling windows in the main art gallery of the Pablo Center at the Confluence overlook the Chippewa River. The gallery is just one of the many airy spaces to be found within the new art center, which is slated to open Sept. 22.

Building, furnishing, and opening Eau Claire’s new downtown arts hub – the Pablo Center at the Confluence – will cost nearly $60 million, according to a budget update released Thursday. The $59.89 million price tag includes $45 million in construction costs for the Pablo Center, which is slated to open Sept. 22.

The budget for the shared university-community arts center – which will contain two theaters, rehearsal spaces, art galleries, classrooms, a recording studio, and much more – includes a funding gap of $8.89 million. The Pablo Center hopes to fill the shortfall with an additional $4.7 million from donors and $4.2 million in grants. According to a media release, the Eau Claire Confluence Council, which will operate the Pablo Center, “has been actively working on numerous grants and feels positive that significant progress will be made over the next two months.”

The Pablo Center is currently under construction along Graham Avenue in downtown Eau Claire, overlooking the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers.

The facility’s budget already included $24 million in local philanthropy, $15 million from the state, $5 million from the city, $3.5 million from the county, and $3.5 million in new market tax credits. No new tax dollars are being requested, the budget update says.

The $45 million construction figure was widely cited as the arts center’s cost in recent years. However, the new budget includes an additional $6.1 million for design and development, $926,000 for “pre-opening expenses” (such as software, IT systems, and staff costs), and $7.9 million for furnishings. The original budget did not include funding for audio/visual technology in numerous parts of the building, including rehearsal rooms, classrooms, the recording studio, and lab spaces.

“Budgeting has been a very fluid process, driven not just by the construction process for an arts center, but also responding to the unique and transformational opportunities associated with what a center of this magnitude can offer to the region in the form of community benefits, workforce development, and innovation,” said a statement released with the budget update.

Read more about budget update, including an interview with Pablo Center Executive Director Jason Jon Anderson, in the next issue of Volume One.

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Wednesday, Apr. 4th, 2018

Prex Claires 2018 Lineup Unleashed

OX Prex Claires
OXBEAUX 2017 – part of last year's first-ever Prex Claires events.

Today (April 4) Blugold Radio released plans for 2018's 'Prex Claires' festivities, set for Thursday, July 5, revving things up for the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival on July 6-7. Last year saw the first installment of Prex Claires, inviting music lovers – both local and from out-of-town – into downtown Eau Claire. 

In tandem with Prex Claires, the OXBEAUX street party will return to the asphalt in front of The Oxbow Hotel on the same night. Watch for that lineup to be announced soon along with ticket sales. See photos from last year.

Check out the Prex Claires press release from Blugold Radio ...

Prexpare for an Amazing Evening

Local music will fill an array of venues across Eau Claire and even the streets during Prex Claires, the second annual celebration of the Chippewa Valley’s diverse music scene that kicks off Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival.

Blugold Radio is proud to announce the second annual celebration will be on Thursday, July 5, immediately preceding the Eaux Claires Music and Arts Festival July 6-7. This is made possible through a generous grant from Visit Eau Claire. The 2017 Prex Claires received local, regional and national attention from outlets like USA Today and Radio Milwaukee. Additionally, it won a Downtown Eau Claire, Inc. Award for "Best Event."

Expanding on the success of last years event, this year's Prex Claires will be a ticketed wristband event. Patrons will have access to each of these venues for one low fee.

Prex Claires 2018 Venues

The Metro- Local Independence Showcase featuring Roma di Luna, Wayward and P Pl

Beyond featuring some amazing new material from Roma di Luna, this showcase embodies the connection between Eau Claire and the Twin Cities.

Masonic Temple-  The Sue Orfield Show featuring Them Coulee Boys and Billy Krause at Masonic Temple.

An amazing night of Americana led by the hardest working musician in Eau Claire. As an added bonus this will be in the awe-inspiring Masonic temple. 

The Plus-  Sawdust City Limits featuring Drunk Drivers, Two Castles, Ronald Raygun and the Heartpills

A rock solid lineup of rockin' Eau Claire bands. This show will give you a great idea of some of the great music happening around these parts.

410 Cafe- Ultimate Open Mic

This freewheeling evening hosted by The Millenium's Matt Hasenmueller will be a fun spot of creativity and just might be a spot where you can see national musicians pickin' with some local folks.

Micon Downtown Cinemas- Clearwater Comedy Jam

Clear Water Comedy is bringing their A-game to Micon Downtown Cinemas. C'mon in and get your comedy fix.

Lismore Ballroom - Dance Party

Get down to some post midnight grooves. The ball room will be your home for some dance treats.

State Theatre - Vespers

We wanted to do something very special for this home for the arts. So, we're going to have a late night songfest. Details will come, but the joy is in the journey. We also don't like to give spoilers. :-)

Blugold Radio Station Manager Scott Morfitt said the lineup has something for everyone.

“This is a really great way to showcase the Chippewa Valley music scene,” Morfitt said, “for both in-towners and out-of-towners. This event is all about the Eau Claire music scene and the community.”

Parallel events to Prex Claires include the free Sounds Like Summer performance in Phoenix Park and the Oxbeaux Concert at the Oxbow Hotel. Additionally, there will be many daytime performances that Blugold Radio will highlight as they continue to be announced.

The initial 500 tickets will be available on Thursday, April 12th at 10am and will be $15. After the initial on sale ticket prices will raise to $20. Tickets will be sold online at Blugold Radio.org.

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Tuesday, Mar. 20th, 2018

Eau Claire Children’s Theatre Desperately Seeking 'Avenue Q' Actress

The Eau Claire Children’s Theatre will cancel their production of Avenue Q if they are unable to find an Asian adult female singer and actor to play the role of Christmas Eve by Wednesday (March 21). Christmas Eve is an affianced therapist with two master’s degrees from Japan.  She doesn’t have many clients, which doesn’t help her natural cynicism.

Rehearsals, tentatively held during evenings, are scheduled to begin March 19 at 7pm.  The production is currently set to run for six days: May 10, 11, 12, 17, 18, and 19.

Avenue Q is about Princeton, a recent college graduate with a degree in english, who moves out on his own into a new apartment with host of neighbors who, despite what they may have learned on Sesame Street as children, aren’t any more special than anyone else, and feel their options in life are limited. The play employs the use of puppets in a style similar to Sesame Street.

For more information, ECCT can be reached at 715-839-8877 or 715-271-3360. More info.

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Monday, Mar. 19th, 2018

So How’s Eau Claire’s Cost of Living?

The national average is indexed at 100, which means that what costs a buck elsewhere in the country can be bought in Eau Claire for just 95 cents. 

It doesn’t just seem like it costs less money to live around here; it’s really true. The 2017 Cost of Living Index published by the Council for Community and Economic Research pegged the cost of living in the Eau Claire metro area at 95.1. The national average is indexed at 100, which means that what costs a buck elsewhere in the country can be bought in Eau Claire for just 95 cents. While a nickel may not seem like much, these small differences in prices add up over the course of a year. Eau Claire’s relative inexpensiveness is due in large part to the low cost of housing: In that category, we’re indexed at 79.2 out of 100. Groceries – indexed at 95.8 – are also cheaper than the national average.

The Eau Claire metro doesn’t do as well in some other categories, though. We’re at 105 in utilities, 108.6 in transportation, and 112.6 in health care. The Council for Community and Economic Research – an Arlington, Virginia-based nonprofit – compiles the index for hundreds of communities nationwide based upon prices of a large basket of goods, from iceberg lettuce to optometric visits. Eau Claire falls in the middle among the Wisconsin metro areas surveyed: Madison comes in with a composite index of 107.6, Fond du Lac at 95.1, Green Bay at 92.2, and Wisconsin Rapids-Marshfield at 91.2. Across the state line, Minneapolis was indexed at 104.9 and St. Paul at 104.5.

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Friday, Mar. 16th, 2018

Giving Homeless Kids a Helping Hand

dani claesges, coordinator, of the eau claire school district’s homeless program, shows off donations collected for homeless kids.
Dani Claesges, coordinator, of the Eau Claire School District’s homeless program, shows off donations collected for homeless kids.

It’s easy to have the thought that there’s something shameful about being homeless. It’s presented in movies, in TV shows, in news programs, and social talk; that homelessness is a problem for big cities, that “homeless people” are dangerous addicts with filthy habits, that “homeless people” choose their life on the streets, that “homeless people” avoid work by living off donations from others. 

The media does such a disservice in portraying what those parents are like. The parents I work with are pretty darn amazing. – Dani Claesges, coordinator, Eau Claire Area School District’s Homeless Program

Dani Claesges knows thousands of people who have experienced homelessness and her story is very different. Claesges, the coordinator for the Eau Claire Area School District’s Homeless Program, has been assisting homeless students for more than a decade. The words she uses to describe the families she works with are words like inspiring, thankful, kind, generous, and strong.

“The media does such a disservice in portraying what those parents are like,” Claesges says. “The parents I work with are pretty darn amazing. These parents are up against such stress. They have the weight of the world on their shoulders, they’re homeless so they’re stressed out about that, trying to find a place, not enough money, maybe switching jobs, maybe they can’t pay for day care. And yet these parents come in here, composed and still advocating for their child. They inspire me about how much they are fighting to get things back on track, fighting to be able to provide these things for their kids again, but you can’t do everything so that’s why we do what we do here.”

Child homelessness in Eau Claire is very real, but it is not often visible. In the 2016-17 school year, 369 students found themselves without a permanent home. Homeless students may live at another family’s home because of hardship, in a shelter, in a motel, a tent, a camper, a car, an abandoned building, a park, or other unstable or inadequate housing. The Homeless Program operates out of the school district’s dedication to respect and support the integrity of every student’s education, no matter what their life circumstances. The program offers assistance with school supplies, clothing, hygiene products, transportation, and and other tangible needs. It also provides information and connections to the other support services in the area. 

Families experiencing the crisis of homelessness are supported by the wider community through shelters, kitchens, the free clinic, closets, and other services. “It definitely is a partnership within the community,” Claesges says. “What helps my job – getting the family out of homelessness as quickly as possible – is for those agencies to be strong and have the support and the funding that they need.” Families getting out of homelessness quickly means that the students can return to focusing on their education instead of the anxiety of their situation. And most of them do get out of homelessness: Claesges says that kids are almost never served for more than one calendar year and 95 percent of the families she works with are only served once. 

“We can choose to be a community that supports our individuals and families who are struggling or we can be a community that chooses to ignore them and not support them, but they are still in our community,” Claesges says. “Either they are going to be an unhealthy part and not able to contribute or we are going to support them and they are going to be strong, healthy, intelligent; tomorrow’s leaders.”

The work of the school district’s Homeless Program and of the other support agencies and organizations in our community depend heavily on donations and volunteer hours. The Homeless Program specifically accepts donations of new or gently used clothing and school supplies, or new hygiene items at the ECASD Board Office building at 500 Main St. in Eau Claire. Monetary donations toward purchasing these items are also welcome, and volunteers are needed to sort supplies and clothing. For more information about how you can help to support families working to get out of homelessness, contact Dani Claesges of the ECASD Homeless Program at (715) 852-3044 or follow them on Facebook to get alerts about specific needs.

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Friday, Mar. 9th, 2018

Pablo Center at the Confluence Announces Executive Director

Jason Jon Anderson
Jason Jon Anderson

Eau Claire’s new performing arts center will have a familiar face at its helm. Jason Jon Anderson, who has served as acting executive director of the Pablo Center at the Confluence since October, can now drop the word “acting” from his title. The center’s board of directors announced Friday that Anderson has been hired as executive director.

A Chippewa Falls native, Anderson has worked as an event services coordinator for several years, both at UW-Eau Claire and for off-campus venues. He also organized conferences, camps, special events, and festivals throughout the Chippewa Valley. With a background in lighting design, Anderson was extensively involved in the Phoenix Park Bridge lighting project, and has worked with Bon Iver as production manager. He also is production director for the Eaux Claires Music & Arts Festival.

“Having actively been a part of our creative economy on a local, national, and international scale for the last several years I am excited to help ensure the continued renaissance of our region,” Anderson said in a news release.

Anderson was hired as acting executive director in October after the man originally hired for the job, Kevin Miller, resigned.

“We are thrilled to welcome Jason Jon Anderson as the new executive director,” board chairwoman Vicki Hoehn said. “We look forward to his leadership as the organization grows as well as the energy, passion, and dedication he brings to the Pablo Center at the Confluence.”

The performing arts center – which was officially dubbed the Pablo Center at the Confluence in February – will be shared by UW-Eau Claire and community groups. Slated to open in September, it is being built at the confluence of the Eau Claire and Chippewa rivers in downtown Eau Claire. The Pablo Center will include a 1,200-seat theater and a 400-seat theater, as well as “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; and administrative offices for management, University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire faculty and Visit Eau Claire staff.”

Also on Friday, the center announced that its inaugural season will include a solo show by the Tallest Man on Earth on Nov. 19. The Swedish indie rocker, whose real name is Kristian Matsson, performed at Eau Claire’s State Theatre in 2016 and at the inaugural Eaux Claires festival in 2015. Tickets for the show will go on sale at noon on Friday, March 16. They can be purchased on the arts center’s new website, PabloCenter.org, which will go live March 14. 

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