Monday, Jun. 13th, 2016

A Dozen Local Artists Work to Open Downtown Chippewa Falls Gallery

INSIDE IS ARTSIDE. The Valley Art Gallery Co-op in Chippewa Falls features work by 12 regional artists.
INSIDE IS ARTSIDE. The Valley Art Gallery Co-op in Chippewa Falls features work by 12 regional artists.

What began as a pre-Christmas pop-up store for a handful of artists in downtown Chippewa Falls has evolved into a permanent space designed to promote and inspire creativity.

The Valley Art Gallery Co-op, 304 N. Bridge St., currently features the work of a dozen artists in nearly as many mediums: Inside, you’ll find acrylic and watercolor paintings, thrown pots and pasteboard jewelry, knitted scarves and carved gourds.

“We just think having an art gallery in a community just gives it some added value,” says Kris Crowe, president of the Valley Art Association and one of the artists whose work can be found in the gallery. But this isn’t just a look-and-don’t-touch gallery: The work here is on sale, ready to bring joy to your home and your life.

The gallery opened in December when Steve Rasmus offered an empty storefront to the Valley Art Association as a temporary retail space. After the holidays passed, some of the artists decided to keep the store open. It’s now run as a co-op, with the 12 exhibiting artists staffing the space and splitting the rent.

While the store has been discovered by many locals as well as visitors to Chippewa Falls’ picturesque downtown, the artists plan to promote themselves even more with the help of an open house on Saturday, June 18, from 10am to 5pm. The day will feature refreshments, drawings (each artist has donated a piece or two to give away), as well as make-and-take art projects.

The gallery itself is small but chock-full of two- and three-dimensional artwork, which you’ll find on walls, shelves, and free-standing displays. Painted caribou antlers share space with flower vases, wool bags, and scenic photographs. “It just attacks your senses,” Crowe explains. “It’s just a lot of color. It’s bright.”

Soon, the Valley Art Gallery will help people try their own hands at art. Beginning later this month, the gallery will begin offering classes ranging from Zen doodling to nuno felting to creating a journal. (For details on these and other classes, see the contact information below.)

Crowe hopes that the gallery can make a permanent home in downtown Chippewa Falls, either in its current storefront or in another one. (The building’s present location is slated for remodeling.) She says the store complements the revitalized downtown, which draws visitors with its shops, eateries, and attractions: The gallery is just across the street from the Mason Shoe Outlet Store and just down the street from the Chippewa Candy Shop.

Just as a new piece of artwork can enhance a room, the Valley Art Gallery Co-op is helping downtown Chippewa Falls look and feel even better.

Valley Art Gallery Co-op • 304 N. Bridge St., Chippewa Falls • Hours: Wednesdays, Fridays, and Saturdays 10am-5pm; and Thursdays 10am-6pm • for details on classes, call Kris Crowe at (715) 271-0607

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UPDATE: Downtown Menomonie Hotel OK'd

Image: Google Maps
Image: Google Maps

A developer has proposed tearing down a commercial building in downtown Menomonie to erect a 51-room, four-story Cobblestone Hotel. Demolishing the building, which currently houses Black Thumb Glass (149 Main St. E) and Jeff’s Pizza Shop (145 Main St. E), will require an OK from the city’s Historic Preservation Commission, the Leader-Telegram reported. That’s because the building is part of a national historic district, so the commission must OK remodeling or new construction, the newspaper said. The commission was slated to discuss the matter at its meeting on Monday, June 13, after this edition of Volume One went to press. If the commission turns down the plan, the building’s owners – Keith St. LLC of Eau Claire – can appeal to the Menomonie City Council.

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Thursday, Jun. 9th, 2016

Eau Claire Ranked Amongst Nation’s “Least-Stressed” Cities

Above: Relaxed locals.
Phoenix Park

Chillax, cats and kitties. Eau Claire popped up on yet another list of “best / worst / least / most fill-in-the-blank cites in America.” Take it as you will, but SmartAsset.com has named Eau Claire as the 5th least-stressed city in the United States. In fact, they say ...

Wisconsin wins. The only state to have two cities in our top ten was Wisconsin. Both Madison and Eau Claire cracked the top five, in fact. The two Badger State cities earned high marks for physical activity and hours slept, and had low negatives.

Madison was slotted in at 4th place, behind Duluth, MN (3rd); Iowa City, IA (2nd); and totally chill Boulder, CO (1st).

Northern states (Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Montana and North Dakota) generally fared well in the ranking. Columbia took 7th, Ann Arbor was 8th, and laidback Fargo reclined into 10th.

Phoenix Park
Above: Relaxed locals.

SmartAsset.com likes Eau Claire’s average commute time (under 15 minutes) and our average work-week of (35.4 hours). They say this gives our residents “plenty of time to kick back.” (Or ... look for a full time job?)

Madison is lauded for how much sleep they get down there, as well as its unemployment rate. Duluth was praised for having the “12th-shortest work-week of the 500 cities in our study.”

Stress Testing

SmartAsset says they used a cocktail of positive and negative factors in their rankings. Positive attributes included high rates of physical activity, number of “entertainment establishments,” and and a high average of sleep hours. For the negative, they measured things like hours of work per week, commute lengths, bankruptcy rate, divorce rate, and unemployment rate. They studied 500 cities of 67,500 or higher. You can learn more about the other top 25 cities in the study right here.

Do you feel like we live in a low-stress community? Go ahead and leave a comment ...

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Friday, Jun. 3rd, 2016

If Met, Challenge Grant Will Push Confluence Over the Top

In February, planners of the Confluence Project unveiled this new rendering of the proposed arts center, created by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects. Click for a closer look!
In February, planners of the Confluence Project unveiled this new rendering of the proposed arts center, created by Holzman Moss Bottino Architecture and Strang Architects. Click for a closer look!

A newly announced $1.5 million challenge grant will put fundraising for the Confluence Arts Center over the top – as long as donors chip in another $1.5 million to meet the challenge it in the coming months. If met, the “Breaking New Ground” challenge will raise $3 million, which – coupled with the roughly $12.5 million already raised – will push private donations to nearly $16 million and allow groundbreaking to occur in September.

The challenge grant, which was announced by the project’s backers Thursday night at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Council’s annual Jubilee fundraiser at the Florian Gardens, is backed by a group of anonymous donors who are eager to see the project succeed.

“We have received such tremendous support from so many who can see the future of our community through the construction of the Confluence Arts Center,” said Jill Barland, who co-chairs the fundraising committee with her husband, Tom. “This generous challenge match of $1.5 million is the final major endeavor to ensure we will indeed break ground in September. With the goal so close at hand, we believe there are people and companies who want to make this dream a reality and are ready to commit.”

Here’s how it will work: The challenge donors will match all pledges and gifts (up to $1.5 million) received by Sept. 30, and donors will have until Dec. 31 to make the first payments on their pledges. Pledges can be extended over five years, and they will be accepted by either the Eau Claire Community Foundation or the UW-Eau Claire Foundation. Learn more by contacting Susan Bornick, executive director of the Community Foundation, at (715) 552-3801, or Kimera Way, president of the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, at (715) 836-5180. You can also visit communityfortheconfluence.org for more information.

The Confluence Arts Center will be a $45 million, 130,000-square-foot shared university-community facility on Graham Avenue in downtown Eau Claire near the confluence of the Chippewa and Eau Claire rivers. The art center, which is slated to open by March 2018, will be funded by private donations as well as money from the state, city, and county.

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Thursday, Jun. 2nd, 2016

Will Downtown's Street Speakers Switch to Local Music?

Stare at this image long enough and you can almost hear the light jazz.
Stare at this image long enough and you can almost hear the light jazz.

It's an idea we've all had (and re-had) over and over (and over) for at least a decade: The speakers lining downtown Eau Claire's Barstow Street should play local music. Well, it looks like Downtown Eau Claire Inc. is be getting serious about swapping its muzak for original tunes from local bands.

Today DECI announced, "Downtown Eau Claire Inc. has partnered with the South Barstow Business Improvement District, Paul Brandt, and Audio Architects, Inc. to look into bringing local music downtown."

The current music programming (periodically switched for special events, but mostly set to hazy light jazz) is rarely praised. Over the years, we've published multiple articles about the mysterious origins of the jazzy notes trickling from the city's lamppost-mounted speakers, which were upgraded during the Barstow Street reconstruction of 2013. 

But basically, there's a digital radio box in a closet in a downtown business. 

Local musician and Eau Claire Music School teacher Paul Brandt has volunteered his time to spearhead this project. The South Barstow BID owns and controls the downtown system and Audio Architects, Inc. provides technical expertise. The Local Store is providing a huge catalog of digital tracks, already assembled from the shop's collection of local CDs and vinyl.

The project is in its very early stages. Brandt tells us his first step is contacting local musicians for approval. 

Keep in mind that no one playlist of any kind of music will please all of downtown's residents, business owners, and patrons, but we do hope this new initiative results in an even better downtown experience.

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Wednesday, Jun. 1st, 2016

New Airport Eatery Hangar 54 Offers Meaty Specialties

PERMISSION TO LAND IN MY BELLY GRANTED. The Hangar 54 Steak is among the specialties at Hangar 54 Grill.
PERMISSION TO LAND IN MY BELLY GRANTED. The Hangar 54 Steak is among the specialties at Hangar 54 Grill.

There is a brand-new restaurant at the Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, appropriately called Hangar 54 Grill, which serves a wide variety of unique and delicious dishes, including meat-based entrees made with specialty meats from Rump’s Butcher Shoppe in Altoona. Bob Adrian, who owns Rump’s, is a part owner of the new restaurant – along with Travis Dudley (formerly the chef at Fanny Hill) and Ryan Anderson – and he is very excited about the business.

Adrian said he was researching spots for a new restaurant, and that the airport location essentially chose them. The name, he explained, came along with it: “I wanted something that fit the location. I wanted a name that when people heard it they would have to assume it was in or at the airport. Hence the ‘Hangar’ part of the name. The ‘54’ came about because I was a jet mechanic in the Navy, and Hangar 54 was one of the hangars at Pearl Harbor that survived the bombings and had been used as a Navy training center. Hangar 54 Grill seemed to roll off the tongue nicely.”

The restaurant’s décor is modern and appropriately airport-themed, with newspaper articles on popular aviation stories transferred onto the surface of the tables, and clocks on the wall featuring different time zones. The restaurant also has a large bar with many local brews on tap. Perhaps the most unique part of the restaurant is its direct view of the airport runway, which runs just outside the large windows.

In terms of the menu, “We wanted to cater to everyone just like we do at Rump’s,” Adrian said. “We did our best to create dishes with great ingredients for a fair price. I think we have something for everyone.” The menu includes a wide variety of items, ranging from amaretto french toast for breakfast to ribs for dinner, and everything in between (including burgers made with hamburger ground onsite).

Adrian noted that owning a butcher shop and having knowledge of meat has helped inform the restaurant’s offerings. “I would say we have a pretty good understanding of meats over at Rump’s. Combine that with expert chefs, and you can create some pretty amazing things. For example, we grind our own burger right at the Hangar. If not for having the Rump’s input on that, we probably wouldn’t have done that.”

He also reports Hangar 54 and Rump’s work together. “For example, we don’t have a smoke house at the Hangar but wanted to do a nice smoked baby back rib,” he said. “So the chefs at the Hangar came up with a great rub, and then we smoked the rub in our smokehouse at Rump’s. This gives the ribs a nice natural smoked flavor rather than using liquid smoke.”

Hangar 54 is doing very well, and Adrian credits co-owners Dudley and Anderson, the very supportive and hardworking restaurant staff, as well as the airport. He noted they are constantly working to improve the customers’ experience. “The feedback has been great,” he said. “The compliments on the food have been very good. With any new restaurant you have some issues with wait times and service. … My hat’s off to everyone that works there for doing an amazing job. Things will continue to get smoother as we learn.”

Hangar 54 Grill • Chippewa Valley Regional Airport, 3800 Starr Ave., Eau Claire • (715) 598-1880 • hangar54grill.com

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Tuesday, May. 31st, 2016

Introducing the Gemini Drive In Local Legends Tee!

Remember when you voted in The Local Store's most recent Local Legends poll (back in March) regarding a limited-edition, vintage-style tee featuring the logo of a former local business we all know and love? Of course you do. (Our past winners include Kerm's, Woo's Pagoda, London Square, Timm's Dairy, and the Camaraderie.)

Well, the latest results are in and you picked our new winner: The Gemini Drive In. After over 40 years as a beloved Chippewa Valley destination, the Gemini Drive In Theater closed its doors in 2015. But now it can live forever on your torso. 

But how can you get one?

Our new Gemini Drive In tee is available in the shop (205 N. Dewey Street, downtown Eau Claire) and online right here!

 

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An Eye for the Everyday

Among the photographs displayed in the exhibit Through Daniel’s Eyes are the June 1905 image of children playing in floodwater
Among the photographs displayed in the exhibit Through Daniel’s Eyes is this June 1905 image of children playing in floodwater.

In the Age of the Selfie, when seemingly every moment is digitally documented by the handy devices we carry in our pockets, it’s hard to imagine a time when photography was a rarity, often reserved for only the most solemn and ceremonial of occasions. In fact, barely a century ago cameras were still relatively uncommon, which explains why the photos of your ancestors are likely limited to a handful of stiff studio portraits rather than stacks of candid snaps.

Against this photographic backdrop – pun intended – the works of turn-of-the-century everyman photographer Daniel Bastian Nelson are a pleasant and engrossing surprise. Nelson was born in Norway in 1874 and moved to Eau Claire at the age of six. In 1898, Nelson – a lumber-mill worker and later a carpenter – bought a Cyclone No. 3 box camera in 1898. Over the next two decades, he used the camera to create hundreds of glass-plate negatives, 415 of which were recently donated to UW-Eau Claire’s McIntyre Library Special Collections and Archives.

“This is an amateur photographer, and these were the early days of amateur photography,” explains UWEC history professor John Mann. “You don’t see a lot of these sorts of collections preserved. You see collections of professional photographers preserved. … Perhaps relatedly, a lot of the images he captures are candid ones.”

The images may have remained obscure were it not for the work of students in Mann’s public history seminar. Under the direction of Mann, university archivist Greg Kocken, and the Chippewa Valley Museum staff, the students created a fascinating exhibit exploring Nelson’s photographs and what they reveal about life in Eau Claire a century ago.

The exhibit, Through Daniel’s Eyes, opened in mid-May in the auditorium at the Chippewa Valley Museum in Carson Park. In November, the exhibit will move to the UWEC campus, and eventually it will make its way to the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire and likely other sites after that. It features more than 30 of Nelson’s photographs, which are coupled with explanatory material written and researched by the students on themes including Eau Claire’s built environment, everyday pastimes, floods, saloon culture, and Putnam Park (which then, as now, was an urban gem).

Daniel Nelson (front right in the photo) enjoying a beer with friends.
Daniel Nelson (front right in the photo) enjoying a beer with friends.

In one image, cited by Chippewa Valley Museum director Carrie Ronnander as a favorite, children grin as they splash and paddle in the waters of a 1905 flood. The details (the children’s clothing, the cow grazing in a city backyard) are engrossing, as well as the questions the image raises. (For example, would modern parents let their kids frolic, seemingly unsupervised, in floodwaters?) In another, a group of solemn young men pose in front of washed-out railroad tracks, a church steeple rising eerily from the mist behind them.

“The prints produced from the glass plate negatives are strikingly clear and detailed,” Ronnander says, “but I think the real beauty of the exhibit is its ability to take us into the world of everyday people. I really like how the students used the photos to launch into larger stories about what Eau Claire was like in the early 20th century.”

Mann says Nelson’s photographs offer more than just historic interest – they’re aesthetically pleasing, too. “As time went on, his pictures are better framed and they became more interesting in terms of subject matter,” Mann says. “I do think that he had an eye for it.”

You’ll find the photo exhibit Through Daniel’s Eyes on display at the Chippewa Valley Museum in Carson Park until October. During the summer, museum hours are 10am to 5pm Monday through Saturday and 1-5pm Sunday. Admission is $7 for adults, $4 for students and those aged 5-17, and free for kids 5 and under. The museum is free from 5-8pm Tuesday.

A few more of Daniel Bastian Nelson's photos ...

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Monday, May. 30th, 2016

5 of Our Biggest Local Lakes

Lake Wissota (shown here with its plaque)
Lake Wissota (shown here with its plaque)

1. Lake Wissota

At 6,300 acres, Lake Wissota is by far the largest lake in the Chippewa Valley. And it’s literally in the Chippewa Valley: It was created in 1917 by the construction of a hydroelectric dam, so the lake exists in lowland originally carved by the river. Because of the adjacent state park, numerous boat landings, and plentiful fish, it’s also one of the area’s most popular lakes.

2. Holcombe Flowage

Like its downstream cousin, Lake Wissota, the Holcombe Flowage (or, if you prefer, Lake Holcombe) was formed by a hydroelectric dam on the Chippewa River. Depending on which source you trust, the flowage covers either 3,890 or 2,881 acres in Chippewa and Rusk counties. If you’re willing to sponsor an expedition to one of the lakeside resorts, we’d be happy to double-check the measurements.

3. Old Abe Lake

Didn’t know that Wisconsin’s most famous feathered warrior had a namesake lake? Now you do. Old Abe Lake is a 470-acre flowage formed by a dam on the Chippewa River in Jim Falls. Come to pedal the Old Abe Trail, to check out the Old Abe statue, or to fish for the abundant walleye you’ll find in these waters.

This guy knows how to enjoy 154 acres of lake water. (Half Moon Lake)
Now, this guy knows how to enjoy 154 acres of lake water. (Half Moon Lake)

4. Tainter Lake

At 1,752 acres, Tainter Lake is the largest body of water in Dunn County. It takes its name from lumber baron Andrew Tainter, who was behind the decision to build a mill and dam along the Red Cedar River. While the lake is sometimes used for recreation and fishing, phosphorous pollution typically turns it green in the summer.

5. Half Moon Lake

This oxbow-shaped lake, which encircles Carson Park in the middle of Eau Claire, was originally a curve in the Chippewa River that was cut off eons ago when the flowing water decided to take a shortcut. While it’s the only “lake” in the city of Eau Claire, at 154 acres it’s only one-fifth the size of Dells Pond. (And you thought ponds were always smaller than lakes, didn’t you?)

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Wednesday, May. 25th, 2016

5 Forgotten Names for the Mighty Chippewa River

Quick! Find the Chippewa River!
Quick – find the Chippewa River!

1. LA RIVIÈRE DE TAUREAUX SAUVAGES

This poetic French description – which translates as “The River of the Wild Bulls” – is the first recorded name for what we now call the Chippewa River, according to an essay by John Vanek of the Chippewa Valley Museum. It comes from Father Louis Hennepin, who in 1680 became one of the first Europeans to lay eyes on the river. The “bulls” were the bison that roamed the grasslands of western Wisconsin.

2. RIVIÈRE DES BOEUFS

A map published in 1683 to accompany Hennepin’s description of his journey through New France called the waterway “Rivière des Boeufs,” or Buffalo River. This version of the name likely comes from a letter by another French explorer, Robert de La Salle. The modern Buffalo River, as well as Buffalo County, likely trace their names to this origin.

Sadly not pictured: buffalo.
Sadly not pictured: buffalo.

3. RIVIÈRE DE BON SECOURS

“Bon Secours” translates as “Comfort” or “Good Help.” This name was recorded by another Frenchman, Pierre-Charles Le Sueur, who wrote in 1699 that the river was called this because of “the greater number of buffalo, elk, bears, and deer found there.” This name could also be linked to Notre-Dame-de-Bon-Secours Chapel, one of the earliest churches in Montreal, the principal French city in North America.

4. BACQUEVILLE

By the early 1700s, French maps assigned the river the name “Bacqueville” in honor of Bacqueville de la Potherie, who published a history of New France.

5. HAHATONOUADEBA

(Say it five times fast.) This is one of the final steps of the name’s evolution into the modern “Chippewa.” As Vanek writes, “Hahatonouadeba is a French approximation of the Dakota Hahatunwan Watpa. The latter word is Dakota for ‘river,’ while the former is what the Dakota call the Ojibwe people.” The Ojibwe are also known as the Chippewa, and it was that name English-speaking explorer Jonathan Carver gave to the river in the 1760s.

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