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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Enjoy a Magical Night Curated by Justin Vernon at the Oxbow

overnight experience
Overnight experience curator Justin Vernon. 

The Oxbow Hotel just announced plans for two separate “Lock-Inn” events where a select few can take part in an overnight experience administered by Bon Iver’s Justin Vernon (one of the hotel’s owners) and Sean Carey. The night will be "curated entirely by their musical, culinary, and cultural sensibilities from beginning to end,” according to the press release.

Slated for April 10/11 and May 9/10, each Lock-Inn package includes the overnight stay, a six-course dinner at The Lakely (the Oxbow's restaurant), several live musical performances by Vernon and Carey (and some unannounced friends), a late night movie, a morning yoga session, brunch, and a commemorative poster. No word yet on if Bon Iver plans to serenade guests with an aching, poignant folk song before they gently drift off to sleep, but we’ll keep you posted.

The Lakely
The Lakely

Packages start at $250/person and go on sale at 3pm on Wednesday, March 14. Only 30 packages are available for either night (so 60 people total at double occupancy), so act fast or risk having to suffer through yet another boring ol’ weeknight devoid of any unique happenings, any intimate Bon Iver performances, or any curated cultural experiences at all. The choice is yours. 

And hey, if you feel like luck is on your side, you can sign up to win a free package for two.

Learn more about the Lock-Inn and snatch up your spot at www.theoxbowhotel.com/lockinn.html.

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Thursday, Mar. 8th, 2018

5 Amazing Wisconsin Women You Should Know About

Vel Phillips (Image: Voces de la Frontera | CC 2.0)
Vel Phillips (Image: Voces de la Frontera | CC 2.0)

From political crusaders to best-selling authors, Wisconsin has produced a plethora of history-making women. In honor of International Women’s Day and Women’s History month, here are five fascinating Sconnie females. To learn more about these and other outstanding women, visit the Wisconsin Women Making History website at womeninwisconsin.org.

1. VEL PHILLIPS

Phillips, a lifelong Milwaukee resident, is a consummate trailblazer. The first woman to graduate from the UW Law School (1951), she became the first woman and first African-American elected to the Milwaukee Common Council (1956) and used her role to fight against discrimination and for fair housing. In 1971, she became the first African-American to become a judge in Wisconsin, and in 1978 Wisconsin voters elected her secretary of state, making her the first African-American woman elected to a statewide office in the nation! Now in her 90s, Phillips still serves on the board of a charitable foundation that bears her name.


Olympia Brown
Olympia Brown

2. OLYMPIA BROWN

You may never have heard of Olympia Brown, but she was an Olympian figure in the quest for women’s equality. In 1863, Brown became the first U.S. woman to be ordained a minister, and in 1878 was called to serve a church in Racine, Wisconsin. A friend of Susan B. Anthony and other suffragists, Brown was a strong proponent of voting rights for women, and from 1884 to 1912 led the Wisconsin Woman’s Suffrage Association. Eventually, she decided state-level efforts weren’t enough and began to push for a federal constitutional amendment. Brown died in 1926, six years after the 19th amendment finally gave women the right to vote nationwide.


Laura Ingalls Wilder
Laura Ingalls Wilder

3. LAURA INGALLS WILDER

Fans of the beloved “Little House” books and the TV show they inspired know that Laura Ingalls Wilder’s nostalgic tales of frontier life begin right here in the Badger State. Laura was born in Pepin, Wisconsin, in 1867, and spent most of her first seven years in the “Big Woods” there. Her first book, “Little House in the Big Woods,” was published in 1932 when she was 65 years old. This and subsequent books about the Ingalls family’s life in Kansas, Minnesota, Iowa, and South Dakota became popular with generations of children and parents. To date, more than 60 million “Little House” books have been sold, and the books have been translated into 45 languages.


4. MILLY ZANTOW

Inspired by a visit to Japan, where waste was carefully sorted and recycled, and distressed by an overflowing local landfill, Sauk County woman Milly Zantow cashed in her life insurance insurance and opened a recycling center with a friend in the late 1970s. A tireless advocate for conservation who died in 2014 at age 91, Zantow helped write Wisconsin’s mandatory recycling law and was a founding member of the Wisconsin-based International Crane Foundation. Her most lasting legacy, however, was developing the No.1 through No. 7 system that’s used to identify plastics for recycling. That’s right: You have a Wisconsin woman to thank for that ubiquitous triangle you see on recyclable plastics! Check out the children's book about her.


Belle Case La Follette (left) reading with her family in February 1924.
Belle Case La Follette (left) reading with her family in February 1924.

5. BELLE CASE LA FOLLETTE

Known to many as the wife of Wisconsin progressive pioneer Robert M. “Fighting Bob” La Follette, Belle Case La Follette was a political pioneer in her own right. The first woman to earn a law degree from the University of Wisconsin, she was closely involved in her husband’s political efforts, helping manage his campaigns and write his speeches when he ran for Congress, governor, U.S. Senate, and president. She co-edited La Follette’s Weekly Magazine (now known as The Progressive), and was an outspoken advocate for women’s suffrage, equality, and peace. In 1915, she co-founded the Woman’s Peace Party, and when her husband died in 1925 she was asked to serve the rest of his Senate term. She declined, and their son, Robert Jr., became senator. Another son, Phillips, was later Wisconsin governor, and daughter Fola was a prominent activist as well.

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Big Federal Grant Kickstarts New Eau Claire Transit Center

Image: City of Eau Claire, click for a closer look
Image: City of Eau Claire | Click for a closer look

The City of Eau Claire has caught a TIGER by the tail – and that’s a good thing. The city will receive a $5 million federal grant to build a new transit center in downtown Eau Claire, U.S. Rep. Ron Kind announced this week. The funding comes via the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) grant program. Winning the grant, which the city applied for last fall, is quite an achievement: Only about 6 percent of communities that apply get the funding.

The city hopes to use the money to jumpstart long standing plans to replace the bus transfer center on South Farwell Street, which is little more than a cinder-block shack that was meant to be temporary when it was built in 1985. 

The city hopes to use the money to jumpstart long standing plans to replace the bus transfer center on South Farwell Street, which is little more than a cinder-block shack that was meant to be temporary when it was built in 1985. The city’s current concept is to build a $21 million, seven-story structure on the current site in the 400 block of South Farwell. As of last fall, the city planned to put in $1.25 million of its own funds, with the rest of the project’s cost being covered by a private developer. While most of the $5 million grant will go toward the building, some funds will be used to purchase four more buses for the city.

“Eau Claire’s busy and constantly expanding downtown is a magnet for small businesses, tourism, and outdoor recreation,” Kind, D-La Crosse, said in a news release. “I am excited to announce that Eau Claire has received this very competitive grant, and look forward to watching the new transit center help Eau Claire area businesses and commuters connect with the community.”

Basic site concept from the new downtown Eau Claire bus transfer center, to be built on its current location on S. Farwell Street. (Image: City of Eau Claire, click for a closer look)
Basic site concept from the new downtown Eau Claire bus transfer center, to be built on its current location on S. Farwell Street. (Image: City of Eau Claire | Click for a closer look)

“Our booming downtown and growing city looks forward to the addition of a new transit transfer center in downtown,” City Manager Dale Peters added. “The city is very excited to receive this grant, which will allow us to improve the public transportation system for those who rely on the service in Eau Claire.”

In a news release, U.S. Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., congratulated the city on the grant, and said she had worked last summer to restore funding for TIGER and other infrastructure programs which had been cut from a transportation spending bill by President Donald Trump.

In addition to the transfer center, the building would include underground parking, ground-floor commercial space, and apartments.

To learn more about the project, which could be underway as early as next year, see the next issue of Volume One.

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