Visual Art

Folksy Fun: Festival invites hands-on appreciation of local craft

Diana Peterson, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

THAT’S ALL, FOLK. The Chippewa Valley Museum’s 2020 Folk Arts Festival is happening Feb. 29.
THAT’S ALL, FOLK. The Chippewa Valley Museum’s 2020 Folk Arts Festival is happening Feb. 29.

Folk arts are rooted in and reflective of the cultural life of a community. These artistic traditions are passed from generation to generation through demonstration, dialogue, and diligence. 

The 2020 Folk Arts Festival at the Chippewa Valley Museum on Feb. 29 is your opportunity to learn about a variety of local folk-art disciplines. From 11am-4pm, the festival includes forums, live music, demonstrations, and a kid zone. 

“The festival is not just about art, not just about tradition,” said Carrie Ronnander, the museum’s executive director.  “It’s about living traditions that connect us to generations of people who passed on their knowledge and skills. Some ideas and materials transition and change over time, but specific elements remain and help us to learn more about who we are and where we’ve been.”

Before entering the museum, take some time to examine the Barn Quilt-Scape; 24 lively entries have been painted by 13 regional artists. These vivid squares are exhibited on museum grounds,.Musicians will perform in the auditorium throughout the day. Harpist Serena O’Meara presents “Turlough Carolan, Irish Harper” with the music from and stories about this Irish composer and singer. The Sliced Bread Jug Band performs both traditional, old-style jug band music and original material with stringed instruments, percussion, and jugs. The Eau Claire International Folk Dancers allow viewers to experience the traditional cultures of far-away countries including Croatia, Greece, Israel, Macedonia, and Turkey. Award-winning ragtime pianist Jim Radloff presents “A Visit to Tin Pan Alley.”

Forums are a new addition to this year’s festival. At noon, Joe Knight presents “The Art of Fly Fishing” followed by “The Art of Snowshoe Making” with Jim Swiebert. Beaver Creek Reserve will host a table to teach snowshoe lacing as well. Martha Nieman, Zach Pappas, and Erica Zerr will help us understand how textiles and clothing impact our environment in of “The Art of Sustainability.”

Younger visitors will want to check out the Kid’s Zone to discover the L.E. Phillips Memorial Public Library Dabble Box and the Children’s Museum of Eau Claire Activity Station to explore arts and develop new skills. At the Fleece & Fabric Project, pet lovers can help make blankets and pull toys to donate to local animal shelters.

More than 20 passionate artists will be on hand to demonstrate their skills. Visitors are invited to actively engage with the presenters. In addition to the traditional folk arts, presentations include using natural materials such as wasp nests and gourds, dulcimer music, wood-working, and employing recycled materials to created mixed media pieces.

While you’re taking in all the activity, you can take a quick break for a soup and sandwich lunch, which is available for purchase. Permission is given for you to stop in the Ice Cream Parlor for a sweet treat.

Since the festival is free with admission to the museum, save some time to explore the long-term exhibits of Farm Life, Changing Currents, and History Quest. Don’t miss the Warmth and Whimsy Winter Art Show, a juried exhibit featuring 40 pieces of artwork by 27 local artists.