EC Public Arts Council Takes Art to the Streets (and Walls)
revived civic group pushes for murals, more
Equity. Diversity. Inclusivity. Civic engagement. Those are just a few of the ideals the Eau Claire Public Arts Council hopes to incorporate into two new murals currently in production in downtown Eau Claire. Between the coronavirus pandemic and Black Lives Matter protests around the country, current events have cast the mission of the council in a new light.
“To me, art is about looking at the world a little differently,” said Emily Anderson, vice president of the council, “and holding a mirror up to it.”
Both new murals are in collaboration with Chippewa Valley Votes, with a focus on civic engagement. Artist Clark Stoeckley spins the artistic concept of Robert Indiana’s famous “LOVE” design and replaces it with “VOTE” to convey a “love to vote.”
“It’s kind of this double meaning of ‘love’ and ‘vote,’ ” Anderson said.
“One of the things that art can do is bring people together to have challenging conversations.” –Emily Anderson, Eau Claire Public Arts Council vice president
Stoeckley donated his time and resources free of charge to create the murals, and the council saw the perfect opportunity to integrate their visions – “and not just put up cute things,” said Jo Ellen Burke, the arts council’s president.
“One of the things that art can do is bring people together to have challenging conversations,” Anderson added.
The two murals are located at the intersection of Water Street and Fifth Avenue – on the back of Details – while the other is on the side of Ramone’s Ice Cream Parlor, facing North Farwell St.
“We feel that it’s time we had a champion for visual arts,” Burke said.
The council was created in 2017 when a number of individuals approached City Manager Dale Peters to promote public art murals. In 2018, the council decided to focus on one thing, coordinating about $90,000 in funds from the city to install a sculpture in front of Haymarket Landing, which they hope to place in August or September. Right before the pandemic, the arts council was reinvigorated with a new purpose and new mission: to be active about bringing public art downtown.
“Whatever we do, we would have to take into account this new normal,” Burke said. “We’re trying to be really intentional about everything we do. We want to be really integrated with the community.”
Burke was involved with Creative Economy Week, where she organized a gallery window walk over the span of 10 days involving 20 businesses throughout downtown Eau Claire. It was what she considered the new council’s first project, and she deemed it a success. “One of our points we often make is that we believe the arts are the soul of a community,” Burke said.
Because this is a new council, Burke and her colleagues have started a $10,000 GoFundMe campaign to raise funds to pay for artists to do their work. The team conveyed that often there is an expectation for artists to work for free, but they wish to support artists for their hard efforts.
“This is a community that values the arts, values creativity,” Anderson said.
Murals are starting points and not limits for this newly reinvigorated council, according to Anderson. They hope to bring more storytelling art pieces, or more interactive art, to the city of Eau Claire – and eventually perhaps even the Chippewa Valley more broadly. Some of the options they’ve discussed have included utility box art and sidewalk and crosswalk art, according to Sara Larson, the communication and marketing chairperson of the council.
“We want to give local artists a voice,” Larsen said.
To get in contact with the Eau Claire Public Arts Council or for more information, visit bit.ly/contact-ecpac. You can find their fundraiser by visiting gofundme.com and searching for “Eau Claire Public Arts Council.”