Tourism Community Orgs

Visit Eau Claire Ups the Ante for Public Art

tourism organization partners with Sculpture Tour, absorbs Public Arts Council

Tom Giffey, photos by Andrea Paulseth |

SPARKS WILL FLY. Installing Part of the a Sculpture Tour Eau Claire in 2021.
SPARKS WILL FLY. Installing Part of the a Sculpture Tour Eau Claire in 2020.

Visit Eau Claire, the region’s tourism-promotion agency, recently extended its reach into the arts as well – a step, its director says, which will have a positive impact on both local artistic endeavors and the economy. 

Two new partnerships have brought both the Sculpture Tour Eau Claire and the Eau Claire Public Arts Council into the Visit Eau Claire fold. 

Julie Pangallo, previously the Sculpture Tour’s executive director, is now a paid staff member of Visit Eau Claire. While she will continue to oversee the tour – the second-largest rotating outdoor sculpture display in the United States – Pangallo will now have the title public arts and events support manager. In that role, she will work on other public arts initiatives as well.

“I am beyond excited to be able to continue working with the sculpture tour through Visit Eau Claire and growing it even more,” Pangallo said. “The sculptures and other art throughout Eau Claire is what makes our city so unique, and I am excited to continue expanding the sculpture tour with the various resources that Visit Eau Claire offers.”

If the organization does this right, it will have a great impact on tourism. The Sculpture Tour is an amazing asset. People love the heck out of it.



Because Visit Eau Claire will be taking on Pangallo’s salary, the Sculpture Tour – which will continue to exist as a separate nonprofit entity with its own board of directors – will be able to focus its financial efforts on bringing sculptures to town, said Benny Anderson, Visit Eau Claire’s executive director.

“If the organization does this right, it will have a great impact on tourism,” Anderson said. “The Sculpture Tour is an amazing asset. People love the heck out of it.”

The tour currently features about 55 sculptures, most of which rotate in and out annually to other cities with similar tours. By the end of 2022, Anderson wants Eau Claire to have 80 to 85 sculptures, a number that he hopes will grow to 160 within three years. To accomplish this, Anderson said, sculptures will be kept in the city for three years, rather than one year. (Artists will still receive annual stipends for sculptures that are on loan.) 

Over time, Anderson hopes to expand the Sculpture Tour’s footprint – currently downtown Eau Claire, the Water Street area, and the Mayo campus – to include the UW-Eau Claire campus, Carson Park, Altoona, and elsewhere.

Anderson said Visit Eau Claire’s investment in the Sculpture Tour will pay off in the long run by drawing more visitors to the city and keeping them here longer, thus boosting the number of hotel room stays and the room taxes they generate. “We’re playing the long game,” Anderson said.

In her new role, Pangallo will also provide paid staff support to the previously independent Eau Claire Public Arts Council, which as of Dec. 1 was absorbed by Visit Eau Claire to become the organization’s Public Arts Committee. In its new form, the committee will continue its previous role – promoting public art projects in the city – while benefiting from the marketing and financial opportunities of being part of a larger organization, Anderson said. 

In recent years, the Public Arts Council has undertaken a variety of initiatives – including installing the “Eddies” sculpture at Haymarket Plaza and creating a project, “We Are the Chippewa Valley,” to draw attention to artists of color – but has faced the challenge of being an all-volunteer group.

Jo Ellen Burke, who served as president of the Public Arts Council, said Visit Eau Claire is committed to fostering art as a vital part of the community. “There is a real commitment to the public arts, specifically visual arts in Eau Claire, and we hope to see that flourish even more under Visit Eau Claire,” she said.