Today’s Wisconsin has become the hind leg of the United States on economic, social and intellectual fronts –a strange backseat for a state that once led the nation in industry and intellect.
|Terese Agnew outside her new exhibit|
“I find it amusing,” creating artist Terese Agnew told me. “There is a historic truth to the term progressive that gets all mixed up in today’s politics, without looking at the strides forward it originally meant.”
On its tour, “Writing in Stone” keeps expanding, piling up collaborators under noted artist Agnew, adding sections on Wisconsin’s legendary lessons that most citizens still don’t realize. Today it is far more expansive and artistically presented than its nascent outing last January in Milwaukee.
After showings in La Crosse and Oshkosh, “Writing in Stone” will set up expanded shop – in presentation, participants and vision -- at the James Watrous Gallery in Madison through Nov. 6, with gala opening 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 23. The gallery is providing a hypnotic blue environment with spot-lighting aimed at enhancing the journey through various monuments of words and images. New banners created just for “Writing in Stone” add to the background appeal.
There are five new exhibit areas. One contrasts -- almost inevitably-- the Grand Old Party of today to the group that formed in Ripon 163 years ago, angered by both slavery and a new law that would prevent new immigrants from becoming citizens. The group was named after the Latin for “equality and the common good” -- Res publica. Today we call them Republicans. Re-imagine the human and political impulses that fashioned the origination.
|Actress Flora Coker during a Milwaukee|
She is only one of several living statues at the 4 to 7 p.m. exhibit opening Sept. 23 at the Watrous Gallery, a notable home for contemporary Wisconsin art located on the third floor of Madison’s impressive Overture Center for the Arts.
|Writer Paul Hayes|
This naturalist pioneer not only anchored conservation science but also pushed such creations as the National Weather Service, whose existence continues to benefit us all. It is another of the many ways Wisconsin ideas once spread throughout the nation.
An expanded monument to voting pioneers incorporates a reminder of when the Wisconsin Supreme Court was highly regarded and struck influential chords for the disenfranchised, such as supporting former slave Ezekiel Gillespie’s pursuit of the right to vote.
Updated as well is the exhibit area devoted to Obreros Unido and the migrant workers movement. An early map of North America in the exhibit portrays the vast Mexican migration spots before there even was a US for a community that sometimes feels treated today like aliens in their own land.
Returning is the sound cave in the forest – the musings of Ojibwe environmental pioneer Walter Bresette in looped audio recordings.
All join sections ranging from civil rights activist Lloyd Barbee to Wisconsin Gov. Lee Dreyfus; from Caroline Quarils, the 16 year old slave who first used the Wisconsin Underground Railway, to John R. Commons, a noted UW economist and labor historian; from earth science activists Aldo Leopold to Gaylord Nelson, and much more in the land of monarch butterflies, Door County innovators and even Theodore Roosevelt, who was actually shot in Milwaukee when campaigning for president.
A remarkable collection of artists, artisans and core crew have worked on this vital artistic anthology of Wisconsin, including Diane Dahl, Elliot Medow, Rob Danielson, Peggy Krzyzewski, Gene Lombard. Lynette Lombard, Henry Klimowicz, Jeri Mehne, Ellen Nimo, Chris Jarosh, Tom Bamberger, Dick Blau, Paul Gaudyinki, David Giffey, Lisa Stone, Bonnie Norwood, Jeff Redmon, Ken Clark, Jim Brosek, Cathy Williams and Billie Jo Scharfenberg.