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Making the Effort: Experiencing Art with the Kids

"Plenty" by Katey Smith, Gail Simpson and Aristotle Georgiades

Gallery Night this fall was another little window into all that is cool about my neighborhood right now, at this moment in history. 

Experiencing art with kids makes me appreciate it differently. It's less about seeing the best, new works and more about getting into the space to celebrate that people are making art for us to enjoy.

We had a ball at Art In on East Washington. The space feels is a bit hidden, in the way the best art spaces are, and when you walk in you know you've entered a zone of collective, creative, even cutting-edge work. My daughter was so excited she spontaneously started doing wacky yoga gymnastics moves in one of the galleries. And that felt right. In fact, all the little people found each other and had their own sort of gallery night social hour.

Where I grew up, the "Gallery Hop" happened the first Saturday of the month in the hippest neighbhorhood in the city. As a high school kid looking for cool, I found the vibe and lots of inspiration in this zone of galleries, street performance, and folks dressed up to be seen.

In Madison, the galleries that participate in the twice-a-year Gallery Night are spread out all over the city. This effectively makes it a neighborhood art night for me, since it's pretty unlikely I'll shuttle around town to see everything.

As a family, we wandered within radius of our house to check out the Bright Red Studios. The kids were impressed by Jen Ahlstrom's hanging lamps made from pages of books. Reminds me of a quote I read recently (at an exhibit called Radical Amazement at Hillel) by Abraham Joshua Heschel about how it's completely radical and amazing when we stop taking ordinary things for granted and see them in new light.

Writing this blog helps me notice the streets, shops, and places of my neighborhood and city. Taking the time to reflect also encourages me to want to be more involved, add my own creative energy, and care about how the city evolves.

A blog magazine called GOOD is making a GOOD City Index:  "We want to hear about street corner revolutions and studio space innovation. Places where citizens are valuing connectivity, creativity and equality over commercialism and property prices. We want to hear about the places we might like to move to, to work in, or visit—not because they're perfect, but because they're interesting and have just the right mix of energy, people and possibility. And we want your help."

No comments yet from Madison-flag wavers (Milwaukee, Minneapolis, and Chicago all represent...). I'm not sure I want to be the one, for some reason. I'm noticing that so many of my friends agree that Madison is a great, if not GOOD, place to live. Why do we seem to want to keep that a secret? Is it hurting us or helping? Or maybe no Madisonian's but me read that blog...

I would add to the GOOD Index the importance of access. And by that I mean access to rural, natural, and open space. I love that I can get out of  Madison and into the country really easily. And "the country" is gorgeous, storied, and rich with resources.

Like the Fermentation Fest D-Tour, based out of Reedsburg and organized by the Wormfarm Institute. It's like gallery hopping the farms and fields of the rolling hills of beautiful Wisconsin. It's an art experience. It does take some effort, especially if you have to unbuckle and buckle two car seats for every stop, but it took our collective breath away. Made me see the landscape, and my place in it, anew. Helped me appreciate this moment in history, connected to all other moments. Part of the eternal now. Part of the big picture.

"Consider This" by John Miller
PS: Earlier this month the Williamson-Marquette Neighborhood was recognized as a Top 10 Great Neighborhood in the United States by the American Planning Association. “Marquette has a vibrancy that is a benchmark for other neighborhoods,” said Mayor Soglin at a ceremony the Wil-Mar Neighborhood Center on October 4. “It is our SoHo.”

Read the Willy Street Blog post for the story.

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