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Last updated: Friday, 21-Feb-2003 19:45:53 CST

Sept. 8, 2003


Views From the Barn Door Examines Changes in St. Croix Valley

It wasn't too many years ago that the St. Croix Valley watershed was primarily picturesque dairy farms surrounded by green fields dotting the countryside with quaint, small towns interspersed. However, the growing urbanization of the region means these farms are quickly disappearing and the demographics, commuting patterns, communities and natural resources of this area are changing dramatically.

Views from the Barn Door: Our Changing Culture and Landscape, a free public event sponsored by The University of Wisconsin-River Falls, will be held at The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson on Thursday evening, Sept. 18. It is free and open to the public.

Through the use of art, humor, storytelling, drama and music, it will present a thought provoking look at these changes taking place in the St. Croix Valley as symbolized by the loss of the barn.

A reception and gallery tour of "Our Heartland: Contemporary Images of Rural Life" will begin at 6 p.m. The exhibit depicts the 21st century rural landscape in flux using a variety of media (painting, printmaking, photography, and pottery) as seen through the eyes of eight artists from the St. Croix Valley.

The exhibiting artists are Richard Abnet, Nancy Ashenmacher, Tamara Brantmeier, Carl Corey, David Heberlein, Willis Hildebrandt, Dan Mackerman, Larry Welo. Several artists will be available to conduct tours of the exhibit during the opening reception.

A program of music, prose and storytelling will begin at 7 p.m. with a musical introduction featuring UW-RF students.

Environmental writer Laurie Allmann will present One Road, a short performance of documentary theater that explores the natural and cultural communities that have gathered along a four-mile stretch of rural road in the St. Croix Valley. From dragonflies to prize dairy cows, to gardens reflecting distant Laotian traditions, One Road traces the lines that run between land and life. Allmann has been a regularly featured essayist and commentator for Minnesota Public Radio, contributed to the scriptwriting for a forthcoming Twin Cities Public Television documentary film series, and was recently a writer in residence at the St. Croix Watershed Research Station.

Al Batt, a writer, storyteller, and humorist who was born and raised on a farm in southeastern Minnesota, will share his Views from the Barn Door, in a manner that is sure to create laughter, reflection and insight. Batt has been featured in the Smithsonian Magazine, and he is a regular contributor to several nature and birding magazines, newspapers, and farm periodicals. He writes several nationally syndicated cartoon strips ("The Buckets," "The Laugh Parade," "The Lockhorns" and many others). He has written jokes for a former U.S. President. He has also written several inspirational and motivational articles.

Closing the event will be a community dialogue with featured artists, performers and the audience. Collectively, the group will explore and discuss what these depictions of a rural landscape in flux mean those of us who live, work and play in the St. Croix Valley. How do we continue to retain and at the same time, redefine our sense of community to incorporate these changes? How do we find a balance between preserving our environmental resources while managing inevitable changes? While we may mourn what we have lost as a result of these changes, what benefits have we gained that we celebrate? What must be done to preserve a "quality of life" we all value?

Views from the Barn Door is a collaborative venture of the UW-River Falls College of Arts and Sciences, Outreach, and The Phipps Center for the Arts in Hudson. Other co-sponsors include the St. Croix Valley Community Foundation and the National Park Service. The event is in support of the St. Croix Valley Barnstorm Wisconsin, 2003 Year of the Barn.

The Phipps Center for the Arts is located on the scenic St Croix River in historic downtown Hudson, just north of I-94 at 106 Locust Street. Parking is available on the street and in nearby public lots.

For more information, call the UW-River Falls Outreach and Graduate Studies office at 715/425-3256 or 800-228-5607, or visit the event's web site at www.uwrf.edu/ogs/barn.

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