Love Wisconsin's arts & humanities workshop in the Northwoods brings kids together to creatively envision the future
“My wish for Wisconsin is that we would live in peace. And actually, I wish there were no robbers and also other bad people.” - Layla Konitzer | Marinette, WI
Layla was one of eight children who gathered on the lawn of a community art studio called The Big Easel in Wabeno this past July for a special "Wish for Wisconsin" workshop. There were pots of paint, as well as different size brushes and blank canvases, set up on the tables under a large shade structure in the yard. Connie and Tim, who run The Big Easel studio and restaurant, regularly work with young people to design and create collaborative murals. They were relaxed and welcoming as the kids arrived, inviting everyone to help themselves to snacks and drinks.
Connie says about their work, "We believe there is real power in collaborative art. There is power in finding things we share, not in what divides us. Collaborative art allows us to explore these things in a way that is greater than the sum of the parts." In 2019, she and Tim shared the story of how they came to run The Big Easel in a historic logging town with only about 1,100 residents. Their Love Wisconsin story was so inspiring and fun that we asked them to collaborate with us to host an arts and humanities workshop for kids. We were thrilled by their enthusiasm!
"Wish for Wisconsin" is a way to invite conversation and reflection about the experience of growing up in Wisconsin. After brainstorming together to create a list of things they cared about, the kids watched videos that had been made at past workshops to see how other kids had expressed their ideas artistically. Connie understands that a blank canvas can be intimidating, so she created a circle with the kids around one shared canvas, each holding a large, chunky brush. She showed them how to make messy blots of color, encouraging everyone to join in. Soon that blank canvas was covered in dots and the group was free to find a comfortable spot to begin their own work.
Fern Loaiza, Love Wisconsin Digital Producer, and Jessica Becker, the Digital Communications Director for Wisconsin Humanities, took photos and video of the process. Each child had the chance to make a special video message with their "Wish for Wisconsin." All of these wishes are now part of the Love Wisconsin collection of stories, shared on the website and social media channels! We believe that the diverse ideas expressed through Love Wisconsin's stories are a way to celebrate and connect the people who live here.
Check out the Wish for Wisconsin: Wabeno page, where you'll find a video about the project and wishes from Evan, Neena, Kiley, Moriah, Jazmine, Sophia, Willa, and Layla.