Take Me to the River art exhibit is capping off its month-long stay in the River Level Suites of the Historic Eagle Mill at Grand Kakalin, 207 Thilmany Rd., with a special finale Friday, Dec. 2 from 6-9:30pm. The evening will feature live music by Hillary Reynolds, Kerosene Kites, and Feed the Dog. Attendees will have live photo opportunities with on-site portrait booths offered by local photography artists. The all-ages celebration is free and open to the public.
The expansive art exhibit showcases a vast array of local creative talent, featuring multi-sensory art experiences, interactive displays, and pop-up events. Highlights include visual art galleries featuring the work of more than 40 local artists, live and improvisational music, live photography, live painting demonstration, performing art, audio art, storytelling, writing, poetry, hair and makeup, fashion, and interactive projection mapping. Original art of emerging young artists (ages 16-20) recently took over opening night’s popular “light art corner.”
Jean Detjen, Founder of the new Take Me to the River arts revival initiative who curated the large-scale exhibit notes the “arts renaissance” happening in the Fox Cities. “All the stars seem to be in alignment for bringing creative placemaking ideas like this to life. Our community is more than ready for it and there are so many artists deserving of a public spotlight.”
“Opening night blew us away with the overwhelmingly enthusiastic response from the community,” says Detjen. “Estimates are that over 700 people were in attendance that night alone with cars lined up in the parking lot. We ran out of wine, beer, and toilet paper.”
The days following have brought in a steady flow of gallery visitors of all ages from all around the state.
Local artists have been especially attracted to the exhibit. “Artists of many disciplines have been popping into the gallery with their portfolios, eager to get a chance to show what they are creating and get feedback,” says Detjen. “Many have made return visits, which has been encouraging.”
“Expectations have been exceeded for this kickoff event and the goal is to find new venues within the Fox Cities to showcase diverse art,” says Detjen. “The vision is to bring unexpected art into unexpected or unused places and thereby boost the creative economy.”
Contributing photography artist Mark Ferrell wants to see more opportunities for local artists to collaborate and connect in addition to having free community space to create and display work.
Says Ferrell, “The exhibit has been exhilarating in so many ways, but I think the most rewarding aspect has been the opportunity to meet new, young artists. Many of them are totally unaware of the talents and gifts they possess. Coming into contact with the artists at the exhibit representing so many different mediums is a tremendous opportunity to stimulate and motivate these young people to develop their gifts.”
Planning for the mega art exhibit drew inspiration from the newly restored 1872 riverfront paper mill in Kaukauna. "The Grand Kakalin riverfront space is brimming with character, beauty, and life,” Detjen said. She viewed the raw, industrial vacant lower level as a canvas for artists to tell the story of the river through their creations.
The use of the 11,000 sq. ft. building space was made possible by signature sponsor, Stadtmueller & Associates. The local company focuses on redevelopment and historic preservation, with many of their projects located along the Fox River. "Take Me to the River at Grand Kakalin is an inaugural blend of community heritage with the arts as a key component," said company President and building co-owner Randy Stadtmueller. "The Fox River is what connects many of us to our past and to our future. History, arts, and culture help to tell this important story,” he added.
Additional sponsor support came from the Bank of Kaukauna. The Heart of the Valley Chamber of Commerce served as nonprofit fiscal agent for the exhibit.
New stories will be told through visual art and music at the nextTake Me to the River exhibit happening Jan. 13-20 at Rock Garden Studio in downtown Appleton. “Let it Flow” will feature both local and international artists. (Event link: https://www.facebook.com/events/222836684812933/)
For more information, see the Take Me to the River event and community pages on Facebook or contact Jean Detjen firstname.lastname@example.org.