Free Spaces

Madison’s Chazen art museum doubles size

Live anywhere long enough, and you’re likely to take good things for granted. That’s the way it is for me in Madison, where always-there treasures since 1970 have included a free-admission art museum on the University of Wisconsin campus. I know it as a lovely place to hear classical music on Sunday afternoons, plus an(…)

Mount Horeb: home to trollway, tool museum

Trolls rule in Mount Horeb, a peculiar, creative and vibrant Dane County village of 7,000. The scruffy, impish troll carvings – happy-crazed-creepy in expression, dwarfs to giants in size – have defined and guarded the community since the 1970s. The first trolls were Norwegian imports. Then local wood carver Mike Feeney took over, commissioned by(…)

Color them cool: Walldogs to paint Plymouth

Who doesn’t want to leave their mark on the world before leaving it? Hundreds of strangers will do just that in Plymouth this month, and the community of 8,000 seems to welcome it. About 160 artists – billboard painters, graphic designers, portrait artists and more – from throughout the U.S., Canada and Germany will migrate(…)

Wisconsin in labor: work museums, tours

A lot of us in Wisconsin are seeing red or feeling blue because of this winter’s legislation and citizen protests about collective bargaining rights for state workers. To understand the deepest hues of work, head to Milwaukee, where hundreds of paintings and sculptures show the sweat, hazards and triumphs of manual labor. The Grohmann Museum(…)

Traverse City: new uses for insane asylum

Sunshine, fresh air, beauty as therapy, physical exercise through work: These were crucial components of mental health treatment in the mid 1800s, and Dr. Thomas Story Kirkbride of Pennsylvania came up with plans to make this happen throughout the United States. His sturdy insane asylums were zigzag, two-wing buildings full of windows and cross-ventilation, typically(…)

Wisconsin introduces roadside culture stands

Consider the phrase “roadside culture stand.” It is more than a place to sell fresh veggies, less imposing than the average art fair booth and all about a new way to elevate the unique bounty that defines Wisconsin. Picture a farm stand on wheels, but one that blends art and agriculture. It functions as a(…)

Look for Vernon County’s rare round barns

Think of threatened or endangered species, and a creature that breathes – the bald eagle, a gray wolf or Karner blue butterfly – likely comes to mind before anything made of wood and shingles. But that’s not necessarily so in Vernon County, where historians still contend that nobody else in the world has more round(…)

Two Rivers preserves history of wooden type

“WALL ST. LAYS AN EGG” “JAPS BOMB PEARL HARBOR” “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN” These events made history, but so did the newspaper headlines. Although the large size of the announcements could be produced effortlessly on a computer today, it was quite another matter during the time of history that each bold sentence represents. The letters for(…)

Kohler offers free, three-hour factory tours

When I met Lowell Kappers in 2005, he was 69, had worked at Kohler Co. for 44 years and had yet to truly retire. That was by choice, and not much has changed. The Oostburg man used to wear an air-fed helmet to protect his breathing, and plug his ears with cotton to dull the(…)

First lady opens gov’s house for the holidays

Children seem to adore the state’s first lady, Jessica Doyle, especially when they’re renewing their acquaintance with her. Jessica often visits classrooms around Wisconsin, so checking out her house in Madison seems natural, especially during this festive time of year. The beautiful Executive Residence, home to the governor and his family, sits on four acres(…)

Artwork defines Chicago in small, large ways

When I think of Chicago’s icons, the lofty Sears Tower and festive lakefront Navy Pier come to mind first. They identify the city because of their setting and unique structural silhouettes. Artwork will do the same thing in an even more distinctive way. Think about Picasso’s lion-like sculpture, on Daley Plaza since 1967. Or “Cloud(…)

Sales are numerous, quick at Amish auctions

“Let’s go 50, a dollar-fifty. Now two. And 50. Now three. And 50, just 50 – do we have three-fifty? Fifty? “Sold, for three dollars. All right, times 45 …” Yikes. Had I just bought 45 double-impatiens for $135? Or did he say “four or five,” whatever I wanted? Neither. Auctioneer Philip Wolf was just(…)

Kohler champions outsider art environments

“Think like Nick,” the teacher advises her students, in kindergarten to grade 6. About 235 children will bring their treasures and stories to school May 16, and at 1 p.m. begin walking – one mile west, all uphill – to give up the material goods and cement the memories. “If we don’t get rained out,(…)

Maribel mystery: How deep do caves go?

It was late winter as I headed toward Door County, in the mood for snaking around on county roads. The ruins appeared unexpectedly, so I braked and shifted into reverse. “Maribell Caves Hotel,” a small sign announced, and only the limestone exterior remained in the otherwise barren field. There were no windows, no roof and(…)

Tour de France puts Trek, tours on the map

The three-week Tour de France has begun, and that makes Trek Bicycle Corp. an especially appropriate place to visit. It costs nothing to tour the nation’s biggest bicycle manufacturing company, best known for providing the road bikes that helped make Lance Armstrong a seven-time Tour de France winner. Bike frames and wheels are made in(…)

Las Vegas freebies on the Strip and beyond

The Golden Gate, in downtown Las Vegas, turned 100 this year and is the city’s oldest operating hotel. It is a charming, vintage property where a room is $45 on weekdays ($70 on weekends). That’s all fine and good, but what really gets in-the-know tourists’ attention is the shrimp cocktail. Lots of casino-hotels in Vegas(…)

Mount Horeb museum masters mustards

What a spread it was. In a corner were the fruity recipes – the tart, the sweet, the zesty. Another table was all herb/veggie combos – the dills, the onions, the garlic. Segregated elsewhere was one honey of a collection, literally. This was an eclectic food sampling project, and this was just one part of(…)

Bomber, butterfly aerial displays in harmony

Just outside of Babcock, population 218 and near the Wood-Juneau county line, are two spectacular aerial displays that co-exist amicably despite their huge differences. You can’t see one, and can’t miss the other. Both are reminders of the frailty of life, and the extent to which protection of it is a priority. In Sandhill Wildlife(…)

Architecture rich at Chicago Cultural Center

One of Chicago’s finest architectural gems provides visitors with a cheap way to sample the city’s history, art, music, dance, films and drama. The Chicago Cultural Center, 78 E. Washington St., has been nicknamed the “People’s Palace” because there is no admission for most exhibits and events. Mayor Richard Daly dedicated the building in 1991(…)