Juneau County Residents Collaborate on a Monumental Art Exhibit

September 05, 2017

Terese Agnew, an artist and La Farge resident was strolling through the cemeteries by her home, when the idea for “Writing in Stone” took hold. Agnew began researching the important people, ideas, and ethics that shaped Wisconsin. Her plan was to monumentalize the ideas. She started by creating a community of people of like minds.

“Writing in Stone" is, first of all, a collaboration with fellow artists and a group of people from all walks: historians, writers, performers, master carpenters and workers in the skilled trades, book clubs, organizers, and helpers. Even people who make pie,” states Agnew.

The Great Wisconsin ideas were discussed, over dinners, classes, parties, and gatherings. Then the ideas were cemented into stone. Literally, larger than life monuments began to take shape. As of now, there are 22 monuments, honoring more than 50 different important Wisconsin dignitaries and ideals.

The project has been in progress for more than two years. In that time, over 100 people have participated. Among them, several Juneau County residents.

At one point, the idea took shape to have book clubs help with research by reading important Wisconsin books. Dory Domanowski, an Elroy resident, helped with that.

“When Terese first described her project I immediately said, “How can I get involved.” I contacted public libraries to enlist their aid in reading to uncover and report on the leaders and movements throughout Wisconsin’s past. We sent out over 200 hundred invitations. I also did some research for many of the monuments. It has been a thrilling process and I have met so many interesting people similarly enthralled by Terese’s energy and the scope of her ideas.”

The book club idea didn’t take off like the smash hit I had envisioned”, stated Agnew, “but quietly and bit by bit, people did read and contribute. Dory Dominowski was my first researcher and she knows quite a few exciting back-stories right about now.”

Diane Dahl, a Mauston artist, was one of the collaborators on the project. “It started with Jane Powers, a Mauston resident, wanting to introduce me to Terese, a quilter, and famous artist,” stated Diane Dahl. “When she spoke of her quilt 'The Textile Worker', immediately- I knew who she was. She had been featured in the PBS series “Crafts in America” with a landmark quilt made from 30,000 designer labels. I was excited and awestruck to meet her. I had no idea that I would actually get the opportunity to paint and work by her side. And on a project that holds so much meaning to me. Terese made me realize just how much art can change and heal the world.”

Jeri Mehne, from New Lisbon, lent her artistic and carpentry skills to the project, “I am so proud to have witnessed the development of this project. It is a powerful message for our times. Wisconsin has created laws and ethics that make us want to live here. Our reverence for the land, hunting, our love of family, they are there in our laws. Changing a law changes our way of life. People need to be mindful of that.”

Peggy Kzyzewski, from Wisconsin Dells, was a major collaborator creating several beautiful, handcrafted books for the exhibit. “I am so proud of the progressive history of Wisconsin. It's an honor to take part in presenting and protecting that history.” Her husband Tony who lent his hand added, “this project literally brings history alive”.

BillieJo Scharfenberg, Director of Artistic Expressions in Mauston, shared her artistic skills with the project. “It was such fun. Terese is the brainchild of an incredible project but she lets other artists have a voice. I was proud to give my voice to things people may forget. . . but shouldn't.”

Cathy Dodge Williams, the head librarian in Necedah, lent her tremendous artistic skills to the project. Karyn Niin Kitigade, from Mauston, spent a day helping at Agnew's studio and provided much needed calming exercises.

Curriculum materials have been developed for this exhibit in art, history and social studies. For educators interested in the materials, please contact Sam Scinta at sam@inspiredmindsedu.org or Laura Veglahn at lveglahn@cesa4.k12.wi.us.

“The beauty of this kind of collaboration is that each individual gesture and creative act gives the final artwork its power. This isn’t just one artist saying: here is what I think…..it’s a participatory process drawing on the thoughts and ideas of many people,” expressed Agnew.

Terese came to learn the true beauty of the collaborative network she had formed when two weeks ago she fell off a ladder and broke her ankle. Her fellow artist and friends have been there to help, literally, keep the show on the road.

Writing in Stone exhibit can be seen at Viterbo University from Sept. 11–13. On Sept 11, artist, Terese Agnew, will give a presentation on the work to enhance the learner’s experience with inspiration, dialogue, and a hands-on art workshop for curious creators.

It will move to the Watrous Gallery in Madison on September 23rd.