Wednesday Webs: An Artful List to Enrich Your Life

Kandinsky This week I had the opportunity to see Kandinsky: A Retrospective at the Milwaukee Art Museum. I’ve always been drawn to this modernist’s colorful boldness and the exhibit was a super representation of his work—130 pieces, to be exact. Interestingly, the exhibit ranged from Kandisky’s early years of self-discovery, including Impressionism and Art Nouveau (my favorite); to the bold abstractions we normally associate with him; to his final watercolor works in the 1930-40s.

I love the Milwaukee Art Museum with all its splendor of art and architecture. But lately I’m giving nod to a less formal presentation of art—rural art. It’s one I really appreciate simply because for the past 2-3 months it’s all I’ve been working with.

Fermentation Fest's Rural Art
Not that I’ve mentioned it at all (cough), but my recent project has been an event guide for the upcoming Fermentation Fest. Okay, I admit I’ve been a bit obsessed with it. It’s food. It’s art. It’s two of my great loves—an exciting event you simply must check out!

Anyway, in doing this project I’ve become aware of many organizations that greatly enrich our lives.

Here they are:

  • Art of the Rural is an group of rural Americans working to promote rural arts and culture. Every other year it sponsors Year of the Rural Arts and 2014 is one of those years!
  • Looking for a grant? To date, ArtPlace America has given $56.8 million in support of the arts, including several grants to Fermentation Fest’s very own Sauk County, Wis.
  • If you watch even a little PBS television, you’ve heard of the National Endowment for the Arts. This federal agency also provided funding for the Fermentation Fest.
  • Wisconsin Arts Board, another supporter of Fermentation Fest, has a great list of Wisconsin art tours.
  • Arts Wisconsin regularly posts cool artsy happenings and news on its Facebook page (bringing much more positivity to my day than political posts).
  • The Wormfarm Institute started out as a farm (but not a worm farm) and is now a non-profit working to integrate agriculture and culture. It’s currently accepting applications for its artist residency program.

Goodman Center is More Than Fancy


A few weeks ago we attended a fundraising dinner for the Goodman Community Center in Madison. I have to mention the promotional pieces they put out for the event because they did such a super job.

Each of the pieces was spot on—uniformity of branding, educational information, and a “fancy-filled” style. Madison, by nature, is a casual town, but when the invitation uses key words like “fancy” (four times), “investment,” “secure future” and “sponsorship,” you know not only should you dress up, but you also need to bring your checkbook. That is, after all, the objective of a fundraising dinner.


Graphic design and copywriting aside, I was excited to get inside this building!

According to its website, the Center’s architecture “demonstrates a classic factory form characterized by an abundance of ground floor windows and two rows of high central clerestory windows, maximizing natural light and ventilation.” Built in the turn of the last century, the 30,000-square-foot building has a diverse industrial history.


In 2005, with the help of local philanthropists, the Center bought the building and began a complete renovation. Today, it houses classrooms, art rooms, game rooms, a fitness center, a café run by teens training in the culinary arts, a food pantry and offices. A covered walkway connects the building to a newly built 12,000-square-foot gymnasium.

Isn’t the steel gantry shown above cool? Once part of an iron works operation, it now it forms a giant gazebo over the gardens and playground.

Inside the Goodman Community Center, Madison, WI

THIS  is why I wanted to see inside this building! Isn’t it beautiful?!

Eppstein Uhen Architects and Vogel Brothers Building Company, both of Madison, did the renovation. They mindfully considered environmentally friendly techniques and the building’s listing on the National Register of Historic Places.

Inside the Goodman Community Center, Madison, WISo, yes, the dinner promotional pieces were well done. And, yes, the building is stunningly beautiful.

But here’s why the Goodman Center really shines:

Each day it provides food, educates young people, cares for older adults and supports the families of four Madison communities. As the Goodman Center says, it strengthens people’s lives.

GCC_5Now that the Goodman Center has room to expand in this wonderful building, it offers new and improved programs. Here are those they highlighted in their fancy-filled and well-designed dinner program:

  • Seed to Table: Gives at-risk students the chance to learn through an urban agriculture curriculum with hands-on propagating, planting, harvesting, preserving and cooking.
  • Dane County Nutrition Site: Fed 8,000 affordable meals to older adults in 2012.
  • Food Preservation Program: Teens preserve abundant local produce for the center’s food pantry customers.
  • Thanksgiving Basket Distribution: Distributed holiday meals to 2,600 families in 2012.
  • Parent Programs: Strengthen the link between parents, children, school and the Center.
  • Madison Empowering Responsibility in Teens (MERIT): Helps Madison teens make good decisions about their sexual health.
  • Vocationally Integrated Pathways (VIP): An alternative high school program where students earn credits through academics and work.
  • 5-Star Childcare (Young Star rating): Programs provide quality care to Madison’s youth.

 Want to support this caring organization? Check out their site here


If Adunate Was a Hotel (or a car)

Historic Congress Hall, Cape May, NJ

In an effort to position themselves amongst tire-kicking clients, freelancers often use metaphorical comparisons. Whereas some freelance professionals are like Yugos in cost and value, others are a Mercedes Benz. On the other hand, if I, as a writer and designer, could be a hotel, I’d want to be Congress Hall (which in car terms is a middle to high level, fully loaded Ford Mustang Convertible—sweeeet!).

My husband and I stayed in this historic hotel last week while vacationing in Cape May, NJ. It certainly wasn’t the cheapest lodging in town. But it wasn’t the most expensive either. Here’s why staying at Congress Hall rather than a Red Roof Inn made our vacation so memorable. And here’s why the hotel’s ultimate value was very much worth its extra cost.

The beautiful lobby in Congress Hall, Cape May, NJ The minute we stepped into this beautiful lobby, I felt embraced by a timeless, seaside charm. There was a wedding reception going on and the grounds were abuzz with guests, but the hotel clerk still managed to make us feel welcomed and special.

Concierge book for Congress Hall, Cape May, NJ

Congress Hall is actually part of the Cape Resorts Group, which includes a B&B, boutique inn, and other lodging venues. Upon checking in, we received this gift of a 155-page concierge book. It’s super interesting—everything from histories of its properties and menus of its restaurants, to what’s happening in the area and stories of people who regularly visit. And wow, check out the Summer 2013 date! Does the group reprint this book every season? It’s like someone really cares enough to keep me informed.

Okay, okay. The marketing professional in me knows the overall objective of this book is to toot the Cape Resort’s horn. But it’s done in such an intriguing, storytelling way, I can’t help being drawn in. If the group puts this much care and intention into one concierge book, it surely will do the same with other things.

Historical items at Congress Hall, Cape May, NJDesigner Charles Eames used to say, “The details are not details. They make the design.”

He also said details make the product.

So it is for the historic hospitality industry. The Congress Hall room keys were inspired by an old mailbag tag used on the Washington D.C.- Cape May line. The tables in the hotel’s Blue Pig Tavern are adorned with antique china and holloware discovered during a 2001 renovation. As a history buff, I was swooning!

Beach Plum Farm, Cape May, NJIn addition to its lodging venues, the Cape Resorts also offers several restaurants, coffee shops and food services. We ate a breakfast and dinner at the Blue Pig Tavern and the food was delicious.

What I loved most was, not only was the seafood fresh, so was the produce. Credit Beach Plum Farm for this. According to the concierge book, this 62-acre farm raises more than 100 varieties of fruits, vegetables, herbs and flowers—all for the group’s restaurants. As we toured the farm, we also saw egg-laying hens, pigs, sheep and beehives. Isn’t that awesome? The minute we tasted our Caesar salads, my husband and I knew they were made with homegrown garlic (we also grow our own). We’re not exactly food connoiseurs, but fresh, homegrown and cooked-from-scratch food certainly stands out!

Congress Hall, Cape May, NJ

So, yeah. Even though I’ve been back in my beloved office for nearly a week, it’s obvious I’m still in a traveler’s nostalgia. I long once again for the New York Times delivered to my door each morning and the relaxed moments sitting in a coffee shop with my husband (ah, I think I’ve finally enlightened him of this great joy in life:-).

Until then, I’m striving to be the Congress Hall of words and design.

Old School Branding with Historic Architecture

Gaston School Gallery and SchoolGrounds Cafe, Cottage Grove, WI

Isn’t this most quaint, inviting schoolhouse ever? I’ve always admired this building as I’ve driven past on my way to Madison—its unique architectural lines, the cozy setting, and the decades of learning that surely transpired within its walls. You can imagine my excitement when in recent years it opened as the Gaston School GallerySchoolGrounds Cafe.

I recently had the opportunity to talk with Eric Willman, general manager of Gaston School Gallery–SchoolGrounds Cafe, where he describes how historic architecture benefits their business and how they’ve used it to create a successful brand. The gallery and cafe are owned by David Morrow and Eric’s wife, Alissa, heads up the bakery department.

Eric’s conversation is fascinating! If you’ve been aspiring to set up shop in a cool, old building, you for sure want to hear what he has to say.

So check out this, my second podcast. And stop by their stunning shop at the intersection of Hwy N and I-94 (exit 244) in Cottage Grove, Wisconsin. It’s a perfect way to wrap up Historic Preservation Month!

Remembering Why We Can


Every time I travel, I become more and more enamored by this fascinating country. There’s the diverse geography, unique cultures, warm people, and cherished histories. And then there’s the food! And the architecture! Plus the art, linguistics, local customs, and all-around ways of life. My list goes on and on!

My husband and I just returned from vacationing out east. Our first stop was Philadelphia for our son’s graduation (so very proud of him!). Visiting a large city always means lots of walking, but that’s the best way to immerse in its essence. It also helps work off the volumes of delectable food we consume!

Making Bloody Marys in National Mechanics Restaurant, Philadelphia, PA

Are you a Bloody Mary fan? National Mechanics Bar & Restaurant is located in the Old City district and has this outrageous make-your-own Bloody Mary bar. Very fun! That’s the grad there, setting the pace. He educated us on a few cultural differences between Wisconsin and Philly—like how Wisconsinites tend to add a whole salad to their Bloody Marys (pickles, eggs, beef stick, whatever fits in the glass) and Philadelphians go with a simple celery stalk and this mega selection of spices. This restaurant didn’t serve a beer chaser either, which obviously is very Wisconsin. No problem, the Bloody Mary was a perfect toast to a delicious brunch.

Walking the boardwalk at Atlantic City

Originally, we had planned to see the New Jersey shore last fall but Hurricane Sandy put a halt to that. Visiting this spring instead turned out to be perfect timing. The weather was a bit blustery, which I much prefer over hot and humid, and the crowd was minimal. Here’s one of the glitzy casinos along the Atlantic City Boardwalk. We’re not much into the gambling scene, but we strolled the whole boardwalk and it was fun just to see it all.

Cape May, NJ lighthouseWe then headed down to the southern tip of the peninsula to Cape May and a much quieter style of vacationing. A walk through this quaint town is like a time warp back to Victorian gentility. It’s filled with historic hotels and homes, all colorful and inviting like those you see in the top photo. Most of them are now B&Bs, restaurants or shops (stay tuned for when I write of our hotel later this week). I’d love to tour them all!

And being on the ocean? Well, for us Midwesterners, it was awesome!

Cape May, NJ

You can’t visit a lighthouse without climbing the tower. So, of course, we hiked the 199 cast iron steps to the top of the Cape May Lighthouse and looked down on the town below. We also checked out the Cape May Winery & Vineyard, one of several wineries in the area, and toured the Cape May Brewing Company. Both were super friendly, fun and tasty!

Chiconteague PonyOur last leg of the trip was a ferry ride across the Delaware Bay and road trip down to the Chincoteague and Assateague Islands in Virginia. Does anyone remember reading Misty of Chincoteague when you were young? I loved this book and the rest of Marguerite Henry’s series. Chincoteague. Assateague. The names themselves evoked intrigue in the heart of a horse-loving, adventure-dreaming girl!

As for pronouncing Chincoteague, have fun with that. We asked every local we came upon and each said it differently. Certainly none of their pronunciations were like the word appears or as this source suggests. If I recall, some said “SHIN-o-tay,” others said “Shin-co-TEE,” and locals referred to themselves as “tiggers.”

No matter how you say it, the Chincoteague National Wildlife Reserve is truly a treasure. Located on Assateague Island, its 14,000 acres of beach, dunes, and marshland are a natural habitat for waterfowl and an adapted haven for these special ponies. We walked for miles and miles.

So there you have it: An abbreviated rundown of our 2-week vacation. As I think of our travels and the thrill of seeing worlds different than our own, I’m once again reminded how enamored I am by the United States. And this Memorial Day, I’m thankful to those who’ve made living here possible.

God bless America!