“Quick Response: Artists on the Root River” @ Black-Eyed Press September 7 – September 28, 2012 – UW-Parkside Gallery, Black-Eyed Press, community artists collaboration.

Artists //  Bob Andersen / Lisa Bigalke / Kollis Branch / Ron Dunnett / Maureen Fritchen/  Elmer Golon / Maia Hausler / Leah Schreiber Johnson / Kathleen Laybourn/  Francisco Loyola / Janet Mrazek / Dan Nielsen  /  Margot Nielsen / Stacey Piper Milkie / Kate Remington / Jessica Z Schafer/  Kelly Shannon  / Suellyn Scoon / Mary Spence / Mike Spence / Alex Tompsett / Maggie Venn / Rebecca Venn / Gary Wolfe

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UW-Parkside Galleries and Black-Eyed Press invited there local artists to participate in Quick Response: Artists on the Root River, an art-canoe outing on the Root River and an informal exhibition at Black-Eyed Press September 7 – September 25, 2012.  We ask artist-participants to work quickly in response to the river. To see it through direct experience (walking on the banks of the river, canoeing on it, etc.,) and to consider thinking about the role the river plays in Racine’s past, present and future.

The city of Racine grew up along the Root River; yet today this waterway is largely hidden from view. Many people live within walking distance of the river but don’t realize it’s there. In fact, it is difficult to catch a glimpse of the river or find an access point to it when driving through Racine.  It’s exciting to report that in July the Racine city council adopted the “RootWorks” plan to develop the riverfront to make it more visible and accessible with with bike paths, public art, and commercial venues.

What happens when artists come to the river and respond to it? Black-Eyed Press and UW-Parkside Galleries invite a diverse group of artist to meet at the Root River, paddle around on it, look closely, reflect on its history, and respond aesthetically.  Spend a few hours drawing, photographing, or watercolor painting en plein air.  Draw in the mud and document it. Collect specimens and make a book out of them. Develop abstract responses to the river. Make botanical studies or a comic strip. Work with historical maps. Work with narratives, newspaper articles, or your own historical insights about the river into collage or sketch.

Instructions to the artists:  Meet at the Root River Environmental Education Community Center (REC) on August 18th from 9:00 am – noon. UW-Parkside has arranged for free access to canoes for artist and there will be a UW-Parkside naturalist (a geography student involved in riverbank restoration project) to help artists see the plant life on the river more clearly.  Artists should bring the materials they need to the REC on the 18th. Artists are not required to attend this canoe outing. Artist should  work from the river in any way that they would like on their own. The REC is located at 1301 West 6th Street, Racine, WI.

Artists have been asked to respond to the Root River by making studies, sketches, photos, rubbing, etc. Then, to work for about a week  to develop their ideas. Finally, artists deliver their product(s) to Black-Eyed Press by August 31st.   There is no need to frame works as these sketches and studies and photographs and paintings will be tacked to the gallery walls informally.

Black-Eyed Press is located at 312 Sixth Street, Racine, WI 53403.

Resources for audiences and artists from the UW-Parkside Library Archive collection

Historic Maps of Racine: Historic maps of Racine document the changing concept of city from river-oriented town to road and highway-oriented city. See historic maps of Racine from the UW-Parkside Library Archive collection below. All of these maps can be downloaded in a variety of sizes.

1800 Indian Trail map replica. Click on the image and find larger digital files suitable for download. UW-Parkside Archive collection.

Henry Durand’s 1843 drawing of the “village of Racine” included in a letter talking about the river. Look at the details here. They are really cool. UW-Parkside Library Archive collection.

1883 map of Racine. Click on image to access larger files suitable for download. UW-Parkside Archives collection.

1905 Geological Survey map. Click on this image and link to large digital files for download. UW-Parkside Archives collection.

1938 highway commission map of Racine. Click on image to access large digital file suitable for download. UW-Parkside Library Archive collection.

1973 zoning map of Racine. Click on the image to access a large digital file suitable for download. UW-Parkside Library Archives collection.

Small and large digital files of the Root River and Racine (details included) available at this link.

Great Lakes Mega city

Great Lakes Megacity projection 2050

Patricia Briggs

Director, UW-Parkside Gallery


Samira Gdisis

Director, Black-Eyed Press LLC

We thanks all the participating institutions:

Organizations: Black-Eyed Press LLP / Root River Council / UW-Parkside Galleries / UW-Parkside Library Archives / UW-Parkside Geography Department Root River Restoration Project / Root River Environmental Education Community Center

PS: See  land art and landscape projects that inspire the organizers of this project can be seen at the following links. There are not models to follow, but project meant to inspire.

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