What fun we had at the Midwest Folklife Festival in Dodgeville, Wisconsin! The young-at-heart were dancing polkas, accompanied by three generations of musicians.
Next the Southern Wisconsin Old Time Fiddlers’ Association entertained the crowd. Inside the Farewell Hall we enjoyed Bosnian folk dancing.
Working up an appetite, we had our choice of the usual Wisconsin fare, brats, hot dogs, and pulled pork. But keeping to the festival’s international theme, the treat of the afternoon was Italian ices loaded with fresh, pureed fruit!
Next we strolled through the Folk Village’s fruit orchard, stopping to chat with artists under white, open-aired tents who were showing eager listeners how to create a variety of musical instruments and traditional crafts representing cultural heritages well-alive here in the Midwest. Tani Diakite played music from Mali for a young dancer and her family.
Nearby, Ghana musician and instrument maker, Djam Vivie, gave impromptu drumming lessons.
We saw Ojibwe flute maker, Frank Montano, Norwegian hardanger fiddle-maker, Ron Poast, and Hmong instrument maker, Dang Yang.
We marveled at Mexican quilts, Tibetan sand mandalas, handmade, wooden fishing baskets, and Syrian Arabic calligraphy. Dennis O’Donnell transformed metal scraps into garden art sculpture. And Stephanie Lemke-Vulganic wove colorful threads over delicate eggs to create Croatian Pisanica. Elda Schiesser demonstrated Swiss paper cutting. Folks gathered around Sidonka Wadina to learn the fine art of Slovakian wheat weaving.
I think the spirit of the day was captured in the work and words of art teacher/therapist, Edna Patterson-Petty. Standing next to her own magnificent quilts and textile art pieces, Edna described how she helps kids turn everyday, inexpensive objects into art. She says “It’s all in the way you look at it.” Her kids may say, “That’s just a rusty chair.” or “Those are old buttons.” But Edna shows them that things that look ugly or worn-out are full of possibility. With thoughtful attention, color can be added, blemishes softened, and shapes combined. As the children work, their own creative spirit pours into common objects. And as they transform objects into art, they unwittingly transform themselves. They heal the hurts; they become the beautiful, – and the self-valued. Edna teaches that hope always inhabits the common, the everyday, and even the ugly, whether they be things, rooms, or situations. Every person is capable of recognizing that hope. Every person can be the artist who pulls out that hope, highlights it, and under a shining light, calls us together to admire its beauty. Beauty is available to all of us, by our own hands, through our own unique spirits. Beauty knows no international borders. Beauty is always a celebration. And the beauty of the human condition, common to us all, is what we celebrated this weekend at the Folklore Village.
.How grateful we are for Wisconsin’s vibrant art community. Wisconsonites express themselves in sculpture, fine art, speciality foods, music, and literature. Here’s a small sample of their work.
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