Home News & Events Quarterly Newsletter 2015 End of Year Report

2015 End of Year Report

For 30 years, Arts Midwest has been celebrating arts and culture through performances, touring exhibitions, community-wide reading programs, and learning opportunities that have provided countless moments to connect, share, and learn together.

None of these moments would be possible without our family of supporters, friends, board, and staff. So now, in honor of our 30 years, we wish to share a meal with you and raise a glass (or a fork) in your honor. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you for your commitment, vision, and belief in our mission.

Stockpot iconDownload our recipe booklet

Featured stories

Group photo of students of all ages
Kenosha Literacy Council ELL Class. Photo by Joshua Feist.

The Big Read

Alan Bennett once said, “A book is a device to ignite the imagination.” So what better way to spark new connections and ideas than through a city-wide reading program? With 1,255 grants to libraries, universities, and nonprofit organizations over the past nine years, The Big Read has done just that—brought us all a little closer and advanced our collective imaginations.

“The Big Read taught us there is a hunger for culture and literacy; we distributed nearly 3,000 books, and we could have given away many more.” —UW-Parkside Library Staff

It is perhaps no great surprise that one of the most popular Big Read titles is Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451. The libraries, schools, and civic organizations participating in this community-wide reading program are helping to prevent the same dystopia that Bradbury portrayed—a book-burning culture that fails to value the importance of dissent and learning from our mistakes.

A first time grantee in 2014, University of Wisconsin-Parkside in Kenosha hosted their own celebration of literature with presentations by Bradbury biographer Sam Weller, book discussions in tap rooms and a nature preserve, and $4.51 specials at local restaurants.

But perhaps the most clever aspect of their community engagement—the one that would please Mr. Bradbury the most—was working with the Kenosha Literacy Council to teach this classic to nine English language learners, a gesture that underscores the power and value of literacy and literature in contemporary American society.

Flame iconGrab your culinary torch and try this recipe homage to Fahrenheit 451: a delicious Crème Brulee.


Floorplans on a drafting table
Floorplan of the new Watermark Art Center. Photo by Joshua Feist.


Working in isolation only teaches us what we already know. That’s why ArtsLab—which offers leadership development courses—ensures that every learning opportunity is based in connection and collaboration. And that’s why the arts organizations that participate in this program walk away with more than a strong business model; they have new knowledge, new possibilities, and new relationships to build their futures.

The Watermark Art Center is the story of an organization transformed and an organization on the move. Packing boxes as they relocate to a new facility, Executive Director Lori Forshee-Donnay reflects on what brought about this change, “ArtsLab coached us to understand our needs and the process to make change happen. I’ve packed a lot of stuff away as we prepare to move to a new facility, but my ArtsLab notebook stays on the shelf.”

Through ArtsLab, Watermark built a stronger, more strategically-focused board of directors, conducted market research to assess community needs and identify stakeholders, and began to plan for a new facility complete with galleries, classrooms, and retail space.

Today, the Center is excited about their future. For while the arts have always been strong in Bemidji, now—through a groundswell of community support—they will have a new home.

Eggplant iconChef Reed Olson of Wild Hare Bistro & Coffeehouse in Bemidji, MN shared this recipe for Zucchini Alfredo.


Young couple views artwork in a gallery
George Morrison’s Cumulated Landscape on exhibition. Photo by Tiffany Rodgers.

Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison

Boldness and serenity, depth and light, mysticism and nature. Few artists can incorporate these seemingly disparate concepts into their artwork as powerfully as Minnesota modernist George Morrison. In 2013, Arts Midwest began touring Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison, a national exhibition that provided a new platform to experience the depth and diversity of this Native American artist.

“I always see the horizon at the edge of the world. And then you go beyond that…” —George Morrison

From 2013–2015, Arts Midwest had the honor of working with the Minnesota Museum of American Art, touring the drawings, paintings, prints, and sculptures of one of Minnesota’s most beloved artists, George Morrison, to five museums across the United States.

Challenging the boundaries of Native American and modernist identities, celebrating urban and rural homelands, and speaking to both spirituality and the physical world, the 82 works in the exhibition Modern Spirit: The Art of George Morrison offered audiences a place to contemplate these dualities while gazing upon Morrison’s renderings of Lake Superior and that important yet complex place where water meets sky—the horizon.

After visiting North Dakota, New York, Indiana, and Arizona, the exhibition came to a close in April 2015 with a stunning installation at the Minnesota History Center, giving this distinctive Ojibwe artist the national recognition he long deserved.

Teacup iconSioux Chef Sean Sharman provided us with this authentic native recipe for Cedar Maple Tea.


Shanren teaches high school students a traditional dance

Arts Midwest World Fest

We believe in the universal language of music—believe that it teaches us about other cultures, builds common ground where differences may otherwise prevail, and offers new space to reflect on our own heritage. That’s why for 10+ years, we’ve toured international artists to Midwestern communities through Arts Midwest World Fest—sharing that powerful language with neighbors near and far.

“[Arts Midwest] World Fest not only developed a positive understanding about international cultures, it reshaped the way we see each other in this small community.” —Jane Rasmussen, director, Sisseton Arts Council

Most U.S. schools probably overlook dragon-slaying in their curriculum. But during Chinese folk-rock ensemble Shanren’s week-long Arts Midwest World Fest residency, students are transported to the Yunnan mountains, where ancient lore about how to defeat a dragon is told through a dramatic dance.

Sisseton, South Dakota was one of nine communities that heard this folktale during Shanren’s two-year Midwestern tour. And while Shanren’s stories may seem like a fantasy, the connections they made with local residents felt very real.

From a flute exchange and drumming circle with the local Dakota community, to their first ice fishing experience (they caught a walleye!), to unexpected connections about creative expression and cultural heritage, this exchange was filled with moments that demonstrated our similarities far outnumber our differences.

Pumpkin iconAi Yong, a member of Shanren, shares a recipe for Pumpkin Rice with Spicy Chicken.

Additional recipes

Download and print additional recipes inspired by our programs, and add them to your collection.

Moroccan Carrot Salad Recipe Card
Moroccan Carrot Salad
Spicy Beer Mustard Recipe Card
Spicy Beer Mustard
Avocado Chutney Recipe Card
Avocado Chutney
White Bread Recipe Card
White Bread
Buffalo Heart Stew Recipe Card
Buffalo Heart Stew
Shrewsbury Cakes Recipe Card
Shrewsbury Cakes
Spanakopita Recipe Card
Peach Crunch Recipe Card
Peach Crunch

Flame icon above adapted from icon by Icomoon, CC BY 3.0