Art Unites a Community

If you want to capture someone’s attention, whisper. So it is currently with the arts in Door County. Everyone is whispering about Common Ground. Have you heard? Have you heard?

And heard we have.

Finding Common Ground” is the biggest, all encompassing art exhibit ever put together by the Francis Hardy Center for the Arts (FHCA) in Ephraim. This summer, more than fifty artists, musicians, poets, scientists, and environmental, business and community groups are collaborating on an exhibit that focuses on the natural environment of Door County. This extraordinary exhibit is the first of its kind for the FHCA and is scheduled to run from July 16th through August 29th, 2004, and is supported by grants from the Peninsula Arts Association and Wisconsin Arts Board as well as the private sector.

Yet, it is not the first of its kind in the art world. For the last few years artists around the globe have once again become involved in thematic projects to directly address important issues, whether they be political, social or environmental, similar to the revolutionary artist of the 1910s and 1920s. Many of these transitory projects have been designed specifically to create an awareness of environmental issues and to encourage an improved relationship with the natural world. In so doing, artists effectively evoke the power of their art to highlight situations that weigh heavily on both the hearts and the minds of the greater community.

In Door County the situation is no different and there is no better time than the present to bring these issues to the fore. We face challenges like E. coli outbreaks, groundwater contamination, expanded development, and invasive species threatening our natural habitat. The list of environmental imbalances is long and unsettling and should act as a serious wake-up call.

Door County artists participating in the “Finding Common Ground” exhibit have, without hesitation, adopted this cause to further environmental awareness and education. Yet, as powerful as their collective voice is, it has become even more powerful with the collaboration of local groups such as the Door County Land Trust, Wild Ones, The Ridges Sanctuary, Door Property Owners, Bay Shore Property Owners Association, and The Nature Conservancy, to name a few.

Hardy Gallery, Anderson Dock, Francis Hardy Center for the Arts, Ephraim, Door County, art in Door County, galleries in Door County
Weathered planks on the Francis Hardy Center for the Arts.

The FHCA collaborative environmental exhibit has achieved numerous goals that fit their newly changed identity. They have taken a step outside their usual methodology by encouraging artists to create educational based art that speaks from the heart about the world around them. They are asking for art that mediates and art that reconnects artists with their community. With “Finding Common Ground” the FHCA unveils a vehicle to re-ignite the visionary power of art to create a community of artists, environmentalists, scientists and businesses to speak with a common voice.

The exhibit showcases work by renowned Door County and Washington Island artists, whose media include art from recycled metal scraps, functional wood sculptures from fallen trees, fabric art, oil on canvass with forest imagery, realist art on endangered species, navigational imagery with vessels, watercolor of Door County settings, forged silver artwork, photography, ceramics, large wind sculptures, and a glass and ceramic 12-foot mosaic obelisk. There is also a strong contingent of poets, writers, scientists and musicians.

This is the first multi-component exhibit consisting of a core artist group, an invitational artist group, a juried group, and an educational lecture group of its kind in Door County. The sheer magnitude of its message and number of its participants have captured the attention of the lieutenant governor in Madison who responded by inviting the exhibition to tour to Madison for a period of three months after its Door County showing.

The public is invited to the community-friendly installation of the exhibition starting on July 8th and running through July 16th, opening night. Other events include musicians, live theater and speakers and presentations by local environment groups. The exhibit closes August 29th with a special closing ceremony and concert entitled “A New Beginning.”

Finding a common purpose has given Door County residents a common voice and in so doing, has given them the advantage of a common ground to operate from.

Only great things can follow.

Juddville Studio Opens Its Doors to Aspiring Artists

Alexa Ferrie, Logan Ferrie, Hardy Gallery, Francis Hardy Center for the Arts, Anderson Dock, Ephraim, Door County, art in Door County, galleries in Door County

Hands On offers a relaxed atmosphere and a diversity of art projects to visitors of all ages. Aspiring artists can try their hands at glass fusing, ceramic and glassware painting, pottery throwing, mosaic tiling, metalworking, and furniture painting. Housed in a landmark 4,000-sq. ft. “Art Barn,” the groupings of work tables, stools and benches, plus bright surroundings, make the space homey and comfortable. On an average day, families and couples are bent over their pieces working intently while listening to jazz or the latest movie score. Kids crowd around the glaze spinner and laugh as they squirt layers of color on their bowl. A man quietly hums to himself while he considers the perfect combination of colors for his birdhouse. Students choose a spot at a table and quickly feel that Hands On is a place that encourages freewheeling attitudes towards making art — the drips and splotches of paint on the tables and floor are only a part of the story. There are some scheduled activities, such as a summer “Art Camp for Kids,” Saturday Raku firings at noon, and a Friday evening “Art Night for Adults” (ages 21 and older). Everything else is “walkin.” Hands On Art Studio is open daily, May thru October, and is located just south of Fish Creek, 1-3/4 miles east of Hwy. 42 at 3655 Peninsula Players Road; call (920) 868-9311 for more info or visit

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