BY JESSICA ZALEWSKI
The Branch at 1501 in Uptown Racine rumbles with the murmur and laughter of enthusiastic chatting. In the background, local DJs spin crowd favorites and the delicious smell of free food entices. Somehow, free food always smells––and tastes––better. Zeroing in on just one of the many conversations taking place, you might hear about the six-month-long writer-in-residence program now sponsored by the Racine Literacy Council, an upcoming choral performance by Belle Ensemble, or a project o emblazon verses by local poets on the walls of Racine.
Above is a typical experience at an ArtRoot ArtsMixer. Mark your calendar for the next one on Thursday, May 16 from 6 – 9 p.m. at The Branch. In every direction, there will be news about the arts from many of the hundreds of creatives who call Racine home: visual artists, writers, musicians, designers, actors, dancers, filmmakers, curators and other arts professionals. Not only limited to the creative community, southeastern Wisconsinites gather to share their latest ideas and common interests at these biannual events.
In 2014, ArtRoot, a collaboration of Racine artists and arts advocates, launched ArtsMixers to better connect our deep and broad arts community that encompasses everything from cutting edge performance series and multidisciplinary choral groups to a nationally recognized museum with the largest collection of contemporary craft in the U.S.
ArtRoot believes that the city of Racine is dense enough to accommodate people working in an array of disciplines yet small enough to sustain a strong sense of camaraderie. Space is affordable and networking is easy. These factors generate a community that is productive, welcoming and inclusive.
Over the past several years, ArtRoot has been partnering with other organizations to further the development of the infrastructure and opportunities necessary for the creative ecosystem to thrive. The arts community has continued to grow, with the addition of artist workspaces, galleries, gatherings and special art events.
Some specific examples of ArtRoot’s impact since its inception in 2013 include the writer-in-residence and Wall Poems of Racine projects mentioned above. Since 2017, ArtRoot has partnered with the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and Ask Me Why I Love Racine to choose, design and plan the poem murals. The first Wall Poem will become a reality within the next year.
Also in 2017, the committee started an ArtRoot welcome wagon to introduce creatives moving to Racine to the local arts community. The group has welcomed 17 artists, curators and gallery directors to date, giving them helpful resources and establishing new connections and even friendships. These meetings have blossomed into exciting opportunities like a juried exhibition of works by local artists at UW-Parkside and an upcoming unique fundraising event for a local nonprofit.
For working artists, supporters of the arts or those new to the arts, ArtRoot is ready to welcome and introduce anyone who is truly interested to the constellation of talented individuals, fresh projects and dynamic organizations that define the art scene in Racine. If you or someone you know would be interested in the ArtRoot Welcome Wagon, artrootracine.org/welcome-wagon/ has all the basics.
And remember, you’re invited to discover more about all the arts in Racine––and meet the artists––at the next ArtRoot ArtsMixer on May 16.
ArtRoot committee member Jessica Zalewski is a visual artist, arts writer and marketing and publications manager at the Racine Art Museum.