Wisconsin: Making It Home project honors state's rich natural heritage
What makes a place special? What makes it home? What do you love about Wisconsin? Join the Wisconsin Humanities Council on a statewide journey that seeks your answers to these important questions.
by Jessica Becker, Wisconsin Humanities Council
It’s been said that there’s “something in the water” in Wisconsin. How else can you account for the number of people who have enthusiastically dedicated their lives to studying, taking care of and sharing a love for the Wisconsin landscape?
Some of these names are very familiar to those of us living here, like the late Aldo Leopold, UW-Madison Agriculture professor and author of the classic 1949 book “A Sand County Almanac.” This tree farmer’s restored farm and modest “shack” have grown into the Aldo Leopold Legacy Center, one of the more sustainably built structures on the planet. Today, some heirs to our state’s Leopold legacy are gaining national recognition as their work inspires international replication, such as Milwaukee’s MacArthur Fellow Will Allen and his community-empowering experiments in urban gardening, or writer Terese Allen (no relation) and her chronicles of the contributions Wisconsin agriculture makes in the global trend toward organic farming and regionally-based economies.
Wisconsin’s majestic landscapes and abundant waters inspire people to make this place their home; they also power the state’s agricultural, industrial, and recreational economies. The unique features of this place, from the rocky shores of Lake Superior to the soaring bluffs of the Mississippi River, from the rolling hills of the Driftless region to the beaches of Lake Michigan, have inspired writers, artists, poets and anyone else who pauses to notice.
The Wisconsin Humanities Council has embarked on a multi-faceted initiative that asks us all to pause and notice the unique, beautiful and critical aspects of life in Wisconsin. Wisconsin: Making it Home includes projects that aim to identify our common values in regards to land and water; or, to put it another way, to reflect upon and share the things we love about our home state’s rich natural heritage. Wisconsin: Making it Home projects aim to provide space for communities to celebrate the legacy this state has in international conservation history, using that legacy as a foundation from which we can explore the future of our natural resources, a future which will include protecting fragile eco-systems, conserving life-giving water, supporting agricultural innovation, promoting responsible outdoor recreation, and encouraging thoughtful policy debate on development and growth.
Wisconsin: Making it Home film festivals will premiere “GreenFire,” a new full-length film about Aldo Leopold produced by the Aldo Leopold Foundation and the US Forest Service, as well as a handful of other films selected from the UW-Madison Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and the Environment’s annual environmental film festival, Tales from Planet Earth. The festivals, opening in four Wisconsin communities between Leopold Days and Earth Day in the spring of 2010, will build on the themes presented in the films and offer programs for audiences to engage with the ideas actively, creatively, and collectively. The WHC will select four communities to host the festivals through a competitive application process (due March 30, 2008) and will work with the each community and the Nelson Institute to develop a unique festival for each region.
Another one of the WHC’s statewide initiatives that explores our state’s deep connection to agriculture and the land is Key Ingredients: America by Food. This Smithsonian “Museum on Main Street” traveling exhibition will come to the state in the fall of 2010. Like the well-loved classic, “The Flavor of Wisconsin,” (Wisconsin Historical Society Press, new edition Spring 2009), the Smithsonian exhibition explores the connections between Americans and the foods they produce, prepare, preserve and present at table. The exhibition takes a provocative and thoughtful look at the historical, regional and social-traditions that merge in everyday meals and celebrations. Six small towns around the state will host the exhibition and work with the Wisconsin Humanities Council to plan complementary programs designed to explore these important issues in their own communities. The Key Ingredients tour begins in October of 2010. Applications to host, as well as more information about the exhibition, can be found at the Wisconsin Humanities Council Web site (applications due April 15, 2009).
WHC programs encourage careful, informed reflection on human history and culture that helps us understand where we have been, where we are, what we value and why. If you have an idea for another public humanities project that answers the question “Why do you call this place home?,” please consider applying to our grant program. For more information, visit www.wisconsinhumanities.org or call 608-262-0706.