WYOMING – On June 22, opening night of the latest monthly art exhibit by the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community (WACAC), the Hallberg Center of the Arts was alive with both new and old life. Our Town: The Wyoming Project, an original concept creatively thought of and presented by WACAC's event committee, is the first in an annual series of art shows exploring individual communities through the eyes of artists and displays of historical artifacts and photos.
It all started with an old piano.
“After working 45 years with commercial advertising photos in Minneapolis, I was ready to go back to my original roots of being an artist, when I stumbled upon WACAC,” said new member Dennis Jenereaux. “They held a show last year that fascinated me. After receiving the old piano as a donation, WACAC wasn’t sure what to do with it. They were determined to challenge themselves and create some form of art around it. They sang, found a theme to write upon the upper panel, painted it and now it proudly sits as art at the entrance of the art center. That creative event said to me, get up, get out, create, be included. It was the motivator and inspiration behind the Our Town project.”
The exhibit of some thirty artists who visited local places to either paint or photograph what they see in Wyoming today, include fire engines at Rosenbauer America, the old water tower, farms and buildings, land and nature, the barber shop and more.
The exhibit was sponsored by local business B&N Sheet Metal. Among the more than 70 visitors on opening night was Diane Hallberg of the Hallberg Family Foundation, Wyoming mayor Lisa Iverson, former mayors Eric Peterson (now the Executive Director of WACAC), Vern Haag, Rodney Hestekin and Neil Gatzow.
“Back in the '70s, right after all the sanitary sewer systems were put in, Aston North was developed. People were outraged with all the development,” said Hestekin. “We paved all the streets for the first time and in 1976 we had our very first fire truck, before Rosenbauer was here in Wyoming.”
Gatzow, now President of the Chisago County Historical Center out of Lindstrom, brought some cobblestone bricks that were unearthed two-years ago, between 267 Street and Felton.
“We know the area was the location of the old opera house and that people would park their horse and buggies just across the street. I believe the cobblestones were there for people to walk on as they entered the theater. It’s fascinating to have discovered this part of Wyoming history,” said Gatzow.
WACAC was pleasantly surprised by how local businesses opened their doors for artists to collect artifacts.
“It was the involvement of those businesses that brought the inspiration to our artists to create,” said Jenereaux. Among the extraordinary artist pieces hang old city maps, photos from early school days, and a display of handcuffs and a ballet box from around 1880.
Robb Linwood, Wyoming City Administrator, told how the old ballet box was found.
“We found it in the public works building just last year,” said Linwood. “The soldered tin barrel-shaped ballet box still has the original colors of blue, red and gold inscriptions. It came from Geo. D. Barnard & Co., out of St. Louis, Missouri, dated back to 1880. It was quite the find and now I keep it in my office as a reminder of how far we have come in Wyoming.”
Wyoming Police Chief Hoppe told a similar story about his finding a pair of handcuffs in an old safe in the original town hall building.
“I suspect they were used by the police constable during the township, before Wyoming had a police department,” he said. “When we opened the safe, the cuffs still had the key in them. I keep them with me at the police department as a memento of how far back our culture goes in policing and how we’ve changed over time.”
Dave Freemore, a pyrography (wood burning) artist and avid member and volunteer for WACAC, displayed a large wooden replica of Wyoming’s logo, originally created by Roger Elmore, former city council member, chair of Wyoming Township Board and Parks Board. Freemore's artwork won him one of three People’s Choice Awards on opening night.
Haag, former Wyoming mayor said it best: “It’s fun to watch the city grow and people come in.”
Our Town - the Wyoming Project is free and open to the public for viewing through July 15; Tuesdays-Fridays, 4-8 p.m., and Saturdays 12-4 p.m. Our Town is a long-term art project that will host a new city each year. It is hoped that other surrounding communities will participate, as well as other neighboring communities. To learn more about this or future events or how to become a member, visit WACAC's website at wyomingcreativearts.org. The Hallberg Center for the Arts is located at 5521 East Viking Blvd., Wyoming.