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Despite the odds, WACAC thrives in Wyoming

By 

Community Editor, Forest Lake Times

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Photos by Jason DeMoe Wyoming resident Todd Clercx entered this large portrait in the In.Art Show currently on display at the Hallberg Center for the Arts in Wyoming.

It began with Eric Peterson’s run for mayor and has since burgeoned into a lively, vibrant, active arts community. The Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community has worked hard over the last several years to make a real name for itself and that hard work is paying dividends.

“I didn’t know any other way to run for mayor than to knock on doors and introduce myself to people,” Peterson said. “Some of the time when I said that I was an artist, the folks at the door said they were, too. This often led to an invitation inside and a lively conversation.”

Eventually, one of the people that Peterson met asked him about forming a writers group in Wyoming. Soon there was a group of approximately a dozen artists meeting monthly to discuss writing, art and music. Although the odds were slightly against growth in such a small community, that group decided to make things formal and officially declared themselves the Wyoming Area Creative Arts Community. The group made its first official debut at Stagecoach Days in 2013, offering a chance for kids to come and paint on stretched canvases.

“We were meeting at the Nesting Grounds coffee shop and it was great, but we had an urge to find our own space that we could use to host art shows, music concerts or poetry readings and things of that sort,” Peterson said. “We looked into purchasing a band shell for the park, but then we saw that there was a church building for sale on Viking Boulevard.”

The group researched the space and decided to pursue it. It began fundraising.

This piece is part of Alison Price’s “Mosaic Soul” series.
This piece is part of Alison Price’s “Mosaic Soul” series.

“When things need to happen for this group, they just seem to magically fall into place,” Peterson said. “We were, at one time, having issues with becoming a proper 501(c)(3). There was a lawyer involved in our group and he had a connection to Rep. Rick Nolan’s office. He made a call, and the next day our paperwork was fast tracked.”

A similar thing happened with the purchase of the building. Gene Hallberg, founder of Hallberg Marine, heard about WACAC and its mission to bring arts to the area. He was impressed.

“I got a phone call almost out of the blue from Gene saying that he wanted to give us $100,000,” Peterson said. “I was unbelievably grateful as well as flabbergasted. We accepted on the terms that we would never go into debt on the building. The group raised any additional monies that we needed and we paid cash for the building we are in now.”

Another example of things falling into place occurred when the church dropped the asking price and the bidding became very competitive. WACAC was not the one to make the highest bid, but the church believed in the cause and therefore accepted their offer.

Currently, the WACAC stays afloat through grants, donations and a large number of volunteer hours. It hosts an art show every month with openings on the second to last Thursday. Artists have an opportunity to pay $25 for a yearly membership and are granted the opportunity to display their works in members-only shows and also get a profile on the WACAC webpage.

Recently, the group began hosting its very first juried and judged art show. Ninety-seven artists from throughout Wisconsin and Minnesota were narrowed down to 69. That final group competed for $3,600 in cash. The pieces from that show will be on display until Oct. 1. The winners can be viewed at goo.gl/OzDFW9. The center, at 5521 E. Viking Blvd., is open 4-8 p.m. Tuesday to Thursday, noon to 8 p.m. Friday, 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. WACAC offers art classes available to the community.