In the summer of 2016 my friends and I went to go see Panic! at the Disco at Summerfest; unfortunately, I was unfamiliar with the venue and when I booked my seats, I ended up in the nosebleed section. I spent most of my time watching the big screen because I could barely see the lead singer, and the distance from the stage made me feel awkward when I sang along. Six years earlier, I went to Lifest with some members of my church. At the beginning of the Skillet concert, I was immediately separated from my friends and thrown into the mosh pit. For a fourteen-year-old who had never been to a concert before, it was a little overwhelming.

These two instances, while also being attributed to poor-planning and bad luck, highlight some problems that come with visiting big concert venues. And while some people like the chaos of the larger venues, for others, it’s not their cup of tea. Whether you’ve had experiences like mine or just prefer a more intimate setting, here’s ten reasons to visit a smaller performing arts center.

  • Intimate Setting – There are no nose bleed seats in venues of 400 people or less. The smell of popcorn and the buzz of excitement are the same as bigger venues, but smaller venues feel more like being invited to a house party instead of being one of sea of thousands. This ensures you can actually see the performers and know they are genuinely performing. As unfortunate as it is, there are performers who choose to lip sync at larger venues because visibility is limited.
  • Closer Connection to Performers – Meet them after the performance and get to know them. Connecting with performers on a more personal level connects you to the rest of their work while also revealing their passions and ideas. Instead of hiding behind flashing lights and special effects, conversing with the artist expands the experience of the performance while also humanizing them.
  • Volunteer Staff – Volunteer staff work very well for small venues because they enjoy and support the venue. Larger venues usually have security and scanners who may not even look up from your ticket; you’re just another face in the crowd. Workers at smaller venues genuinely care about the patron’s experience at the show. Additionally, they are usually willing to help you out or give advice in case of confusion or uncertainty. In the Midwest, people are friendly, engaging and willing to give out tips about where to go in the area. You can attend a performance by yourself and not feel uncomfortable because there is always someone to talk to.
  • Visual Arts Galleries – Many smaller venues are multi-use venues that promote a wide variety of arts including displaying the artwork of local artists. Come a bit early, get a drink and browse through the galleries and see some amazing local artwork too. Instead of being glued to your seat for fear of someone taking it, small venues ensure a more casual atmosphere, giving you more mobility and room to explore without wondering whether you’ll get your seat back or not.
  • “I Knew Them When” – Nearly all “overnight successes” have actually spent years—decades—paying their dues and perfecting their craft by performing in smaller venues throughout the US before their big break. And even after their big break, some artists will return to those smaller venues to give back the support that was given to them when they were just starting out. The next performance you see at a small venue may be the next big thing.
  • Beautiful Architecture – A number of smaller venues are housed in old or unique buildings that are being repurposed and saved from the wrecking ball. These venues have a special character and feel that is not found at larger and newer venues.
  • Fantastic Customer Service – Ticket purchases are not “do or die” commitments. You buy a pair of pants and they don’t fit, you can take them back. You buy a ticket for an event that hasn’t sold out, but you learn that you can’t attend – big venues tell you are stuck with them. After that, you’re struggling to pawn them off on friends and relatives, trying anything to get rid of the tickets or get some money back. Smaller venues are willing to work with you because they realize that life happens.
  • Mentoring for Artists and Performers – Small venues promote and mentor local and upcoming performers. Large venues are usually for performers who have had their big break. But small venues have the potential to introduce you to a genre or a style you may not have known you would like. Small venues support local artists because they are making a positive contribution to the community that deserves to be seen by others.
  • Audience Participation – During my freshman year of college, the Blugold Marching Band—which I play saxophone for—took a cruise around western Italy. On the ship there was a small piano bar. My friends and I would go to these four-hour shows and sing along, song after song. Unlike my experience at Summerfest, comfort of this small piano bar made audience participation easier and much more fun. Artists understand that audience members are people who sing laugh, and tell jokes. This is another level of intimate interaction with the performer that you normally wouldn’t get at a larger venue.
  • Economic Development Driver – Audiences coming to performances or exhibits at small venues are not only spending at the art center, they are eating out at restaurants, buying gas at local stations, doing a little shopping, and afterwards checking out the nightlife. These audiences have a direct impact on local businesses, plus they put more tax money into local government budgets. YES, although many small arts venues are non-profit organizations, they still pay sales taxes on the tickets and the concessions they sell.

Small venues also provide the community with an extremely valuable resource that is sometimes overlooked: access to the arts. Making it as an artist is not easy; it requires perseverance, growth, and persistence. Additionally, art programs in public schools seem to be shrinking more and more each year, despite the benefits children can reap from exposure to the arts. Places like the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin do the community a tremendous service in using art to connect members of the Chippewa Valley to the creative world.

Written by Courtney Pagel and Deb Johnson



Finding the Right Venue: Vintage Weddings

If you have lived in the Chippewa Valley long enough to see a beautiful sunny day, you may find it extremely difficult to deny the sheer attractiveness of the area. It has a good proximity to the Twin Cities without being overcrowded. There is enough natural scenery and open space to be comfortable, highlighting not only a historic past, but a rapidly developing city as well. It is a beautiful combination of nature and urban activity, making it the perfect place for a wedding.

Within the past few decades, wedding trends have taken on a different style approach, moving away from the classic church and encompassing a DIY attitude, allowing for a more creative and simplistic feel. Included in this trend is the debate over the wedding venue: outside or inside? Vintage? Rustic? Exotic? The choices are endless. However, if you’re looking to take advantage of the beautiful Chippewa Valley scenery via a rustic barn wedding, take a moment to consider the challenges of a barn wedding, and the benefits of a vintage wedding held at the historic Heyde Center for the Arts.

When planning an outdoor or rustic wedding, the biggest concern for many couples is the weather. Wisconsin weather, especially, is known to fluctuate very quickly, and can often reach extremes without so much as a few days’ notice. Depending on the time of year, you might be battling storms, snow, heat, cold, or mud. Another thing to consider with outdoor weddings is sun and bugs. By having the wedding outside, your guests run the risk of sun burn and/or bug bites. Additionally, barns and other outdoor venues are not climate controlled, so your guests might have to prepare for sweltering heat and humidity or the frigid cold.

One of the great things about the Heyde Center is that even though the building is over 110 years old, it is climate controlled, not only providing shelter in potentially unfavorable weather, but also ensuring a comfortable climate for your guests. And before you think a tent will solve all the problems of an outdoor wedding, consider the money you might have shell out for a good tent. You would also be providing all of the furniture and providing bathrooms for your guests.

While the rustic scenery of the rural Chippewa Valley is appealing, it would be sensible to consider the fact that barns are primarily used for animals. Depending on the venue, barn owners might be working to clear out animals and equipment to accommodate the wedding. Couples run the risk of having to clean up or get used to the lingering smell of the animals, which is much more difficult to get rid of than most people realize. The Heyde Center is located in a wonderful spot atop a large hill, enabling photographers to capture the beautiful scenery of the area before heading into the building for the rest of the wedding.

Blogger Audra Jones points out the fact that if you’re planning on holding your wedding in a true barn, there will likely be very little available electricity, if at all. This could pose a significant problem with lighting, DJs or bands, the bar, the caterer, you name it. The requirement for outside power sources could put a big hole in a couple’s budget, and create some anxiety about what would happen if one of the generators suddenly blew out. Barn weddings also usually lack a sufficient area for caterers to prep the food, making outside catering more expensive than it would be at an indoor wedding. Some caterers require a kitchen area for prep, and this could also seriously limit one’s catering options.

There is a lot of stress that goes into planning a wedding. From caterers and guests, invitations, photographers, dresses, and flower arrangements, there is so much that could go wrong. Choosing the right venue could alleviate a significant amount of stress. Places like the Heyde Center for the Arts offer a classic atmosphere that is amiable to couples, guests, caterers, and everyone who will be a part of your Big Day. The building provides access to the beautiful Chippewa scenery while also accommodating for the unpredictable and sometimes frustrating Wisconsin weather. Additionally, the classic setting allows couples to express their vintage style, coordinating with a variety of color schemes and styles. By choosing the right venue, you will spend more time as you should be – celebrating this special day with your friends, family, and brand-new spouse.


A British Touch to the Holidays: Afternoon Tea

For many Americans, the first thing that comes to mind when we think of British culture—other than the Royal Family—is tea. The idea immediately conjures mental images of old aristocrats with their pinkies in the air, fine china, and finger sandwiches. In fact, according to the BBC and the Tea and Infusions Organisation, in 2016 Britons were drinking 60 billion cups of tea per year! That number is further broken down to being more than 900 cups for every man, woman, and child in Great Britain! Despite it being so prevalent in everyday life, there are still important cultural cues to consider if you plan on having tea like the Brits.

Believe it or not, the popularity of tea in Great Britain is a modern cultural phenomenon. According to NPR, Britain was first introduced to tea when Catherine of Braganza, a Portuguese princess, married King Charles II in 1662. However, tea at that time was extremely expensive and could only be afforded by the upper classes and aristocracy, only 3% of the population. However, tea prices dropped in the late 1700s making it affordable for everyone. The modern idea of tea as a small meal came about in the early-mid 1800s when Anna Maria Russell, Duchess of Bedford invented a way to fight off hunger pains between lunch and dinner, at that time served around 8pm. She ordered tea and snacks to her bedroom and would often invite other ladies to socialize with her. This trend caught on in aristocratic circles, and soon became an everyday custom.

The Duchess of Bedford pioneered what is referred to as afternoon or “low” tea. Considering Britain’s staunch class system, this seems like it should be reversed with the “high” tea of the lower classes. The names suggest the height of the furniture in which the tea time takes place. For the upper class and aristocracy, afternoon tea traditionally took place with the ladies sitting on low arm chairs while the high tea of the lower class refers to the tea being taken at a tall dining table. Here are some more key differences between afternoon and high tea:

Manners: Etiquette is incredibly important for afternoon tea. Jo Bryant, a British Etiquette and Weddings Consultant says traditionally, one person pours the tea for everyone else, and this is done one at a time: pour someone’s tea and hand it to them before pouring someone else’s. Never add cream or sugar for another person, it their personal preference. Also, when stirring the tea, move your spoon in a back-forth/up-down motion. Circular motions can be seen as inelegant, and place the spoon lengthways along the back of the saucer when you are done.

Additionally, sit up straight and put your napkin on your lap, put the cup down between sips, don’t slurp, and never ever raise your little finger. The idea of raising one’s little finger to drink tea is an American invention and is not true to the actual British custom. Usually, afternoon tea includes drinking two cups; one is never enough and three is seen as excessive. High tea is more relaxed than afternoon tea. High tea demands some of the same basic manners one would expect when having tea, such as putting your napkin on your lap, keeping your feet of the table, sit up straight, etc.

Food: The food served at afternoon tea—usually called “accompaniments”—is typically sweeter and lighter than those served at high tea, and usually also has its own set of rules. For example, small, crust-less cucumber finger sandwiches are very popular at afternoon tea. However, be sure to take just one, and eat it in more than one bite, no matter how small it is. Scones—pronounced “sconn”—are individual, circular cakes eaten with jam and cream. The jam and cream are spooned onto the edge of the plate, and after the scone is broken lengthways by hand, they are spread onto the scone with a knife. Never put the two pieces back together to make a sandwich and never use a form to eat it; these are meant to be eaten by hand. The only cutlery present should be the knife for spreading the jam and cream.

High tea is drastically different in terms of food. While afternoon tea originated with the idle upper classes of the Victorian era, the working class needed something more substantial to feed themselves after a hard day’s work. Instead of taking tea at about 3 or 4pm like the upper classes, the working class did not have a lunch break and so when they got home for tea, they would usually eat things like pies, meats, and cheeses. Because this was a more substantial meal, working class citizens would typically have a very light dinner a few hours after tea.

Tea is a well-developed and complicated custom in Great Britain. The mannerisms and food display Britain’s unique history, and it continues to be a sought after experience by tea drinkers from all over the world. As anxiety-inducing as some of these strict rules may be, it is important to remember that tea time is meant to be a relaxing break from the demanding pace of everyday life.

Last Lists…


IMG_0504 (2)Alzheimer’s disease is very much like a falling piece of paper: not linear in its descent, but slow and varying; a gust of wind could carry it up for a time, but ultimately it will resign to falling once more. And even though Alzheimer’s is such a prevalent disease in the United States, many find it a difficult topic of conversation due to the turbulent emotions associated with watching the gradual, painful loss of a loved one. While there has been an extraordinary amount of scientific research done on Alzheimer’s disease, it remains difficult to capture the impact the disease has on the lives of the person living with dementia and her loved ones. What science cannot portray, art can, and that is the basis for the play, “Last Lists of My Mad Mother” by Julie Jensen.

Jensen’s play follows the journey of Ma and her daughter, Dot, as they experience the wane of Ma’s memory, understanding, and ability to take care of herself. In wanting her mother to remember and do things correctly, Dot is faced with feelings of frustration and anger, permeated every so often by moments of humor and liveliness; these moments of liveliness stem from Dot’s wicked sense of humor in trying to disentangle her mother’s jumbled thoughts. As Dot struggles with all these emotions, she receives “advice” tinged with judgement from her sister who lives far away and does not understand what Dot is dealing with daily.

As the mother and daughter reflect on their life together, Dot realizes she must accept her mother the way she is now, instead of trying to make her the way she was. Director, Frank Bartella says, “Ultimately [“Last Lists of My Mad Mother”] is about finding the freedom to just have fun and live in the moment with the person you love, and go out and laugh. Don’t get upset they can no longer do certain things. Just go out and have fun with what they can do.”

So why use a play to talk explore a difficult, nuanced topic such as Alzheimer’s disease? Well, theater and story-telling media such as movies and television have often played very important roles in discussing critical topics with the public, and this play is not different. Bartella speaks on the impact of the theater, “It is the most real of any of the art forms. I mean, you see a real person standing in front of you, watch them experience real emotions… There’s a three-dimensional reality to theater that makes it come alive.” In theater, the audience is invited to watch the lives of the characters in real time, and in doing so, be allowed to see what they see and as Jeanne Kussrow-Larson—who plays Ma—says, feel what they feel. “Being onstage, I feel a lot from an audience. I think it makes me connect with the audience, I can feel their reaction. And that’s another way of telling what we’re doing is what we’re supposed to be doing.” There is an emotional dialogue within theater that makes it especially impactful as a method of storytelling.

Another thing that is important about theater as a discussion facilitator is that although it is scripted, it isn’t exactly the same every night—theater depends on the audience to brings its own emotions and understandings (or lack thereof) to the production. Barbara Goings, who plays Dot, points out that when someone goes to a lecture or support group for Alzheimer’s, it is usually edited; hindsight is 20/20 and the speaker may choose to edit things they may not be proud of. For “Last Lists of My Mad Mother” Goings says, “You will see times when I, as Dot, lose my temper with my mother and do things I probably would not be proud of, and would not be comfortable sharing. But the audience sees that, and it’s unedited without thinking back on it.”

The audience sees how Ma tries to make sense of the world while Dot tries to bring her mother back to a time when their relationship was “mother and “daughter,” not “patient and caregiver.” Back to a time when Dot could engage her mother in a conversation about things other than Ma’s rapidly reduced worldview. Kussrow-Larson points out that the performance helps the audience accept Alzheimer’s as a life-altering experience and engage in a conversation.

While the audience witnesses Dot feel various degrees of anger, confusion, and frustration and how she acts on those feelings, Goings reminds us the lesson of the play, “when you stop trying to pull somebody back into your reality, when you keep trying to correct them when they don’t remember…when you let that go, and just allow them to be where they are, then the stress for the caregiver is reduced and the anxiety for the patient is reduced.”

Later, when Ma’s memories do not include Dot, she joins her mother in the world of her mother’s youth, trading what she knows for an easier relationship with her declining mother—finding a place where they can both be happy and comfortable.
Dementia is an experience that is very individual, very private. Going back to the metaphor of Alzheimer’s being like falling paper, no two pieces fall the same way. Despite the truth in this statement, many people are not content to watch the paper’s descent and struggle to stop it, even though doing so is frustrating and eventually gravity wins.

Drop the Beethoven

DROP THE BEETHOVEN: Seven Benefits of Music Instruction on the Developing Brain      By Courtney Pagel, UW-Eau Claire Intern

So, we’ve all heard the rumor that listening to classical music will make your baby smarter. Well, as many of us have found out, that’s not really true. However, while listening to Mozart won’t make your baby smarter, playing Mozart might. That’s right, the 100 billion neurons that make up a person’s brain is like a learning biography, and if something is repeated enough, it can permanently change the way a person thinks! Such is the case with children and music instruction. Susan Hallam of the Institute of Education for the University of London, UK has gathered several studies documenting the incredible benefits music on the developing brain. Here are just a few of the ways a child’s brain can be positively impacted by music instruction.

  • Enhances Perceptual and Language Skills

While an obvious benefit of music education is the careful auditory processing associated with determining pitch, it is important to remember this skill extends past music itself. Language has its own varying degrees of pitches and rhythms, and music instruction can help in identifying these sounds. A study done in 2007 shows musical training better helps children distinguish between rapidly changing sounds, increasing awareness between different sounds in words (Wong, Skoe, Russo, Dees, & Kraus). Musical training improves how the brain processes speech.

  • Increases Literacy Skills

It only follows that if musical training can improve a child’s ability to learn language, it can also help enhance their literacy skills. Ron Butzlaff of the Journal of Aesthetic Education, found a positive relationship between musical instruction and standardized reading scores while analyzing 24 different studies on childhood literacy. Because kids are better able to distinguish between different kinds of sounds, they learn how to make these sounds and apply them to written language.

  • Boosts Numeracy Skills

Another part of literacy is the processing of numbers and math, which has had mixed results in relation to music education. While some studies find a connection between music education and high math scores, there is not enough of a relationship to suggest it may be a cause. So, before you start thinking music will make your kid a math whiz, it is important to remember that every child learns differently, and their math skills may or may not be affected by musical instruction.

  • Supplements Intellectual Development

“Intellectual development” sounds like a very broad term, but it is intended to measure a child’s spatial awareness (i.e., the relationship between two or more objects) as well as being aware of one’s place in a physical space. For example, if a child can tell whether a ball on the ground is far away from them or not. A study examining the effects of musical instruction on spatial reasoning showed children with instructions in keyboard scored significantly higher on spatial recognition tests (Hallam 275). But there is also a debate about what kind of music helps kids’ intellectual development. Researchers from the University of Oxford discovered rhythmic instruction contributes more to literacy and math skills, while education in pitch and melody support language development.

  • Encourages Creativity

There’s no question having an artistic outlet like drawing and painting fosters creativity in a lot of people, especially children. But how can music, something that is so structured and distinct, encourage creativity in kids? For whatever reason, researchers haven’t really paid much attention to this. However, a few older studies, including one done in 1969, found that out of 173 music and 45 non-music high-school students, the musically trained students scored higher on several creativity tests (Hallam 277). Creativity in music is something I think should be studied more because it would give kids more confidence in their sounds and rhythms if they had time to just experiment.

  • Contributes to Positive Personal and Social Development

For many children, playing in a band or singing in a choir can have enormous benefits to their social and emotional health. Many students who participated in musical activities reported talking more with their parents and teachers, the social benefits of which lead to higher self-esteem, higher self-awareness, and an improved self-image. Also, students reported the benefits of contributing to the group and to a larger goal. The social benefits of music education are endless and this is by no means an exhaustive list. However, it is important to realize that for a student to reap the social and personal benefits of music instruction, those experiences must be positive, so encouragement and support from parents and teachers goes a long way.

  • Leads to Increased Physical Development, Health, and Well-Being

The last benefit I want to highlight is the increase in physical development, health, and well-being caused by participating in musical activities. Even though music is not considered a physical activity, it’s difficult to deny the enhanced lung function and fine motor skills that comes with playing an instrument. On an emotional level, a 2001 study from the Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health found members of a university choir reported improved mood and stress reduction as a result of musical participation. Much like the list of social advantages, the list of possible health benefits is endless.

Before you or your neighbors start looking for music instructors around the area, it is important to remember children won’t reap any of these benefits if they are not actively engaged with the instruction; music should be something the child wants to do, not something they’re forced to do.  Additionally, this is a passion that can begin at home; parents can foster musical creativity in children by encouraging their singing and dancing, and even their banging on desks and tables, pots and pans. Music is also one of the only activities that stimulates the entire brain, and those seven benefits are only a handful of a countless number which have yet to be experienced by a new generation of students. So, before you turn on that Beethoven sonata, let your child sing “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” for the twelfth time today; as you can see, it’s worth it.

2017 Upcoming FAMILY MUSIC Events at the Heyde Center

 Heebie Jeebies ft. Glen Everhart, Sunday, November 5 at 2pm                                         Kids will wiggle, giggle, and dance along with the fun music of Glen Everhart.

Northwinds British Brass Band, Sunday, November 26 at 2pm                        Experience the power of local musicians participating in a full brass band concert. YOUTH UNDER AGE 18 ARE FREE!

Holiday Concert by Hillcrest and Southview After-School Choirs, Tuesday, December 5 at 7:00pm                                                                                                                FREE concert by the after-school choirs of two local elementary schools.

Christmas Singalong, Thursday, December 7 at 6:00pm                                                FREE singalong concert for the entire family led by members of the Chippewa Valley Community Chorus. Beverages and snacks available for sale.


Works Cited

Hallam, Susan. “The Power of Music: Its Impact on the Intellectual, Social and Personal

Development of Children and Young People.” International Journal of Music Education, vol. 28, no. 3, 2010, pp. 269–289., doi:10.1177/0255761410370658.

Locker, Melissa. “Music Can Alter Your Child’s Brain.” Time, Time, 16 Dec. 2014,


Hugh Mandelert Retrospective: Art & Addiction

If you ever find yourself googling “Chippewa Valley artwork,” you’re very likely to find a broad range of results, including from students, professionals, and the various studios around the city. However, mixed with these results is the paintings of Hugh Mandelert. Capturing the essence of the Chippewa Valley by elevating local scenery into art, Mandelert stood out as one of the most popular painters in the area, and remains so even after his death in 2001. But while many see the beautiful twists of the Chippewa River and peacefulness of the bandstand in Irvine Park, very few paintings bore witness to Mandelert’s recovery from alcoholism.

The Hugh Mandelert Retrospective: Art and Addiction, now on display at the Heyde Center for the Arts, is an exhibit hoping to serve as a catalyst for a community dialogue about chemical dependency issues in the Chippewa Valley. Mandelert’s status as a well-respected, professional artist can help decrease the stigma attached to chemical dependency as well as inspire compassion, community support, and explore ways to move forward.

A native of Chippewa Falls, Hugh was born on October 23, 1927 to Gertrude and Charles Lloyd Mandelert. According to his nephew, Jim Mandelert, Hugh started abusing alcohol when in his early teens. He attended school in Chippewa Falls until his senior year of high school, which was spent at The Hill School in Pennsylvania. He graduated from The Hill and spent his next three years studying art at the Minneapolis Art Institute before finishing his formal training by going on an art tour of France and Italy for sixth months.

For the next twenty years, Hugh would be working in New York in a few artistic categories: fashion advertising, wallpaper design, and package design, just to name a few. It was there that his ongoing addiction to alcohol, resulted in a stay at New York’s Bellevue Hospital with the Delirium Tremens (aka DTs). Mandelert moved back to the Chippewa Valley with the help of his brother, Joe, in 1972 where he started a new career as the art instructor at the Chippewa Valley vocational school. After that program ended, the artist instructed painting classes in the building that was formerly known as the “McDonell Memorial Catholic High School” [but now houses the Heyde Center for the Arts], and eventually his home studio until his death on October 2, 2001 (The Chippewa Herald).

In researching Hugh Mandelert, his artwork, and his life, I found it extremely difficult to find almost anything about his struggle with alcoholism. To better understand why, I interviewed Dr. Douglas Matthews of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire who teaches courses in the psychology of addiction. Matthews states that while addiction cuts across all demographic boundaries, including race, class, and religion, it is strongly influenced by environmental and personality type. Additionally, while some addicts may choose to talk about their addiction as part of their therapy, others choose not to, preferring to handle their addiction more privately.

It is common to judge addicts as people who make bad decisions or are weak-willed, even though the situation is typically much more complex and individualized. While Matthews believes society is beginning to move away from stigmatizing addiction, more research would be a helpful tool in demonstrating the biological basis of addiction, and increased recognition that addiction is not solely based on an individual’s decisions. A large part of the stigma arises from people judging others for falling short of their own personal standard of living without recognizing the situation of the addict is different than their own. It is easy to judge a situation without sympathizing with it.

Art serves as a tool for cultural as well as personal expression. Art is the soul’s expression of what the mind cannot comprehend or put into words. While therapy must be tailored to the individual, art therapy can still be a powerful tool for some in exploring inner struggles. Dr. Mickey Crothers, a clinical therapist and professor at the University of Wisconsin- Eau Claire says it is sometimes easier to reference the lyrics of a song or a piece of poetry rather than put one’s addiction experience into words. Additionally, Crothers theorizes—she maintains she is not certain of this—art can potentially take the place of self-harm as a way of expression; something harmful can be turned into something healthy and beautiful. Sharing one’s art is also a way to build community and connection, which can significantly decrease isolation and help create a support system for the recovering addict.

Dr. Matthews maintains that changing one’s context is extremely important for a recovering addict, “One of the reasons addicts relapse so often is they continue inside the same context they’re in, and that could be location, that could be friends, that could be job… the problem most addicts have is they go in, recover, they come out clean, and they go right back into the same environment they were addicted in. Is it any wonder that they fall again?”

In Mandelert’s situation, moving from New York City to Chippewa Falls may have been one of the key aspects of his recovery. Moving on and recovering from addiction includes more than just leaving the substance behind, it is also about leaving behind the lifestyle, the environment, and the feelings that come with it.

Finally, Dr. Crothers states, “Sometimes the pain people in addiction can experience is beyond anywhere language can go…The heavy stigma, more so than most mental illnesses, but the stigma of failure, and that’s worse, I think, for addiction than anything else in terms of knowing someone who has gone through it and recovered. That feeling of being alone is huge.” Feeling alone entails the idea that no one can understand your situation; sometimes you don’t even realize what you’re feeling. By returning home and changing his context, Hugh Mandelert made isolation less likely. By changing his environment, he changed his habits for the better. He showed the Chippewa Valley the extraordinary aspects of day-to-day ordinary scenery. By focusing on the community all around him, Mandelert created a place for himself to heal.

Written by Courtney Pagel, University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire Intern