I believe that Wisconsin is different than all the other states.
This first came to my attention when I was starting to discover all the outsider art environments in Wisconsin in the ’90s with my daughter. There are more of these preposterous and inspiring flights of fancy in Wisconsin, built by untrained artists driven to create on a large scale in their backyards, than in any other state this side of the Mississippi River. Why? Because people in Wisconsin have a do-it-yourself spirit.
Yes, the DIY movement is now “the thing,” but this has been going on in Wisconsin for decades. People in Wisconsin don’t wait for someone to do something for them, they do it themselves.
In 2000, I talked to a man in Louisiana who grew up in Wisconsin and had invested hours and hours of his time to save an outsider art site from destruction. The Kohler Foundation in Wisconsin finally came to the rescue, but in the meantime he had been a one-man army keeping real estate agents at bay and even cutting the grass. I kept asking him why he had been so resolute. I in no way mean to offend any Christians listening, but he finally said, “If Jesus had come from Wisconsin, he would have nailed himself up on the cross.” Exactly!
I decided I needed to make things happen too. For the November presidential election, there will be original performance art at twelve different polling places in the City of Milwaukee. A first of its kind project in the nation! Last summer, the State Elections Board, a group of lawyers, unanimously endorsed the project as a way to encourage voter participation and enhance the voting experience. The only restriction for the project, called My Vote Performs, is that the art must be non-partisan and can’t interfere with people voting. This summer the director of the Milwaukee Election Commission approved all twelve polling locations and all twelve projects. There will be dance, recorded sound, original music, puppetry, video, interactive sculpture, and poetry at diverse polling locations, including the local humane society, a swimming pool, and even a church.
I don’t think any other state would have backed My Vote Performs. It happened in Wisconsin because people aren’t afraid of trying something new.
The Wisconsin Arts Board gave My Vote Performs the maximum funding it could, because it hopes other cities will view it as a model. My motivation for suggesting this endeavor and becoming co-producer with John Loscuito has to do with my daughter. After she voted for the first time, I thought there should be parades for first-time voters. Hey Arizona, you could do this!
My daughter is now married and lives in California. I’ve considered moving, but then I would miss what someone in Wisconsin decides to try next.
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