While we don’t miss the snow and cold, we are missing our homeland of Wisconsin lately. Mostly the people with whom we developed close community.
We moved to Green Bay, WI fall of 2006 and lived there until 2011. We picked a lovely old Victorian home in Astor Park, the historical district of this sports crazy town. It was an awesome neighborhood to live in, as the neighbors were quite happy to participate in community, sharing resources, shoveling each others path, advice about gardening and sharing an occasional meal.
The Hollands Haus was the perfect place for us share our gift of hospitality and creativity. The old Victorian had two levels and the downstairs held 5 separate spaces, including the country kitchen. We held all sorts of gatherings in our home from musical jams, dinner parties, Settlers of Caatan nights, house concerts, spiritual gatherings, and our beloved Holland Haus Gallery Night.
Winters are long in Green Bay, WI, lasting sometimes until May and once football season is done, most folks start to go stir crazy. So it made since that Gallery Night was always in February, for one saturday night only, we would host 12-15 visual artists and a handful of singer/songwriters in our home. We would strip all of our artwork off of the walls throughout the whole downstairs and move most of the furniture to the back attic room. Each artist would drop off 3-7 pieces the night before the event and Craig and I would put the puzzle together. We’d arrange the pieces to not only to complement each other but also, thinking about the artist in each room and how they might interact with one another. Our hope was to build community, and so it was most important to us that the artists that participated or came, had an opportunity to continue relationship if they wanted.
The hanging process really suited us, with Craig being more on the logical side and me being ascetically sensitive, we complement each other well. The next morning, Craig and the kids would clean the house and set up the sound system for the musicians. Meanwhile, I along with a few girlfriends, would make food creations. Cheesecake was the highlight of the night (as the Galley night also doubled as my birthday) The house would buzz with energy and excitement as we waited for the guests to arrive at 7pm. They were always on time!
The first year we budgeted the event into our giving fund, paying for all of the food and wine but with 65 guests, it was to expensive continue. And, so our second year we asked for a $5 suggested donation. It was our lowest attended year, at 42. So our third and fourth years, we decided to ask guests to bring a bottle of wine/beer or a hunk of gourmet cheese. You have to specify the cheese in Wisconsin or you might end up with five pounds of cheese curds. None the less, that seemed to be the ticket, as the next two gallery nights would each host over 150 guests. All up, we hosted four in five years, taking a break after the third year, with our final year being the most epic.
How did we meet the artists you ask? Well, it started with one, Natalie Vann. I met Natalie on Myspace of all places. That was back when you could search zip codes and add criteria and then folks that fit that description came up. It was six months before we moved to Green Bay, and I was looking for friends, specially friends in the arts. Natalie was kind and welcomed me to Green Bay before I arrived. She introduced me to a few other artists as well. At the same time, we were apart of a spiritual small group and a few in our group were artist. Through conversations at those gatherings the idea to create an opportunity for artists both established and up and coming to show their work in a non-threating environment with no fees was birthed. The added bonus was inviting artists from all walks of like to commune, share resources and bring their extended communities together.
There is really nothing more exciting than seeing different world views, ideologies, income levels, ethnicities and creative styles come together in unity. That was what Gallery Night was for us. We were just the bridge. Our hope is that folks in the Green Bay area are continuing to see the value in creating and connecting with each other. I hope that we inspired those we met to be more hospitable. To reach out to those who are “visitors” and bring them into the fold.
We are grateful for our time there and although the bus offers a whole new way of community and connecting we will always remember Gallery Nights with such fondness. And, when we are feeling alone and uninspired we just look upon our walls, at the few pieces of work that we were gifted or purchased by some of our favorite Gallery Night artists and we remember.