Falling for Art


There’s never a bad time to visit Northwest Wisconsin, but an autumn trip to this part of the state is especially appealing. October serves up a visual feast in this region, with the woods and forests bursting into bright hues of crimson and gold and the many lakes and waterways a crisp, shimmering blue.

The visual allure, however, is not limited to the outdoors. You’ll find plenty of color and beauty indoors as well at the Wisconsin Regional Art Program (WRAP) art exhibit, held at the Heyde Center for the Arts in Chippewa Falls October 13 through November 18. Co-hosted by the Valley Art Association (VAA), the exhibit features art in a wide variety of media created by local, nonprofessional artists.

WRAP exhibits are held throughout the state, with a focus on promoting the arts in rural areas. This VAA-sponsored exhibit is especially unique in that it’s the first one to be held in the Chippewa Valley. It’s an opportunity for participating artists to gain some exposure, but also for the public to see the artistic talent that thrives in the countryside, where the wildlife and natural landscapes provide endless inspiration.

“There’s a tremendous amount of artists in the rural areas,” said Val Naber, coordinator of Chippewa Valley WRAP, VAA executive officer, and member of Dunn Energy Cooperative. Naber is an artist herself, specializing in painting on porcelain. “We have beautiful weavers and basketmaking people and porcelain painters. There’s plenty of acrylic and watercolor painters, and we have some beautiful photographers who take some fantastic pictures of the rural areas,” she added.

VAA has about 130 active members from counties within the Chippewa Valley, as far north as Barron and Rusk counties, and also from a little farther south including Trempealeau and Jackson counties.

“They gather monthly to share ideas and maybe help each other through design issues, and VAA itself organizes places for nonprofessional artists to exhibit and sell their work,” Naber explained.

The WRAP exhibit is one such opportunity. The month-long exhibit is free to the public and culminates with two special events that are also open to the public: judging and a workshop on November 3, and an artist reception on November 5, complete with live music provided by area high school performers, refreshments, a silent auction, and an opportunity to mingle with the artists. Awards will also be presented at this time.

Artful Engagement

The Chippewa Valley WRAP exhibit, Naber explained, is a perfect vehicle for executing VAA’s mission of engaging the public with local art, whether by participating in art or simply viewing it.

WRAP is a program administered by the Association of Wisconsin Artists (AWA), a Madison-based organization that promotes art in Wisconsin. Entities including but not limited to local art organizations such as VAA are encouraged to partner with AWA in hosting a WRAP exhibit in their area. Participating artists must be nonprofessional, meaning they cannot earn the bulk of their income through their artwork.

The exhibits are judged by a professional artist, who selects pieces that will advance to AWA’s statewide competition held in August each year. Judging the artwork at the Chippewa Falls WRAP exhibit will be Amanda Bulger, art lecturer and director of the Foster Art Gallery at UW-Eau Claire. Winning artwork will be eligible for the state exhibit in 2023.

Each WRAP exhibit must have an educational component to it as well, with a workshop or demonstration by a professional artist. At the VAA WRAP exhibit, Allan Servoss, who specializes in water colors, will be on hand November 3 for a presentation called ”How to Achieve Unity in your Art.” The workshop is free for exhibiting artists, but $5 for members of the public.

From porcelain to painting, textiles to photography, a wide variety of art produced
by local rural artists will be on display at the Chippewa Valley WRAP exhibit.
Here’s just a sampling of the kind of art visitors can expect to see.

Val Naber – Member of Dunn Energy Cooperative
Specializes in porcelain and watercolor paintings

Mary Hermanson – Member of Riverland Energy Cooperative
Specializes in fiber and textile art

Karen Clark – Member of Eau Claire Energy Cooperative
Specializes in photography and fused glass

In addition to the WRAP exhibits, AWA oversees the State Teen Artist Mentoring Program (STAMP), which the VAA is offering in conjunction with the Chippewa Valley WRAP exhibit. For this program, student artists aged 13–19 may enter their own work, which will be judged separately. The student artwork will be on display at the Heyde Center alongside the work of the more established, adult artists. The whole collection will offer a visual feast all its own.


The Heyde Center for the Arts, where the Chippewa Valley WRAP art exhibit will be held, is an exhibit all its own. Placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, the building is the former Chippewa McDonell Memorial High School. Built in 1907 by local lumberman Alexander B. McDonnell in memory of his wife, Mary Regina O’Neil, in the Greek architecture style, the school was state-of-the-art in its time, with a top-floor auditorium. It served as a school until 1964, when a new high school was built on the other side of Chippewa Falls. For the next 10 years the building fell into disrepair until the founding members of the Chippewa Valley Cultural Association (CVCA) determined to save the building from demolition. The CVCA renovated the building and transformed it into a venue for local artists, performers, writers, and other creative producers. Each year, approximately 18,000 people visit the Heyde Center for performances, exhibits, and special events.

“We really want the public to come and help make them aware that there are a lot of active artists in the area, with some great artwork to see,” Naber said.

It’s just one more reason to drive through the Chippewa Valley in the fall.—Mary Erickson

The Chippewa Falls WRAP Art Exhibit will be open to the public for viewing from October 13 through November 18 at the Heyde Center for the Arts, 3 S. High Street, Chippewa Falls, WI 54729. The center is open Monday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Tuesday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with weekend hours as special events call for. For more information on the WRAP art exhibit, visit wiscartists.wildapricot.org.


Holiday time will soon be here, and we don’t just mean Halloween! We’re aware that most readers are likely just setting up their fall décor, but still, Christmas isn’t that far away. The artists of the Valley Art Association offer an easy way to shop local for unique, personal gifts. Visit the organization’s website, valleyartassociation.org and click on Gallery in the menu to find biographies of VAA members, including contact information for each and links to examples of their artwork. You’ll find just about every kind of artwork imaginable here, from paintings to pottery, ceramics to sculptures, wool rugs to wood designs. The website is not a sales vehicle, but visitors to the site may reach out to the artists individually to inquire about purchases.