The Vision and the Word 5

by Sandra Lindow

UWEC Professor Erna Kelly in discussion with Eau Claire glass artist Jimmy Hazelton at the second V&W (2002). Photo by Andi Stempniak, Eau Claire Leader-Telegram.

The Chippewa Valley is once again participating in the Vision and the Word Poet/Artist Collaborative Project.  This time it will be shown at the Eau Claire Regional Arts Janet Carson Gallery at the State Theater between mid August and September 2013. The Vision and the Word 5 will be a regional event of participants residing in seven Wisconsin counties, Minnesota and South Dakota.  The artists and writers are, for the most part, well known in west central Wisconsin, and some have established themselves nationally as well as in the Midwest. The majority of 2013 collaborators are “veterans” of the project, although a number of innovative young artists are participating. Forty-one artists and writers are committed to V & W 5 collaborations.  (The number would be forty-two, but three V & W “veterans” decided to innovate and form a collaborative “trio.”)  In short, twenty pairs and one trio are already in the two-year “deep immersion” collaborations to make V & W 5 a major success. Among the pairs, V & W 5 has the distinction of four “familial” collaborations:  two father-daughter pairs, one father-son pair, and one sister-sister pair.

Originally conceived by visual artists Laurie Bieze, Allan Servoss and poet Alan Jenkins, the Vision and the Word has reoccurred every three or four years since October 1997.  Although there had been thematic shows in the Chippewa Valley prior to 1997, literary and visual artists had not been matched so that they could work together. The first Vision and Word was displayed at the Eau Claire Public Library although later shows were held at the State Theater Gallery. The response to the first show was extremely positive. In fact, after the first show, a visiting dignitary arranged for the entire show to move to a building at the Capital in Madison for a month.     
The quality of the work has been uniformly excellent.  During collaborations lasting a year or longer, poets and artists talk, share work and create together.  Visual art has included paintings, collages, pottery, fabric art, slide shows and sculptures. Poetry has included formalist, haiku, blank, and free verse and is often integrated into the artwork. Handmade books have been created. Both poets and visual artists have reported that their collaborations have expanded their artistic visions, encouraged them to take risks and positively affected the overall quality of their work. The results of the collaborations are displayed in shows that include several openings/readings where the artists discussed their work together. Response by the community has been enthusiastic, resulting in excellent crowds for each of the openings. This time the show will also include a series of gallery brown bag poetry readings that feature separate poets.

The card to the right was created as a result of the Vision and the Word 3.  For that show I was working with Eau Claire artist Bill Benson.  I wrote a poem based on an experience I had with a local women's interpretive dance group: Sarah Aiken, one of the dancers, was nine months pregnant and we danced around her, giving loving care to her and to her soon to be born child. A few days after she gave birth, I wrote "Rayna in Utero Dancing Toward Daylight."  During our year of collaboration, Bill created an amazing foil painting as a result of the poem and he entitled it Day Dancer. The painting and the poem were displayed at the Regional Arts Gallery in September 2006 as part of the show. For a year after the show was over, the painting traveled around the Chippewa Valley temporarily residing in the homes of each of the dancers.  Finally it went to live in Rayna's home in Eau Claire. Rayna was by then a toddler. In 2010 with Bill Benson's permission, Sara Bryan, the leader of the dance group, created a card from her original photograph so that we all could keep the memory of that wonderful day.  The Vision and the Word has inspired wide community connections. The beauty and love created is part of the reason the Vision and Word has endured.

Sandra Lindow recently won first prize in the 2011 WRWA Jade Ring Contest for humorous poetry. She lives on a hilltop where she teaches, writes, and edits. Presently she is hoping to teach rambling roses to ramble only in designated places.