Tracker Pixel for Entry

Mineral Point, Wisconsin: Where art and history meet

by Alicia Underlee Nelson | .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address) | Arts | October 17th, 2018


Mineral Point - Shake Rag Alley scene - photograph by Alicia Underlee Nelson

I came to Mineral Point, Wisconsin for the art. The tiny town among the rolling hills about 50 miles southwest of Madison is home to just 2,491 souls and 25 art galleries and studios. Any community with that much creative energy woven into the fabric of everyday life is worth a pilgrimage.

But it only took a quick glance at the lovingly restored historic storefronts, handsome stone homes and beautifully manicured gardens to understand that art was only part of the story here. In Mineral Point, the city’s history, artistic tradition and culture are closely intertwined. You can absorb the city’s culture and history just by strolling down the sleepy side streets, popping in to chat with dozens of artists in their studios and dining at the mom and pop restaurants tucked away inside restored 19th century warehouses and storefronts on a High Street that resembles the U.K. more than the U.S. in both name and appearance.

Mineral Point was founded in 1827 and settled by experienced miners from Cornwall, England who built small homes near the zinc and lead mines. The miners were gone and the handsome limestone houses they’d built in traditional Cornish style were crumbling by the time Robert Neal and Edgar Hellum began restoring them in 1935. Business and life partners in an era when such a relationship wasn’t openly acknowledged, Neal and Hellum were vital to the community and sparked the historic preservation that made Mineral Point what it is today.

Mineral Point - Pendarvis site - photograph by Alicia Underlee Nelson

They saved a several structures, which are preserved for visitors as Pendarvis, a historic site that gives visitors a nice overview of the city’s past. (Stone from the buildings they couldn’t salvage was used to create Mineral’s Point’s stately WPA swimming pool just across the street). They also created gardens and operated an incredibly popular restaurant on the property, which served Neal’s Cornish family recipes until the pair retired in 1970.

Mineral Point - Pasty at the Red Rooster Cafe - photgraph by Alicia Underlee NelsonTo try Cornish cooking today, head to Red Rooster Café, which serves pasties every day of the week. These hearty meat pies (pronounced “pass-tea”) contain potatoes and rutabagas tucked inside a thick, crimped crust designed to survive a trip down a mine shaft and are served with a mild and sweet chili sauce. The locals I met also recommended the sandwiches and salads and at Gray Dog Deli and the chewy and addictive wood-fired goodness at Popolo’s Pizza.

The city’s artists and small business owners have continued Mineral Point’s tradition of historical restoration, buying and painstakingly restoring the shops, storefronts and warehouses where they live, work and sell their products. This collective passion for restoration preserved the city’s distinct architectural style and the gorgeous blonde stone of its buildings and made Mineral Point the first Wisconsin town on the National Register of Historic Places. Since artists largely own their workspaces, they’re not threatened by the rising rents that frequently plague artist-friendly neighborhoods.

As a result, the creative community here feels stable and collaborative. Every artist or maker I spoke with asked which studios and galleries I’d visited so far and many made a point to recommend another artist they thought I’d like. I gave more than a few sheepish little waves when I ran into the recommending artist at their colleague’s studio later in the day. (It’s a small town, after all. These things happen.)

Meeting every artist in Mineral Point would take days, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a worthy goal. This little city is home to specialists in many mediums, including sculptors, painters, woodworkers, textile artists, quilters, glass artists and crafters. They make furniture and jewelry, accessories and needlework. 

Mineral Point - Street scene - photograph by Alicia Underlee Nelson

If you only have time for a few stops, choose galleries that feature many artists to get a feeling for what the community has to offer. Wantoot Gallery boasts a carefully curated selection of sculptural art, upscale clothing and jewelry and eye-catching paintings, while Longbranch Gallery showcases work from over 60 artists.

The Johnston family shows work from more than 200 artists at The Johnston Gallery on High Street (the marionettes on display were my own personal favorites) and also operates Brewery Pottery Studio which houses creations from more than 100 artists in a former brewery building a few blocks away. If sculptor and clockmaker Diana Johnston is in, tell her I sent you. There might be tour in it for you.

May Sorum brings old fashioned letter press printing to a new generation at Mayday Press, while Kathleen Nutter’s loom at Artful Apparel & More is positively hypnotic. Frank Polizzi’s demos on the pottery wheel at The Mulberry Pottery are equally soothing and informative. 

Mineral Point - Frank Polizzi at work - photograph by Alicia Underlee Nelson

Mineral Point is busiest on weekends, warm weather months and during festivals and special events. It’s quieter in the winter and on Mondays and Tuesdays, when many studios and restaurants take their days off, so check store, restaurant and studio hours in advance.

Quiet guesthouses, boutique hotels and historic B&Bs are the norm in Mineral Point. The Mineral Point Hotel offers clawfoot tubs, a gracious outdoor patio and secure bicycle parking just steps from the Cheese Country Recreational Trail, which is truly the perfect name for a trail in Wisconsin. Craft beer fans will love Brewery Creek Inn, where you can enjoy beers brewed on-site downstairs and fireplaces and whirlpool tubs upstairs.

Mineral Point - Exploring Shake Rag Alley - photograph by Alicia Underlee NelsonEnd your time in Mineral Point at Shake Rag Alley, located near Pendarvis, where your journey started. This 2.5-acre art complex offers retreats and workshops for all ages in everything from blacksmithing and fiber arts to writing and stagecraft.

A spring-fed creek flows under a footbridge and past historic buildings (including the oldest structure in town), taking artists and travelers down wooded paths dotted with artfully painted rocks, forest sculptures and thoughtfully placed benches that offer a quiet place to sketch, read or think. It’s a perfect illustration of the mix of art and history that make Mineral Point so unique.

Bio

Alicia Underlee Nelson is a freelance writer and photographer who covers craft beer, travel, art, entertainment, history and breaking news for Thomson Reuters, Food Network, USA Today,Delta Sky Magazine, AAA Living, Midwest Living, Beer Advocate, trivago magazine, Matador Network, KFGO-AM, craftbeer.com and numerous other publications. Her first book, “North Dakota Beer: A Heady History,” was published in 2017. Follow her adventures at prairiestylefile.com.



Upcoming Events In Mineral Point:

Fall Art Tour

October 19-21, 2018

Artists in Mineral Point and neighboring Baraboo, Spring Green and Dodgeville open their studios for the region’s marquee visual art event.

fallarttour.com

The Driftless Film Festival

November 1-4, 2018

Celebrate Midwestern films and indie cinema with documentaries, feature films and shorts at the Mineral Point Opera House.

facebook.com/DriftlessFilmFestival/

Candlelight Shopping and Arts on Point Gallery Weekend

November 30-December 2, 2018

The city of Mineral Point welcomes the holidays with candlelight shopping, carolers, decorations and fireworks.

artsonpoint.com 

Recently in:

After nearly two and a half years since the people of North Dakota voted to pass the Compassionate Care Act into law in the state, medical marijuana is finally available to patients. Only one dispensary is open right now, but seven…

It was an, “aha,” moment, said Jeremy Jensen. A woman had her vehicle towed into the Fix It Forward Auto Care shop in Moorhead. Jensen and fellow Fix It Forward Auto Care co-founder Matt Carlson had the vehicle on a hoist…

Thursday, April 18, 5-9 p.m.Drekker Brewing Company, 1666 1st Ave N, FargoThe folks at Drekker have partnered with a handful of area artists and the Lend A Hand Up program. A program providing help and hope to families facing…

In 2016, the Rand Corportation’s National Defense Research Institute published a year-long study looking at potential consequences for transgender members to serve within the U.S Military. This study looked at seven different…

The Nordic ModelDr. Thea Hunter, a graduate of Columbia University and an adjunct professor of history at a number of elite colleges and universities, recently died at age 63 of extreme capitalism—and asthma—because of lack of…

Cocktail Showdown

​Yo ho ho!

by Sabrina Hornung

Well shiver me timbers. After weeks of sampling some of the finest drinks in F-M from more bars than we could shake a belaying pin at, the results of High Plains Reader’s 6th Annual Cocktail Showdown are in! For nine weeks,…

After three years Jon Beyer aka “Jonny B” has become the face and the beard behind Jonny B’s Brickhouse in Jamestown North Dakota. Besides the largest selection of craft beers between here and Bismarck, wood-fired pizzas and…

By Gary Usseryusseryg@gmail.comFYB. Three letters, three words, well known by the guys who make up Cascades, and anyone who is a fan of the five-man band. When asked what genre best describes their sound, I was bombarded with at…

Harmony Korine keeps a tight grip on his title as one of the most critic/critique-proof filmmakers of recent times with “The Beach Bum,” a sultry companion piece to 2012’s memorable “Spring Breakers.” Not without its own…

Arts

​Hold your head high

by Sabrina Hornung

“I started to look around at state arts council positions because I felt that even though I had never done that, I felt like it would be a really good blend of skills, so I started to look around in 2016. A few jobs came up but I…

Countless examples can be found throughout the history of great art that was only recognized as such after the life of the artist that created it. Such is true of Georges Bizet’s opera "Carmen."  While its reception during his…

Stand-up comedy is traditionally a one-way exchange. Outside of the odd question addressed to a random audience member, the limit of the spectators’ contribution to the conversation is their laughter at the comedy stylings being…

By Gabrielle Herschgabbyhersch@gmail.comThink & Drink is coming to Fargo! Organized by Humanities North Dakota, Think & Drink is a happy hour series that hosts a facilitated public conversation about big issues and ideas. Lead by a…

I’m a big man, I’m tall and powerful, but this also causes some issues in the body department. I suffer from acute scoliosis in my lower back, and pain radiates from this area on a daily basis. I have only ever had one massage…

by Devin Joubertdevinlillianjoubert@gmail.comIt’s that beautiful time of the year that’s filled with seasonal decorations, sparkly lights, warm family gatherings, and delicious feasts. I love everything about this time of the…

It seems like the threats to North Dakota’s Badlands never cease. Let’s go back and revisit Wylie Bice. He’s the rogue, rich, rancher up in Dunn County, on the eastern edge of the Badlands, who’s built himself a private…