Providing Locals an Avenue to Express Themselves, Unite Community, with Art

Grace Olson

Evelyn Nelson

The arts are a defining element within the city of Eau Claire identity; a hotspot to showcase local
talent and a foundation for artistic passions to bloom.

Local organizations and nonprofits have taken the stage to showcase the creative expression of
its community members, and how the arts define this community.

BaredFeet, Co. is an Eau Claire-based non-profit centered around areas of health and wellness
within the community. Lynn Buske, owner of BaredFeet, brings together her passion for
wellness and artistry to benefit the greater community.

BaredFeet believes in this sentiment: basic wellness education and artistic experiences are
human needs. All members of the Eau Claire community should have access to the arts
regardless of their age, ability, income and more, according to the non-profit.

From Buske’s community work, to artisan carpenters and retired knitters, the city of Eau Claire
has created a spark for artistic expression from all walks of life.

Tim Brudnicki, founder of Tree Purpose Eau Claire and local woodworking artisan, said he has
always been a patron of the arts in his community. Only until recently, did he realize he could
instill the same creative artistry into his profession: woodworking.

“As a carpenter, I always just kind of approached the work as something to get done and
finished,” Brudnicki said. “There was not enough observation and not enough design involved
that happened in the process.”

Now, a decade later in his career, the arts have become an essential tool for Brudnicki’s artisan
work and current woodworking projects throughout the city of Eau Claire.

“When I work hard all day and come out of a cloud of sawdust — and see something there that
wasn't before that — that I can put out into the world, there is such beauty in that,” Brudnicki
said. “It's not even about profit, it's about what an individual has to offer.”

Brudnicki currently owns and operates his own woodworking studio near his home in Eau
Claire. He also has established several other woodworking and artisan projects, including
collaborations with the Oxbow hotel and Eau Claire Guitar Works.

Art, Brudnicki said, is about finding the environment that allows you to create freely.
“I really wanted to turn woodworking into an artistic approach. A lot of that had to do with just
having some solitude,” he said. “It was a personal reckoning between me and the raw material
that was in front of me. Creating that sort of environment allowed for beautiful things to be born
and beautiful designs to be born.”

Brudnicki said he has learned how incorporating art into your life — whether it's a profession or
not — is an essential part of being mentally and emotionally healthy.

Outside of his woodworking profession, Brudnicki also carves out time for different styles of
painting — inspired by his Eau Claire surroundings.

“A couple of years ago, I decided in my spare time to just start oil painting,” Brudnicki said.
“There is an emotional exchange there as you paint. It's fulfilling and there's a release there that makes the human better and healthier.”

Bobbie Kutcha, a retired community member of Eau Claire, has also developed a new passion
for artistry, by stitching together her family traditions and knitting.


“I like the beautiful yarns — it’s colors and how they feel,” Kutcha said. “The feel of the yarn
around the needles and the drape of the fabric that gets knit — It's all an experience — as well
as a product in the end.”


Kutcha in the last five years has developed a space to share her passion for knitting through her
local church. This knitting and crocheting group — the Unitarian Universalist Congregation
Knitters — invites members of the congregation to try a new form of art, or perfect their personal


“I have seen what people are doing and appreciate the variety of things that people come up
with,” Kutcha said. “They combine yarns or find patterns, they solve problems. It is the process
of having something in mind and the process for getting it out of your brain and into the world.”
Molly Larson, a third-year student at UW-Eau Claire, has recently become a member of
Bobbie’s knitting and crocheting group. Larson said she does not define herself as an artist, but
appreciates how accessible art can be for anyone in the Eau Claire community.


“I would say that I’m a crafter rather than an artist, but I’m honestly not sure if there’s much of a
difference,” Larson said. “I really like crocheting because I can follow a pattern and I know
exactly what I’m going to get out of it. The repetition is soothing to me.”


Kutcha’s passion for knitting originally took inspiration from her mother, who also shared this
passion in her spare time. Now being retired, she has had more time to continue her passion for
the arts in a way that honors her family roots.


Kutcha said she values the way art can bring you closer to those who are closest to you, from
those miles away. This sentiment comes from her relationship with professional knitters across
the world in Europe, she said.


“I joined an online group that is facilitated by a knitter out of London and she publishes
patterns,” Kutcha said. “There is something very satisfying to think about a woman in London,

creating a pattern, knitting it and sharing it with me here in Eau Claire. It has made me feel a
sense of connection, and I think that'sreally beautiful.”

Sam Schuppel, a resident of Eau Claire, said he has never identified as an artist. However, this
changed amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, when he how analog collage art provided him with an
outlet to better his mental health.

“I first got into collage art through my close friends,” Shuppel said. “What stuck out about it to
me from a creative mindset was I could try to make my collages funny. But, I could also make
them look cool just from a design standpoint.”

Shuppel said he values the way creative expression through art can benefit one’s mental health.
Whether you are a professional artist or not, art can allow you to look deeper into your thoughts
and understand how you are feeling.

“I think everyone could consider themselves an artist — with some single aspect of something in
their life,” Shuppel said. “Sometimes I'll come up with jokes or comedy sketches, or even make
collages to find a creative or artistic way to express myself.”

With the additional time and freedom Shuppel has had in the COVID-19 pandemic, he said he is
much more open to the idea of expressing himself in an artistic way — whatever that means to
him in the moment.

The environment in Eau Claire — which fosters artistic creativity — also helped Shuppel push
himself to try out art more in his daily life, he said.

“Living in Eau Claire just automatically gives you an advantage artistically based on all the
resources we have locally,” Shuppel said. “Eau Claire encourages their local artists, we have
lots of music festivals or art festivals. I think I will definitely stay in the area and I know that the
community will treat me well.”

Lynn Buske is a dance artist who loves all forms of art. “Even though I don’t feel talented in
other art forms I feel more connected to life and happier just trying to make art or viewing art. I
love that EC gives me many opportunites to view and make art of all kinds.”

As a child dance was a tool that enabled her to cope with her struggles with anxiety and she has
seen in herself, her children and her friends that art helps people work through things.


Buske started BaredFeet, Co. to provide free art opportunities through the lens of wellness.
“So many people I meet hesitate to get involved in an art form or keep up with their hobby
because they feel they aren’t skilled enough or it is an expense they can’t afford,” Buske said.
“But they tell me how much it brings them joy!”


“The programs at BaredFeet allow people to enjoy art for how it makes them feel — to just love
the process and flow — there is no pressure on technique, and they are opportunities for all
ages,” Buske said. “We keep things free so nothing can prevent people from expressing
themselves and we try to publicly share ways for people to enjoy viewing art.”


BaredFeet has found ways to engage with the younger audiences of Eau Claire through the
Youth Art Project. This collection aims to provide more access for children to express them
through art styles — like painting — and for community members to absorb artistic expression
from all walks of life.


Because of her own experiences, kids have been a strong focus in her programs.
“I want to give them coping tools through the arts and I want to share the wonderful creations
they make – they have so much to teach us,” Buske said.


She started an online youth art gallery sharing any art that a youth shares with her and the
products of some of the BaredFeet activities so people can find joy through viewing youth art.


Nelson can be reached at nelsoner1654@uwec.edu
Olson can be reached at olsongm1225@uwec.edu.





Apple Pregnancy Care Center celebrates 40 years in the Chippewa Valley

The center provides free counseling, pregnancy tests and education programs for parents


Grace Olson


Apple Pregnancy Care Center, a pregnancy care center in Eau Claire, will be celebrating it’s 40th anniversary on Saturday May 1st.


The center was created in 1981 by concerned men and women to meet the needs of families in an unplanned pregnancy. There will be an open house where community members can see the facility.


The name “Apple” stands for aiding problem pregnancies with love and encouragement. Apple is free and confidential. 


Cory Schneider, who works for Apple, said the center started in a small building connected to Sacred Heart hospital.


Schneider said the center originally saw clients for initial pregnancy tests and some counseling but it has since expanded to offer many programs.


“We offer a program called ‘Smart Women’ where clients can come in and we have a wide variety of things they can be educated about,” Schneider said. “Such as kids and discipline, life skills and fetal development – and it’s for both mom and dads.”


She also said when parents go through this program they earn what’s called “apple bucks.” They can then purchase things that have been donated to the center like diapers, formula, cribs, baby clothes and car seats.


Rebecca Ann said she will be forever grateful for the staff that she said helped her through a hard time in her life.


Ann said it’s the best place to donate anything since they educate parents about many different things to prepare for pregnancy.


Schneider said the center is completely donor supported – whether that be churches, individuals or some businesses.


She said the center has six rooms full of just donations, that will be available to see during the open house, so people can see everything the center offers.


Schneider said she’s excited for the celebration because while the center has a good reputation in the community, she said it’ll be great for the community to come in and ask questions.


Not only will there be an open house, but the center will also host a diaper giveaway. There will also be goodie bags for the parents.


The event will take place from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at 2600 Stein Boulevard Eau Claire, WI 54701.


Grace Olson can be reached at Olsongm1225@uwec.ed.  




Sonnentag Complex to replace Zorn arena on UW-Eau Claire Campus

 The complex will have a fitness center, a fieldhouse and Mayo Clinic medicine clinical location

Grace Olson

On March 30, UW-Eau Claire students received an email from the student body president, Anna Ziebell, about a student referendum.


The referendum included Student Senate elections and an ask for a $90 fee per student per semester to help build the Sonnentag Complex.


The complex is a “public-private partnership” that would build a major event facility, a 24-hour fitness and wellness center, a fieldhouse and a Mayo Clinic health system sports medicine clinical location, according to the university’s website.


On April 14, UW-Eau Claire students voted to pass the referendum with 61% approval.


Kimera Way, the president of the UW-Eau Claire foundation, said the university was given the land several years ago by alumni John and Carolyn Sonnentag who donated $10 million in land and money.


Way said the university wanted to make sure they would make the best decision for the students and the community with so much land.


Way said the Sonnentag’s were interested in the notion of replacing Zorn arena since it’s been here since they were students, in the 1960’s.


“They knew the building had outgrown the student body,” Way said. “Replacing Zorn arena was the basis of the whole project.”


Rachel Hamele, an on-campus senator, said once she learned more about the complex she thought it would be a good addition for the campus.


Some students have expressed concerns about the university asking students to pay $90 per semester for the complex on the “UWEC Memes for Trend-Setting Teens” Facebook page, which includes many members of the student body and alumni of UW-Eau Claire.


Hamele said she understands the disagreement with the $90 fee, especially because not every student will be using the facility, or will only be using it for graduation.


The fee will not be set into place until the building construction is completed, according to the university.


Ultimately, Hamele said she believes the complex will be beneficial to students because of the services it offers.


“It’ll provide jobs and will prove as a selling point for the university to bring in students and create a better community on campus,” Hamele said.


Way said without the student fee or the UW-system support the complex would not be able to happen.


Hamele said another benefit of the complex is the sustainability aspect of it.


According to the university, the complex will have solar panels and storage batteries to continue operations in case of a power outage.


On top of solar panels, the complex site will also develop a park that features solar benches, pollinator plantings and “potentially other solar energy installations.”


Way said the university plans to start construction this year with a goal to finish and have the complex open by spring 2023.


In spring of 2023 UW-Eau Claire is set to host the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, which will be held in the new Sonnentag Complex. 


Ziebell said she is excited to continue to work and move forward with the Sonnentag Complex. She said students deserve a building like this, that will be accessible and sustainable for large events.


Olson can be reached at Olsongm1225@uwec.edu.


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