Tradition – On Wisconsin For UW-Madison Alumni and Friends Mon, 04 Feb 2019 21:09:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Wheelhouse Studios Mon, 05 Nov 2018 20:30:13 +0000 What started four years ago as a small experiment meant to encourage the campus community to tap into its creativity has expanded tenfold into a hub for the skilled and newcomers alike to come together and make art. Wheelhouse Studios’ monthly Free Art Fridays draw between 300 and 400 people, and on the weekends it’s getting difficult to find an open pottery wheel.

“We exceeded all of our expectations, so organizationally, we’re figuring out what the sustainability plan is,” says recently retired director Jay Ekleberry ’77, MS’83. “How do we keep this going? How do we keep things fresh and new?”

Open 70 hours a week on the lower level of Memorial Union, Wheelhouse is available to students and union members and offers spaces dedicated to ceramic, 3D, and 2D art. The open-studio aspect is what sets the program apart, Ekleberry says. With other art spaces in Madison, “you can’t just waltz into your ceramics studio anytime between your class sessions and practice or work on a project.”

That time to pursue artistic passions was what inspired Wheelhouse’s predecessor, the Craftshop, which opened in 1930 after student Sally Owen Marshall ’30 used her senior thesis to petition for an art space on campus. It closed in 2012 for renovations to the union and Wheelhouse opened in 2014.

Close to 2,000 students and community members enroll in Wheelhouse classes during the year, and the studio attracts additional visitors when it hosts events to encourage conversation about contemporary issues. On Martin Luther King Jr. Day, the campus community was invited to drop in and create mixed-media collages representing their favorite quote from King. Wheelhouse has also hosted painting workshops to reinforce positive messages about body image.

“When you’re just sitting and talking when you’re working on an art project, the dialogue becomes deeper,” Ekleberry says. “It’s a whole different conversation because you’re engaged in this activity that’s activating the whole brain, forcing you to be creative. You have an instant common ground.”

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Halloween Mon, 27 Aug 2018 17:33:09 +0000 On the one night of the year when it’s perfectly acceptable to be someone (or something) else, there are sure to be just as many tricks as there are treats in Madison.

The city has a history of wild nights when Halloween weekend rolls around. Although the UW has hosted a number of spirited events, such as pumpkin carving and a costume ball at Memorial Union, the soul of Halloween in Madison has long been found on State Street.

Partygoers began flooding into the downtown hub starting in the late 1970s. By the 1980s, as many as 100,000 costumed people — students among them — would line the street and patronize its bars. With informal programming and little crowd control, the event spurred some revelers to set fires, damage property, start fights, and climb light poles. In 1983, a man tragically died after falling from a rooftop.

In 2006, the City of Madison sought to rein in Halloween’s more raucous antics by setting up Freakfest, the region’s largest Halloween festival. In its first year, the gated, ticketed event reduced the number of State Street arrests by nearly 200, from 334 to 148. By 2016, only 13 arrests were made.

Freakfest embraces live music: more than a dozen acts perform across three stages lining State Street. Country stars Kip Moore and Jon Pardi — along with pop groups MisterWives, OK Go, and Timeflies — are among the prominent musicians who have provided a soundtrack for the spooky night.

Although attendance has dropped to a more manageable 30,000 or so per year, there’s no shortage of excitement in the air when All Hallows’ Eve arrives. A summary from the 1982 Badger yearbook rings true today: “If the multitudes of partiers who flock to State Street every year have any say in the matter, rest assured there will never be an end to this most popular of holidays.”

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Learning to Sail Wed, 23 May 2018 14:24:08 +0000 It was a gray Friday afternoon, cloudy and unusually chilly for September, with a heavy chance of rain. Most of the sailing classes offered through Wisconsin Hoofers had been canceled for the day — except for Jay Chan’s sailing lesson, which he prepared for eagerly despite the darkening skies.

Chan PhDx’22, who is studying physics, would soon hop in a sloop for a three-hour lesson with Edward LeBlanc, a physician’s assistant with UW Health and a first-year instructor for the Hoofer Sailing Club. During the summer, Chan and his friends had decided to learn to sail, and they’d had an initial lesson that covered terminology and sailing basics about three weeks earlier.

As he began to prepare the boat for the water, Chan looked back at his instructor for guidance.

“Do what you want to do,” LeBlanc said. “And if it’s wrong, I’ll teach you something else.”

Despite the fact that Lake Mendota is completely frozen for about a fourth of the year, the student sailing club sells more than 300 memberships annually. Program manager David Elsmo estimates that the number of students involved at any given time is much higher than that, and the group boasts nearly as many community members. At around $250 for an annual student pass, it’s one of the country’s most cost- effective sailing programs.

Newcomers start out in the chart room inside Memorial Union, getting acquainted with terms such as tacking (bringing the forward part of the boat through the wind) and jibing (the opposite maneuver). From there, they move on to the techs — the familiar yellow boats lined up along the lakeshore — or the keel boats, which are larger.

Experienced sailors can make their way through the fleet to the E Scow, which LeBlanc says is likely the fastest sailboat on Lake Mendota. But for beginners, he says, it’s essential to learn on the slower, smaller boats — to feel the spray of the water and take control of the motions.

Even the most advanced students can make too tight a turn and flip the boat. But at Hoofers, there’s a saying for that.

“The worst thing you can do is take a swim,” LeBlanc explains. “And that’s not the end of anything.”

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Sailing Through the Years Wed, 23 May 2018 14:24:08 +0000 On a campus situated between two lakes, it’s only natural that students take advantage of the water. Just two years after the Hoofer Sailing Club formed in 1939, it already boasted more than 450 registered members. Today, UW–Madison students and community members still enjoy hopping into one of the club’s many boats to pick up a new skill. (For more, read “Learning to Sail.”) View scenes of the sailing club over the years since its inception.

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Becoming Bucky Thu, 22 Feb 2018 19:13:08 +0000 Each spring, a small group of students vies for the chance to become the most visible member of the UW Spirit Squad: Bucky Badger. A three-night audition — filled with equal parts fun and intensity — puts their creativity, humor, and strength to the test.

First there are push-ups, a skill required when Bucky counts up points after the football team scores at Camp Randall. The would-be mascots line up on a mat on the UW Field House floor, and a former Bucky counts: “Down, one, Down, two, Down, three … ” The first person gives up at 27. Others make it into the 50s.

After that comes another physical feat. An aspiring Bucky must be able to balance at the top of an “elevator,” a maneuver in which two squad members wedge their hands under his feet and help him rise to the top of a human pyramid.

Improvisation is key. Candidates are presented with a pile of props and must employ them in novel ways. (Don’t use the broom to sweep — make it a guitar or an oar to paddle a laundry basket across the floor.)

During a dance tryout, without the costume, subtle moves won’t cut it. “It’s awkward. It’s weird,” Spirit Squad director Josette Jaucian ’97 tells the candidates. “Have fun with it.”

Simply putting on the outfit doesn’t make someone Bucky. How students handle themselves while wearing the suit during a one-minute comedic scene, with directions from a member of a panel of judges, helps determine whether they have what it takes. Each candidate emerges from the costume hot, sweaty, and smiling. “How’s it smell in there?” one student is asked when he is done. His answer isn’t printable.

The second night of tryouts includes navigating an obstacle course on the ice and taking shots on goal while wearing the top half of the suit, including Bucky’s heavy head. Last April, nine out of 14 students made it to the final night, when they performed a two-minute original skit, complete with homemade costumes. Keegan Gallup x’20, who made the team, presented an homage to every Big Ten mascot, including Michigan State’s Sparty.

The final squad of seven Bucky Badgers includes three returning veterans — two had to try out again as is customary after their first year on the squad. They will collectively appear at more than 700 events in a year, ranging from wedding receptions to game days before a capacity crowd at Camp Randall.

Seth Van Krey x’19, a returning Bucky, doesn’t hesitate when asked about the time commitment required: “It’s worth it.”

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Winter Carnival Fri, 03 Nov 2017 23:02:38 +0000

Bryce Richter

When frigid temperatures have settled in and sunny skies are rare, what could bring UW students out of their homework-induced hibernation for some frozen fun?

That’s the puzzle that the Wisconsin Hoofers solved when the student group took over the university’s Winter Carnival in 1940, drawing the campus community together for ice sculpture contests, a ski jump, and a Snow Ball.

Skate cabarets and broom hockey were among the events on deck for the first few carnivals, when organizers flooded the Terrace to create a makeshift ice rink. The Central Ski Association hosted an official championship meet each year — and if Madison snow was in short supply, more was shipped in on railroad boxcars from northern Wisconsin.

Those were the days when much of the student body could fit into one large building for an all-school dance — but as the university’s population rapidly expanded in the decades since, the carnival itself has kept pace, adding new activities and developing twists on old ones to keep students engaged.

Bryce Richter

Now cohosted by Hoofers, Recreational Sports, and the Wisconsin Union, last winter’s carnival boasted a broomball tournament, a make-your-own-kite event, nighttime fireworks over Lake Mendota, and human bowling, with students sitting in inflatable tubes that sail across the ice to knock over giant inflatable bowling pins.

And in a nod to the carnival’s beginnings, Hoofer Ski and Snowboard Club hosts the annual Rail Jam, where several hundred students gather at the top of Observatory Hill to cheer on classmates who attempt daring tricks on a ski jump.

Bryce Richter

“The goal of Winter Carnival has always been to encourage everybody to go out and have fun in the winter,” says Yiqun Ma x’19, who organized last year’s event for Hoofers.

Ma says he hopes to push the envelope further for carnivals to come and experiment with activities that were “not possible logistically or technologically back in the day,” such as hosting a live concert on the ice.

But no matter the decade, Winter Carnival provides a yearly excuse to bundle up — maybe don a cozy red Wisconsin hat — and go play outside.

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Photo Gallery: Hoofers Winter Carnival Fri, 03 Nov 2017 23:02:38 +0000 Even Wisconsin’s harshest winters haven’t stopped students at its flagship university from outdoor antics. A tradition since the early 20th century, the UW’s Winter Carnival grew into a popular place for students who like to ski, skate or sculpt — ice sculptures, that is. (For more, read “Winter Carnival.”) Scenes from carnivals held throughout the school’s last several decades show how students have made the best of the coldest months on campus.

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Marching Band Auditions Wed, 23 Aug 2017 19:28:34 +0000 The Badger football team isn’t the only group on the UW campus to endure blood, sweat, and tears in the scorching heat of late summer.

The UW Marching Band — the champions of Camp Randall’s Fifth Quarter — uses roughly two weeks before the fall semester kicks off for an intense refresher and a strenuous testing ground. Returning veterans need practice, and more than 150 freshmen vie for about 70 spots in the nearly 300-person marching band.

The marching tryouts, which typically take place on a west campus field under the blazing August sun, require a hard-won combination of artful musicality and physical prowess as potential new members strive to master the band’s unique style, a variation of the high-step popular among Big Ten schools. The UW version requires members to “stop at the top” with their knee, followed by a split-second hesitation before lowering it and raising the other while keeping the thigh at a 45-degree angle. On every eighth step, band members hit the center of the yard line with the ball of the right foot.

Rachel Minehan x’20, a trumpet player from Manitowoc, Wisconsin, prepared for last year’s tryouts by running during the summer to build up her endurance. “The music is pretty standard,” Minehan said as she waited to enter the audition room for her musical assessment earlier in the week. “[But] the marching is definitely what’s going to make or break people.”

Band director Michael Leckrone, however, contends that his judgment isn’t quite so harsh. He says that if students come to the audition prepared and can show a little coordination with a horn on the field, they already have a good shot at making the ranks. And no matter what their ability, Leckrone says his goal is to use the audition week to improve skills — whether students make the band or not.

“Right up to the time I make the final cut, my goal is to make them a little bit better than they were,” he says. “If I see that they have made an improvement, experience tells me that’ll continue over time.”

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Venetian Night Mon, 22 May 2017 17:47:49 +0000 040502as189


For one night a year from 1911 until 1930, the shores of Lake Mendota sparkled with the old-world charm of the canals of Venice — at least in the eyes of onlookers.

The shoreline between Park and Frances Streets played host to the Venetian Night Illuminated Water Parade and Festival, where a procession of lighted and decorated canoes and literal floats attempted to transport students half a world away from the 

The first event, hosted by the UW’s canoe club, was not short on entertainment. Venetian Night included a canoe parade, a pyrotechnics display, a float decoration contest, and individual craft decorations. The UW Regimental Band, the Glee Club, and the Mandolin Club performed. Despite a rain shower early in the evening of the 1911 event, a reported 10,000 spectators watched the festivities.

The event soon turned into a campus staple, becoming part of the UW’s Spring Carnival in 1912. The water show became a contest for judging the best piers, floats, canoes, and music. It took candles, lanterns, strings, and wire — and a lot of creativity — to construct the winning entries, with themes including a battleship, a lighthouse, a Japanese pagoda, King Tut’s tomb, and Mount Vesuvius.

Venetian Night later included a flame exhibition, aerial maneuvers by the Royal Airways Company, and night surfboard riding. And in the 1920s, the event retained its popularity after it was incorporated into Mothers’ Week End.

The tradition faced a few considerable roadblocks. In 1912, two people suffered minor injuries after pyrotechnics caught fire and rocketed toward campus buildings and boats. And in 1925, students destroyed — and failed to pay for — four canoes they had rented from Camp Indianola, a former boys’ camp on the northwestern shore of Lake Mendota.

After suffering intermittent cancellations during its two-decade existence, the event ended in 1931 due to unpredictable weather, a surplus of spring events, and a lack of funds. Twilight had fallen on the UW’s little piece of Venice.

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Spring Fashion Show Fri, 24 Feb 2017 14:18:29 +0000 Fashion_Show16_9217

In the moments before the music begins, the nervous energy is palpable.

Nearly three dozen student models line up along a wall in a second-floor hallway inside Nancy Nicholas Hall. Some hold shoes in their hands, waiting until the last moment to step into gravity- defying heels while designers make final adjustments to their looks. Racks of clothes — with each outfit numbered and labeled to indicate its place in the lineup — fill a small room nearby.

For the last three decades, the annual spring fashion show has given fledgling designers in the School of Human Ecology’s Textiles and Fashion Design Program the chance to present their best work and point of view.

A clutch of students, dressed in black and wearing headsets, directs traffic and settles last-minute questions. The show’s performance lead, Sarah Winter ’16, instructs the models on how to walk, including where to stop and strike a pose (at the end of the runway and before exiting the stage). Just moments before showtime, Winter breaks into a confident smile and says into her microphone, “Anyone who can hear me, I love you; you’re all my people. We’re going to kill it.”

On the other side of the curtain, students have used lights and pulsating music to transform the mood of a large conference room. Hundreds of handmade paper flowers adorn the stage backdrop.

Cory Allen Linsmeyer MFA’15, a menswear designer who teaches in the program, compares the students’ journey to the “craziest roller-coaster ride at Six Flags” and notes that each collection represents long hours in the studio. He welcomes the proud parents and friends who sit alongside the runway, and he points out the room’s two exits “in case of a fashion explosion.”

The show begins. The models walk. Garments float. Vision becomes reality.


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