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Freshen up: The Fresh Art Tour celebrates 15 years

Cultural Cloth in Maiden Rock is one of this year's sites on the Fresh Art Spring Tour.1 / 3
Artist and Master Gardener Diane Millner's farm was the site of the very first regional art tour and will be a site on this year's Fresh Art Spring Tour.2 / 3
There is a diverse array of artwork to be seen throughout the 12 sites of this year's 15th annual Fresh Art Spring Tour including work by Kaye Luetke.3 / 3

Dotted along the Great River Road region are a plethora of artists. For 15 years, the creative population has joined forces to produce a unique art tour for art-lovers and passersby alike.

The thriving art scene in the villages of Maiden Rock, Stockholm, Pepin, Plum City and Durand welcomes the public into homes and studios again for this year's Fresh Art Spring Tour, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday May 17 to Sunday May 19.

The tour gives you the opportunity to have an art adventure in the quaint, charming communities nestled in valleys, on top of bluffs or along bodies of water. Homes, studios and galleries - some formerly farms and their outbuildings - have been made into spaces of creative beauty.

"It's really great that there are so many diverse artists," said Linda Day, co-founder of the art tours, "and they do some really great work."

The art tour is a biannual event - there is one is the spring and fall. Although the fall is generally the more popular event, because of the rich colors of the land, the spring tour has been growing in attendance each year, Day said.

The Fresh Art Tour began on the lawn of artist and Master Gardener Diane Milner. A handful of local artists, one yard and one mailing address in a vibrant autumn setting were all it took for what has become an infectiously growing event.

"After that success we thought we could also try for the spring and thought, why don't we all use our own addresses and people could go on a tour," Day said.

In the early years the tour was known as the Coulee Country Art and Culture Tour - named coulee for the area's geography and the culture part was for the food and sometimes music that was incorporated.

But the focus of the tour shifted from culture to art over the years.

"We clipped the tour name down to Fresh Art," Day said. "The art won out in the long run and it is just easier for people to remember."

Many tour sites showcase the host's studio, work and developing projects along with featured or guest artists. "This is such a wonderful thing for us," she added. "We are not having to pack up our studios, people can come to us and see our equipment, how it works and how we create our pieces."

Day and her husband, Bruce Dunlap, create whimsically colorful and funky pieces of clay art, paintings and birdhouses in their rural studio - another site to stop at along the tour nestled in between Plum City and Durand in the tiny town of Arkansaw. Day has worked as a full-time potter, cartoonist and illustrator for more than 25 years.

Whether it is your first time on the tour or your 10th, the route is an opportunity to experience the blossoming Great River Road region.

"We don't want to grow the tour too large," Day said. "We want people to get from one end to the other in one day."

The Fresh Art Spring Tour comprises 12 sites from Durand on U.S. Highway 10 to Maiden Rock, on U.S. Highway 35 - the Great River Road. For more information, visit the website at

At a glance ...

Fresh Art Tour:Travel on an art adventure for the 15th annual Fresh Art Tour. Discover the creative artisans thriving along the Wisconsin side.

When: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Friday May 17-Sunday May 19

Where: Durand to Maiden Rock

More info: 715-285-5692 or 715-672-8188 or visit

Two events mingle

This year the Fresh Art Spring Tour meshes with Fresh Paint. This open air painting event begins Wednesday May 15 and goes through Sunday May 19. The freshly created paintings will be on display at two of the tour sites including the Accola Gallery and the Old Courthouse Museum.

Outdoor painting lessons are 9 a.m. to noon Saturday May 18 by a licensed art instructor.

The public is invited to watch the plein air artists at work - or to try it themselves. A reception and sale of the fresh paintings will be 6 p.m. Saturday May 18 at the Old Courthouse Museum in Durand. Find more information at

Stacy Bengs-Silverberg

Stacy Bengs has been a photojournalist at the Red Wing Republican Eagle since 2010. She holds a bachelors degree in journalism and art from the University of Minnesota.

(651) 301-7880