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June 1, 2020

As part of the Culture Tap program, artist Julie Benda worked with sixth graders at James Williams Middle School on a tree election project. Contributed photograph.
As part of the Culture Tap program, artist Julie Benda worked with sixth graders at James Williams Middle School on a tree election project. Contributed photograph.
3/28/2020 7:29:00 AM
Artist-in-residence works with Rhinelander students on tree election project

The School District of Rhinelander, in partnership with ArtStart and Nicolet College, recently hosted its second artist-in-residence as part of the Culture Tap program launched in fall 2019.

In February, artist Julie Benda spent a week in Rhinelander working with sixth graders at James Williams Middle School, meeting with 3-D sculpture students at Nicolet College, and installing her show at the Nicolet College Art Gallery, according to a school district press release.

Benda, originally from Houghton and now based in Minneapolis, was excited to return to the Northwoods, the release notes.

One of her projects is based around a concept of a tree election, a literal election to vote for which species of tree will be the most resilient in the Northwoods 100 years from now.

The students screen-printed their own campaign posters which were then displayed in the Nicolet College Art Gallery as part of Benda's exhibition.

Benda's other work incorporates tree carvings and sculptural elements all relating back to our relationship with nature.

Benda demonstrated her carving techniques with Nicolet students and at the gallery's opening reception.

Benda's visit follows Takayuki Ishii as the second Culture Tap artist.

Ishii visited Rhinelander in September of 2019 and demonstrated natural indigo dye techniques.

Culture Tap is a collaborative partnership highlighting creativity across the community through interactive art projects, educational programming, and access to a wide variety of artists from the Northwoods and beyond, the release explains.

"Experiences like this expose children and the wider community to new ways of thinking and being in the world. Having the opportunity to work one on one with an artist helps you see the world through their lens. The Tree Election is a great example. We are not used to thinking about nature in this way - it gives us a new frame of reference for interacting with the world around us," said Melinda Childs, Community and Cultural Development Director for ArtStart and Nicolet College.

The Culture Tap program is supported in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, according to the release.

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