Menomonie, Wisconsin History/Raaaaelissa
The art in Menomonie, Wisconsin began developing in 1853 and made the city flourish due to the additions around town. The history of art in Menomonie ranges from advanced architecture of the 19th century to the design of the University of Wisconsin Stout’s current mascot. It is clear to see the influence of art by the architecture of old buildings. These historical buildings are a tourist attraction that draws people to them and make the town stand out. The history of art, that continues to grow, at the University of Wisconsin-Stout plays a huge impact on the town by brightening up the sidewalks and the campus.
Art in Architecture
Mabel Tainter Theater
Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater was dedicated to Mabel Tainter who passed away in 1886 at the age of nineteen. She was the daughter of the lumber baron Captain Andrew and Bertha Tainter who have played a significant role in building the town of Menomonie. The theater was constructed in 1889, designed by Harvey Ellis, as a memorial for Mabel. “The building was constructed during the Victorian era...Ellis included Moorish style of curved surfaces, combination of arches, and hand carved details framing the main entrance,” all made of local Dunnville sandstone. The sandstone gives the building another style known as Richardsonian Romanesque. The exterior consists of “stones featuring rustication. Intricate carvings sit atop the building’s columns. Relief sculptures decorate the doorway, they include acanthus leaf scrolls that adorn the archway. A shield-shape carving is centered above the door. The date of construction resides on each side of the archway, also a ship’s bow is carved in front of the building.” All of these were handmade details that took meticulous time and a lot of energy. All the hard work payed off because the exterior continuously draws the eyes of passerby.
The interior of the theater is just as outstanding as the outside. The building contains marble staircases and floors with stained glass Tiffany windows, and walnut and oak woodwork. The walls and ceilings contain hand stenciled designs. “In the original form they were hand painted. Since they needed to be restored, they were exactly replicated with stencils." In the theater itself, the ceiling is covered in star designs that were referenced as Islamic geometry style. In 1890 it was dedicated as a multi-purpose building serving as a library, Unitarian Church, as well as a theater. Where the original library and current lobby is, hangs a painting of Mabel. This painting is done by William Cogswell, a famous artist of the time. The painting portrays the head of Mabel on her sister, Fanny’s, body. In the painting, Mabel was wearing a wedding ring. Although she was not married, her sister was. Her sister stood in place for her body after Mabel died. In this painting, it is noticeable that from her knees and down it appears to show the inside of a room, while her knees and up is shown as being outside. This was a popular style of painting that Cogswell enjoyed experimenting with. But this is not the only painting of Cogswell’s in the house, he painted five paintings that were all placed within the theater. William Cogswell was the artist of the painting of Abraham Lincoln that is currently displayed in the White House. Captain Andrew Tainter wanted the original painting of Lincoln, but was unfortunately denied. Instead, he hired Cogswell to paint a replica of the Lincoln painting. Cogswell did the same style of inside/outside background and changed the picture slightly by only having the painting being from the waist and up. The Tainter’s also hired Cogswell to paint a portrait of both the Captain and Bertha Tainter to hang inside of their home. Once they passed away they were brought to hang in the theater. These great paintings by Cogswell give the town of Menomonie such privilege to hold the work of a famous painter. The memorial building does not go unnoticed and continues to be a working theater. It was voted as one of the 15 most spectacular theaters in the world. This is a title that the Captain and his wife would be proud to own, as is the city of Menomonie.
Louis Smith Tainter House
The Louis Smith Tainter House was a three story mansion built by Captain Andrew Tainter and his wife Bertha for their son, Louis. Just one year after the parents built the memorial for Mabel, they built this beautiful home as a wedding gift for Louis and his wife Effie. They chose Harvey Ellis, again, to design the home. He used the same Dunnville sandstone that they used for the Memorial. There are many similarities between these two buildings. Ellis, “known for his influence on 19th century Midwestern architecture, used a style termed Richardsonian Romanesque,” the same style that was used for the Mabel Tainter Theater.  The relief sculptures and carvings on the exterior walls are also noticeable. The arches and curved surfaces give this building the same Moorish Style that was depicted in the theater. The interior includes similar woodwork as the Tainter Theater as well. It uses more exotic woods like Honduran mahogany, sycamore, maple, and birch. All of the efforts put into the building display the great wealth of the Tainter family.
Through the years
The Louis Smith Tainter House has had many uses over the years, as it was first used as a home for Louis and his wife. "Once Louis left for California in 1902, another lumbering family, known as the Wilson's, owned the home until 1940. The Stout Institute bought the house in 1945 and was renamed Eichelberger Hall when it then became a women’s dormitory. The building also was used as office space for the vocational rehabilitation program from 1967 to 1974." It was then that the building entered on the National Register of Historic Places. Today, the Louis Smith Tainter house serves for the Stout University Foundation and houses the Stout Alumni Association. The building has played a great role in the history of Menomonie and still serves purposes dedicated to the University.
Art at Stout
School of Art and Design
The University of Wisconsin-Stout created a new School of Art and Design in 2011. This new school also accomplished a new Master of Fine Arts in Design degree. Julie Furst-Bowe the Provost of UW-Stout said, “The art program has set a standard of excellence at UW-Stout and beyond for nearly 50 years. The School of Art and Design will raise visibility for an outstanding program and position it for greater success in the future.” The University is proud of their art program and know that art has played a large part in building the city and wishes to continue to share the importance of art with Menomonie. Students have had the privilege of decorating the University with sculptures and monuments. Their work is also displayed in many buildings. “The educators wish for their graduates to become change makers, innovators, leaders, and dynamic creators and to have a significant impact in their fields.” The school is the UW System’s largest undergraduate B.F.A program. Stout has put emphasis on the art and in turn has created an exhibit to display students’ work in the University Library. The program gives the artist-in-residence grant. This grant allows one piece of each student’s work to be on permanent display in the library. “The display is a lasting tribute to the Micheels’ continued interest in technology, art, creativity, and learning.”This shows how serious Stout is about art and how strongly they believe the impact art has.
In 2011, the face of University of Wisconsin-Stout came to life. The mascot was developed, as a result of a collaboration between students and administration. “The Stout Student Association surveyed students about the idea and design. An art and design student, Megan Jurecki of Burlington, designed a prototype. The mascot was approved in December by Chancellor Charles W. Sorensen.” The Blue Devil mascot is blue and white and has two pointed gray ears, along with a gray tail. It is an honor that a student of the School of Art and Design developed the university’s first official mascot.
Decorating the Town
Students of the School of Art and Design were allowed to decorate some of the downtown traffic signal control boxes. The “artists created designs picked by a committee for the Menomonie Arts power public arts project.”The theme of each box has to do with the history of Menomonie, a logging theme, birds and flower designs, peace sign, and the clock tower. The city had decided to decorate the town to join history and art and brighten up the city. The influence art has had on the city will hopefully make painting these boxes a tradition, once they fall into disrepair, that will continue throughout the years to come.
- Historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts. (n.d.). Retrieved from: http://www.mabeltainter.org/about_us.phtml
- Lewis, M. (2014). Menomonie Wisconsin: Quiet Beauty Revealed Through a Lens.
- Information was gathered from Jana Reeg Steidinger a Mabel Tainter Docent on November 9, 2015.
- Dunn County Historical Society. (2015). Louis Smith Tainter House. Retrieved from: http://www.dunnhistory.org/history/exlst.html
- Louis Smith Tainter House. (2015). Retrieved from: http://www.uwstout.edu/guide/tour/13.cfm
- University Creates New School of Art and Design. (2011, May 10). Targeted News Service Retrieved from: http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/139F6F9EA1FCED80?p=AWNB
- Brantmeier, T. (2015). School of Art and Design. Retrieved from: http://www.uwstout.edu/artdes/
- Bud and Betty Micheels student artistinresidence grant. (2010, October 14). Retrieved from: http://www2.uwstout.edu/content/lib/artists/
- Blue Devil Mascot Debuts at UWStout Football Game. (2011, September 24). Targeted News Service Retrieved from: http://infoweb.newsbank.com/resources/doc/nb/news/139F6F9EA1FCED80?p=AWNB
- Powers, P. (2014, April 30). Plan Commission approves artwork for city’s traffic signal control boxes. Retrieved from: https://www.uwstout.edu/news/upload/LT_043014_N_signalboxes.pdf