January 2015 Winter Art and Writing Roundup

To encourage gratitude for winter, it is helpful to check out some of the most interesting events we can find, and to share thoughtful reflections on how we can find beauty and solace during the season. I share articles regularly on my Facebook page (and kudos to the Winter Cities Institute for doing so as well); late January feels like a good time to renew our winter love by revisiting highlights from what I’ve read so far this winter.

To start off, Alena Hall identified some great ways in which snow can help us find joy, including wonder, relaxation, and links to childhood memories. A good motivational piece to fire us up to remember what winter has to offer!

To value both winter and one’s community, it helps to be open to identifying what we have to enjoy. For example, Minnesotans have recently been taking more self-conscious pride in their identity as a ‘North.’ Ad agencies advised, “you’ve got to own the cold,” and this Wall Street Journal article explores ways that Minnesotans developed products and media campaigns which, among other things, identify the cold as being a distinctive aspect of their lives, something they can focus attention on as a marker of what they value about their lives and their places. If Minnesotans can find ways to take pride in their weather – typically colder and snowier than ours – I hope that motivates us to salute what we have, too.

To access the opportunities winter provides, it helps to develop activities which encourage people to explore, and to be creative. For example, Minnesota (again, ‘owning the cold’) has developed a scavenger hunt challenge to encourage people to check out different parts of their state during winter, Checkpoint Minnesota. I think more places – particularly our own Wisconsin – could benefit from such programs. (This week I wrote a new essay on a favorite local example of a winter-exploration event, the Walk Across Lake Winnebago.)

Creative public art projects can also be a means of directing peoples’ attention to something interesting and fun during winter, rather than having them focus on frustrating aspects. That could mean a Wisconsin town developing a giant snowman sculpture, a new icon during winter for Minocqua. It could involve a Minnesota family deciding to, on their own lawn, create some pretty impressive sculptures (and to get their neighbors to assist as well). Wouldn’t we appreciate winter more if it meant that every block periodically produced entertaining new sculptures for residents to enjoy? If we took more time to be creative?

A particularly fun example from this winter came from an Allouez woman, who decided to wear a costume based on a “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” character while walking her dog. This small act – which we could call a hobby, or performance art, or who knows what! – drew a lot of media attention. Neighbors could be entertained by something fun; and newscasters could focus attention on the lighter side of winter.

I appreciate seeing a variety of different articles sharing some of the beauty that we can find in winter. My favorite recent pieces show that winter’s beauty can be found in nature, in art developed to make use of snow, as well as in the ways that elegant human architecture can inspire us through the harmonies it can develop with different kinds of weather. Earthporm collected, and reflected on, some of the best examples from around the world of the striking patterns we can find in snow and ice. Simon Beck is one of the artists who most effectively uses snow as a medium for his art, tracing fractal patterns with his snowshoes. This Huffington Post piece provides a good introduction to his work; a recent Forth magazine interview. On the other side of the spectrum, Architectural Digest reminds us that when we make beauty a priority in the design of our buildings, the combination can remind us of how effectively nature and culture can work together.

On more philosophical notes, Wisconsin’s John Hildebrand, author of The Heart of Things: A Midwestern Almanac, shared reflections on how “winter night makes even the smallest chore expeditionary and the cold itself a destination,” in an essay which moves between reflections on walks in his neighborhood and tales of polar exploration. And Clark Strand, author of Waking Up to the Dark: Ancient Wisdom for a Sleepless Age, reminded us in a New York Times piece that there is a value, spiritual and otherwise, to the darkness during winter. Life offers us many opportunities, and making an efforts to access the gifts that come from such opportunities is part of the way to be happy where we are, during any season!

About MilwaukeeSnow

Dr. Jeffrey Filipiak, Milwaukee's Ambassador of Snow, loves winter, Milwaukee, and environmental history! He has taught college courses on topics including history, writing, environmental ethics, food studies, the Great Lakes, and sustainability. You can contact him at ambassadorofsnow@gmail.com.
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4 Responses to January 2015 Winter Art and Writing Roundup

  1. Please let me know about favorite recent winter readings you’ve found which I may have missed!

  2. Kim Smith says:

    Don’t forget about the upcoming 2015 World Ice and SnowSailing Championships which are coming to Fond du Lac from the 9-14th of February! There will be about 100 competitors from all over the world who love to ice and snow sail on frozen lakes all winter long! Talk about a true love of winter!

  3. That’s right, Kim! I was looking back in this piece, but there’s a lot to look forward to this month as well. And WISSA returning to Wisconsin for the first time in 20 years is a special treat 🙂

  4. I might also add that I also just published (elsewhere) a photo essay – basically, a mission statement on my feelings about outdoor appreciation on winter beauty – that I am proud of: http://edgeeffects.net/an-eye-for-winter/

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