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Spring Art Show
New artist makes a splash at Heyde art show

A renovated countertop, gold leaf and lumps of coal all have a common theme — at least for Eau Claire artist Alicia Hashlamoun.

Hashlamoun displayed three pieces at the Heyde Center for the Arts’ 54th annual Spring Art Show. Looking at Hashlamoun’s largest piece feels like peering into a mahogany- and gold-colored geode — a deposit of crystals that forms inside a rock. Layers of deep brown resin are lined with gold leaf, glitter, coal, glass and quartz. The effect is that of a huge crystalline geode mounted on the wall.

But it’s the first time Hashlamoun, 30, has showed her work. The newly minted artist only began the technique five months ago, she said.

“This is the only medium that I know,” she said. “It’s epoxy resin. I remade my countertop a couple years ago, and had some left over.”

Hashlamoun saw an Australian artist using the technique, and decided to try it out — and the rest is history.

“I think art, for anybody, once you release all that,” she said, waving at the geode-themed piece, “It’s really addicting.”

Creating the piece involves working with many chemical reactions, substances and textures. Resin will encase any substance as long as the substance doesn’t hold moisture, Hashlamoun said, giving her the opportunity to inlay quartz, chunks of coal, pieces of glass and other rocks into the piece.

“Everything’s kind of free game. You could put anything in a resin base,” she said. “I’m into rocks and stones. … Who wouldn’t want a bunch of quartz in their house? It brings so much positive energy.”

Another of Hashlamoun’s pieces on display Sunday was inspired by wood grain; another depicted crystallized leaves of a houseplant.

“I’m going to start working on a cactus tomorrow,” she laughed. “I’ve prepared some pieces to stick out as the cactus thistles. There’s so many possibilities with resin.”

Even with no background in art, Hashlamoun said one of her goals was to display her art at a show. When she saw a Facebook post about the Spring Art Show at the Heyde Center, she knew where to start.

“I just Google a lot. What’s an art submission?” she said. “It’s a lot of learning, but I love to learn.”

Deb Johnson, executive director of the Heyde, said it was Hashlamoun’s first time at the show, and Johnson was delighted she had applied to participate.

“One thing that makes me proud about this art show, is that it’s a stepping stone for so many artists,” Johnson said to Hashlamoun Sunday afternoon.

“I had no idea people would appreciate it,” Hashlamoun replied.

Her occupation as a stay-at-home mother means creating art is a part-time job, but Hashlamoun said it’s helped her in more ways than one.

“I was getting a little lost, and I think this gave me some direction,” she said. “It’s all just a big experiment.”

More of Hashlamoun’s art can be found at

For more information and hours for the Heyde Center’s annual Spring Art Show, which is sponsored by the Herald, visit Hashlamoun’s art, along with dozens of other pieces from local artists and students, will be available for viewing at the Heyde Center, 3 S. High St., Chippewa Falls, until Friday, April 20.

To purchase any of the pieces on display, call the Heyde office at 715-726-9000.

As part of the show, a pine needle basket-weaving demonstration by artist Jean Atter Chwala will take place at 1 p.m. at the Heyde on Sunday, April 15.

The 2019 Spring Art Show will be held April 7-19. The registration deadline is March 8, 2019.


Eau Claire artist Alicia Hashlamoun poses next to an abstract resin piece, "The Geode," on Sunday at the Spring Art Show at the Heyde Center for the Arts. For more photos from the Spring Art Show, click on this story at

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Club's annual skating exhibit showcases talent on ice

Spotlights, sequined costumes and … toe picks?

Those were the trappings of the Chippewa Figure Skating Club’s 29th annual Spring Show, where on Saturday afternoon, the spotlights went up and a squad of young skaters took the ice to the sounds of Billy Joel’s “Uptown Girl.”

The nonprofit puts on two shows per year, the larger of which was held Saturday and Sunday at the Chippewa Area Ice Arena in Chippewa Falls.

“Since the beginning of March, the coaches and the skaters have been working on their routines, and we parents have been working on costumes,” said show chair Brenda Bohman.

The theme of the 2018 show was “shopping,” and the skaters delivered. Numbers were set to a mix of classics — Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’,” Tom Petty’s “American Girl” and a glittering, glamorous Madonna medley — and contemporary jams like Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars’ “Uptown Funk” and Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”

Bohman said skaters’ parents have volunteered for weeks to create the costumes and a backdrop of store fronts.

“The families transform the hockey rink into a beautiful skating venue,” she said.

The two-hour show included a hardware store-themed number where parents joined their skaters on the ice. Bohman calls it “a real crowd-pleaser.”

The nonprofit club also puts on a smaller show in January, “Skate for a Cause,” which fundraises for various community needs. In 2018, Bohman said, the club skated for a club member battling serious health issues.

“While she isn’t on the ice with us this year, she was there cheering us all on (at the spring show). … As is her whole skating family, cheering (her) on in her recovery,” Bohman said.

The show was capped off by three solos from senior skaters, who will graduate from the club after this season — Stephanie Powell, Faith Armstrong and Paige Erickson.

“The senior solos are very bittersweet, because these girls have been skating for a few times week for many years, done many competitions and shows, and this is kind of their last hurrah,” Bohman said.

The club hosts skaters from all skill levels, from those under 10 to seniors in high school. Boys take part as well as girls; local hockey coaches often appreciate students with figure skating experience, Bohman said.

With the help of dozens of parents, coaches and volunteers, Bohman said watching the show come together is heartwarming.

“It’s the girls’ favorite time of year,” Bohman said.

The Chippewa Figure Skating Club thanks community members for their support. The club will offer introductory skating lessons on Mondays in April and May, starting April 16. For more information, visit

Advocates: School gun clubs teach discipline, not violence

DAHLONEGA, Ga. — Their classmates took to the streets to protest gun violence and to implore adults to restrict guns, seeming to forecast a generational shift in attitudes toward the Second Amendment. But at high school and college gun ranges around the country, these teens and young adults gather to practice shooting and talk about the positive influence firearms have had on their lives.

What do they say they learn? Discipline. Patience. Responsibility.

“I’ve never gone out onto a range and not learned something new,” said Lydia Odlin, a 21-year-old member of the Georgia Southern University rifle team.

There are an estimated 5,000 teams at high schools and universities around the country, according to the National Shooting Sports Foundation, and their popularity hasn’t waned despite criticism after it emerged that the gunman who killed 14 students and three staff members at a Florida high school had been a member of the JROTC rifle team. The youths who are involved, coaches and parents say there’s an enormous difference between someone bent on violence and school gun clubs that focus on safety and teach skills that make navigating life’s hardships easier.

The clubs use a variety of firearms — from air rifles that shoot pellets to 9 mm pistols that fire bullets. Its members invest hundreds of dollars in specialized stiff uniforms and shoes that provide stability and support for spending hours standing, kneeling or lying prone to fire at targets down range. Some have hopes of representing the U.S. in the Olympics. Some simply love the camaraderie and mental focus required.

On a recent weekend, close to a dozen high school and college gun team members gathered at the University of North Georgia in Dahlonega to work with JP O’Connor, a coach affiliated with USA Shooting, the Olympic organization. For the first hour he only talks — not about techniques or scores, but about mental strategy.

“I want to encourage you to be self-aware and to be disciplined about what you’re doing,” he said. “If you are patient with yourself, life is a lot easier — or less difficult.”

Many of the students came with their parents. All of them say they have no qualms about putting a firearm in the hands of kids, many of whom are too young to drive a car, vote or buy alcohol.

“So many people have assumed — and I picked that word on purpose — that guns are bad,” O’Connor told The Associated Press. “Some people are, ‘I can’t believe you’re teaching kids to shoot.’ Well, I’m not teaching kids to shoot. I’m teaching kids life skills. And I’m teaching them about a topic that is very contentious ... and when we educate people about something and they’re not ignorant about it, then we’re actually safer.”

Emily Clegg from Monroe accompanied her 16-year-old daughter, Ashley, to O’Connor’s session. Clegg said that in the two years Ashley has been involved in the JROTC program, she’s seen “tremendous, positive things” happen to her, from motivation and leadership to learning to set goals.

Everyone is upset by gun violence, “but I don’t think what students are doing here will lead to that,” Clegg said.

Mike Lewis, who started the Carrollton High School team, recalled bringing his .22-caliber rifle to school in the 1980s. He might open up the trunk in the school parking lot to show it off to his classmates or one of the teachers. “Now there’s a whole knee-jerk reaction based on ignorance and misunderstanding,” he lamented.

It’s a unique sport that doesn’t attract typical jocks, he said. Rather than brawn, it’s a very brainy sport, and he’s proud that most of his team is made up of straight-A students.

Kevin Neuendorf, the director of marketing communications at USA Shooting, said views toward school gun clubs are part of the cultural divide in the country.

“There are a lot of misperceptions out there about the gun culture and all that, but for many it’s just a way of life. Most people who are shooters, respect the sport and respect the game and have a respect for the firearm they shoot and for the people around them,” he said. “I question anybody who can’t go out to a gun range and have fun. That’s the way our athletes see it and that’s the way our sport is built.

“It’s no different than playing basketball or soccer. ... For our athletes and for our club members and for our parents, that gun is no different than Serena’s tennis racket ... and through that gun and through that firearm, what comes? Unbelievable discipline, opportunity, showing them success. Not every kid can be successful at basketball or football.”

Odlin grew up in Maine, a microcosm of the country’s divisions over guns. In the northern, more rural parts of the state, hunting is more prevalent. But in the southern, more-populated part, she said, she wasn’t even allowed to wear her rifle team’s T-shirt in high school.

“Overall, it was something you just didn’t talk about. You just kind of avoided the topic of guns,” she said.

As soon as she moved to Georgia, she was greeted with more acceptance.

“You say you’re on a rifle team, there’s no negativity surrounded by it. It’s, ‘Oh cool. What do you shoot? How far do you shoot?’”

Few go on to compete at the college level. After spending time working at a range and honing her skills, Odlin made the team in her second year. What she learns on the range, she said, has helped her in untold ways.

“You can’t become a quality shooter without becoming a quality person off the range too. The amount of focus just blends right into schoolwork,” she said.

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Boom time on central Wisconsin's grasslands

RUDOLPH — Hoarfrost hung from the trees, fence wire and prairie grass.

A school bus, announced by its blinking roof beacon, slowly headed west on Hwy. M just a few minutes before Carl Flaig could be heard to the northeast calling in his herd of 60 cows in a nearby cowyard for their morning milking.

It was just past 6 a.m., the sun was rising behind us, and the 10 inches of snow that fell Tuesday had given Flaig’s 350-acre organic farm a February look. The single-digit temperatures made the April morning feel like deep January.

But the reason for Thursday’s 3 a.m. car ride to central Wisconsin and a 5:20 a.m. hike to one of four blinds set up on Flaig’s back forty had yet to appear.

This is boom time on the grasslands when greater prairie chickens strut, dance, hop and flap in their annual courtship that is unique to this region of the state.

There was anticipation, hope and mounting doubt as the sun continued its climb sans birds, but just after 6:30 a.m. the payoff arrived at the breeding ground, referred to by birders as a lek. That’s when a pair of prairie chickens flew in from the south and gently landed about 100 feet from our blind. Another arrived about five minutes later. Two more came in from the east at 6:41 a.m. By 7:15 a.m., we found ourselves enjoying the company of eight prairie chickens, one of four species of native grouse in Wisconsin.

“It’s a whole different experience when it’s spring,” said Flaig, whose cows and cattle graze his land to ideal conditions for prairie chicken mating dances. “That’s why they like to come to my farm, it’s a very tight, highly managed grassland.”

Flaig’s farm is surrounded by the 3,000-acre Paul J. Olson Wildlife Area that is made up of scattered parcels ranging from 40 to 860 acres in western Portage and eastern Wood counties. The habitat, which includes canary, timothy, brome and quack grass, along with willow brush and spirea, provides prime areas for prairie chickens to mate, roost, nest and draw onlookers.

On Saturday, the area will be front and center for the second annual Wisconsin Prairie Chicken Festival. The daylong event debuted last year after the Central Wisconsin Prairie Chicken Festival ceased operations. Volunteers with that organization rallied to bring back a festival under a new name but still focused on birds that have been part of the landscape here for hundreds of years.

“They really are magnificent to watch,” said Sharon Schwab, one of the festival’s organizers. “People go all over the world to see similar displays (by different wildlife species) and we have this right in our own back yard.”

Reservations to stake out a spot in a blind are full, but spots are still open for a $15 grassland birding bus tour that includes breakfast. The keynote speaker at the festival is Bill Volkert, a retired naturalist and wildlife educator for the state Department of Natural Resources at Horicon Marsh and who has traveled the world to study birds. Since 2002, Volkert has worked with ornithologists and environmental educators to develop a national bird education plan for Nicaragua.

Other speakers during the day will make presentations about the early history of the Paul J. Olson Wildlife Area, named after the father of the Dane County Conservation League who helped generate interest and funds in the 1970s to purchase land to preserve grassland habitat for prairie chickens in central Wisconsin. The organization owns about 4,000 acres of grassland within the Buena Vista Wildlife Area south of Stevens Point. Other talks will focus on the decline of butterflies and bees and another on reviving ecosystems with “resilient” agricultural practices.

Most festival events are based at the Sigel Town Hall, 3678 Town Hall Road, Wisconsin Rapids, but “Our Birds,” a documentary from Wisconsin Public Television, will be shown at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the Fine Arts Center in the McMillian Memorial Library in Wisconsin Rapids. From 11 a.m. to 4 p.m., vendors and exhibitors featuring non-profits, conservation agencies and nature-based artists will be set up in Lester Hall at Camp Alexander, 1053 Camp Road, Wisconsin Rapids.

“I think we’re making progress in terms of awareness and maybe appreciation, but these are birds that require a vast open landscape,” Schwab said. “Where they succeed is where you have connectivity between open expanses.”

The grasslands, scrapes and ponds of the region will provide some of the best viewing opportunities for birders. Species could include sandhill cranes, trumpeter swans, ducks, Canada geese, bobolinks, meadowlarks and snipes. There are short-eared owls, marsh hawks and a resident golden eagle. Last week, a snowy owl was spotted. But the leks will be the focal point for most.

“It’s like their playground. That’s where they strut,” Dan O’Connell, part of a prairie chicken census team since 1999, said of the cocks who have colorful markings. “The birds kind of bounce around the landscape but they’re always going to come back to the lek.”

Prairie chickens are abundant in western Minnesota, Colorado, South Dakota, Kansas and Nebraska where there are established hunting seasons. But in Wisconsin, there is no hunting as the population is limited. But at one time the birds were prolific.

Logging opened up habitat for prairie chickens in northern Wisconsin and by the early 1900s the birds could be found in every county of the state. Hunting and the loss of habitat saw numbers plummet and in 1955 the state ending hunting for the birds. Research work by Fred and Frances Hamerstrom in the 1950s led to habitat management recommendations in central Wisconsin with the first parcel of land acquired on the Buena Vista Marsh in 1954. Today, about 15,000 acres, owned by the state, Wisconsin Society of Ornithology, Dane County Conservation League and other private land owners, are managed as grassland habitat for prairie chickens and other grassland species.

Landowners have worked to mow select spots to improve habitat and have left other areas to grow taller grasses in an effort to promote prairie chicken reproduction and nesting sites. A decline in farming has also meant fewer hay and alfalfa fields, desirable nesting sites for prairie chickens who can lay around a dozen eggs each spring.

“There’s plenty of food for them to eat but food isn’t the issue,” said O’Connell, who works with the Portage County Land Conservation Department. “Without that cover (for nesting), the population goes down very quickly. We’re trying to provide the habitat that the birds desire.”

The Paul J. Olson Wildlife Area is home to between 150 and 200 prairie chickens and 12 to 18 leks. But the location of leks can change from year to year based on alterations to habitat. For example, this is the first time in three years a lek has been established on Flaig’s farm. His blinds, which he rents out for $25 between March and May, are situated on prime grazing ground for his livestock.

Flaig, 59, was born and raised on the farm that now includes a solar-powered aquaponics farm in a former dairy barn. Run by his son, Holden, the aquaponics operation includes four, 200-gallon tanks of tilapia that provide nutrients for lettuce, kale, kohlrabi and Swiss chard growing on floating rafts under grow lights. Organic milk from the farm is sold to Organic Valley and Carl Flaig’s grass-fed beef are also marketed.

And at this time of the year on his land, the prairie chickens dance.

“I’m farming for nature,” Flaig said, as we rode in O’Connell’s pick up truck during a tour of the wildlife area. “I’m creating an environment that is sustainable.”