The historic Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts in Menomonie has been rebranded, thanks to a University of Wisconsin-Stout associate professor.
Erik Evensen, from the department of design, recently unveiled a new visual identity for the 130-year-old arts center, which is next to UW-Stout’s central campus.
Evensen has been working closely with Jeff McSweeney, the Mabel Tainter’s executive director, and Andrew Mercil, president of the board of directors. McSweeney began work in June, and Evensen began working on the project last fall.
Evensen uses Victorian-inspired typography and design elements but also includes variations that are more simplified and more visually complex. The main typeface is Sacred Bridge, with slightly modified letterforms, and the secondary typeface Gotham “to add a contemporary contrast.”
The blue, gold and red-brown “color palette was taken entirely from the theater's interior design,” Evensen said.
"I wanted to make sure they have options," Evensen said. "If they need something ornate and historic, they have that. If they need something clean and a little more modern, they have that. And ultimately, I'm thrilled to have captured some of the personality and the artistic integrity of the building."
The theater is a charter member of the League of Historic American Theaters and was named by CNN Travel in 2014 as one of the world’s 15 most spectacular theaters.
The building's history was an important influence on Evensen. "Walking through the Mabel, you are transported back in time to the Gilded Age. It's beautifully preserved and well maintained. It's such an integral part of the Mabel's identity; I felt like we needed to visually capture that."
Mercil is excited about the rebranding. "The Mabel is unique place that everyone feels they are a part of. The Mabel is successful because of the people who care about her, and Erik Evensen is an excellent example of that.
“Erik has been doing projects for several years now in Menomonie. His work shows not only how much an individual can contribute but that collaborations are integral in ensuring the success of organizations like the Mabel. These community collaborations are what the board of directors and the Mabel staff have been working hard on over the past year to ensure that everyone feels they are a part of our Mabel and that the Mabel is open to everyone," Mercil said.
Board member Melissa Kneeland, assistant director of the Dunn County Historical Society, agrees. "As a board, we are excited to focus on continuing to build our presence as a vital and thriving regional center for the arts and our community. This new logo is a step toward building that presence and presents a fresh face that also acknowledges and honors the Mabel's storied past."
Evensen, who has a Master of Fine Arts from Ohio State University, teaches in the design department in UW-Stout’s School of Art and Design. He has published graphic novels and illustrated for national comic books. He also recently redesigned the university’s athletics logo.
“I've been in and out of community arts programs all my life," said Evensen, who has been involved with the Ludington Guard Band and the Menomonie Theater Guild since moving to Menomonie. He recently took the title role in MTG's October production of "Dracula," which was produced at the Mabel.
"Being in the building is addictive. It's beautiful, but you don't fully experience it if you just take a tour. You really have to see or make some art in the building. When I was in Dracula this fall, I got to use a trap door in the stage that had been painted shut for years. We had to revive the original pulley system to make it work," he said.
Evensen's interest in the project also stems from his upbringing. "I grew up in New Hampshire in a 200-year-old house adjacent to a historic downtown. My childhood home is older than the state of Wisconsin. As a New Englander, I have a deep love and affinity for historic buildings and downtowns."
The Mabel Tainter was built in 1889 to honor the daughter of Bertha and Andrew Tainter, a wealthy local businessman who was a partner in the Knapp, Stout lumber company.