EAU CLAIRE — Tucked away in Carson Park just blocks from downtown Eau Claire, stepping into the Chippewa Valley Museum can make you feel like you're stepping back in time.
On Feb. 29, visitors to the museum's annual Folk Arts Festival were not only able to explore the museum's expansive exhibits but also benefit from interacting with creators of arts that might not enjoy the prominence they once did but still have plenty of value in the modern world.
The event is a way for the historical museum to connect people with "vintage skills," said Olaf Lind, communication specialist for Chippewa Valley Museum.
The museum wanted the event, which featured more than 30 exhibitors and performances, to be educational and hands on, Lind said, as opposed to just a craft show.
Carrie Ronnander, museum director, said that being able to engage with the exhibitors and see the making of the items in action could provide a "spark" to visitors and encourage learning by doing.
Jayne Redman of the Western Wisconsin Indianhead Chapter of the American Sewing Guild said that the festival gave exposure to the guild, allowing them to show what the chapter does, which includes charity work and an annual theme to build — or sew — on.
By getting a closer look at what the creators at the Folk Arts Festival do, visitors could learn about the increased quality of handmade items and in turn, why handmade items may be more expensive, Redman said.
Lind said that one aim of the festival is help in "reconnecting with a sense of value."
Jodi Lepsch of Bumble Bee Arts arts said that experiences like the Folk Arts Festival were "great events" to be able to display homemade wares and show how the products were sustainably and locally sourced.
The museum also wanted to support artists who are "passing down cultural traditions," Ronnander said.
Janie Mininger, an exhibitor demonstrating spinning, does everything from "sheep to shawl," she said.
"They give me so much," Mininger said of the flock of sheep kept on the dairy farm she lives on with her family.
The enjoyment that the exhibitors get from their craft is something they appeared more than willing to share with others not only at the festival but beyond as well.
Mininger, for example, also offers spinning classes at the museum, which she has received good feedback from, she said. For information on classes, contact 715-205-2037 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Listings for vintage skills workshops can also be found on Chippewa Valley Museum's online calendar.
Workshops are also part of exhibitor Janine Thull's repertoire. Thull, who specializes in barn quilts with her business partner, said that they have offered over 100 workshops to over 1,000 participants throughout the Midwest.
At the festival, Thull had barn quilt samples in varying stages of completion at her booth, allowing her to demonstrate the process to visitors throughout the day.
Thull and her business partner are part of the effort to expand the tradition of barn quilts in Dunn County and ensure that the barn quilt trail established in the county flourishes. The end goals of the project are to add color to the northwestern Wisconsin landscape and bring people out to enjoy the countryside, which would ideally spur economic development, Thull said.
A large display of barn quilts completed by various artists sat outside the museum during the festival.
Other exhibitors displaying woodworking, weaving, scarf making, needle felting and a variety of other arts could be found throughout the museum.
The festival also featured musical performances featuring harp music, a jug band, folk dancing and a pianist as well as forums in the museum's farm house on fly fishing, snowshoe making and the art of sustainability.
A "kid's zone" provided an interactive space for children to do hands on activities, and some exhibitors offered paid lessons for visitors who wanted to give a craft a try.
Those interested in volunteering or participating in next year's festival can call 715-834-7871 or email email@example.com.
Accentuated by the Folk Arts Festival, local artists were on display through much of the winter in one of the museum's gallery for the "Warmth and Whimsy" winter art show that concluded soon after the festival.
The Chippewa Valley Museum's main building and exhibits, including their longstanding "Farm Life" display, are open Tuesday through Saturday each week year-round. The museum's other historic buildings are open seasonally. Visit cvmuseum.com or call 715-834-7871 for full hours and more information.