Artful Encounters in the Fox Cities

 By Melanie Radzicki Mcmanus

Great art is sprinkled throughout the Fox Cities, but sometimes you have to know where to look. The local ACRESofART program has placed more than 20 sculptures around the valley for visitor’s viewing pleasure. While most are in Appleton, Neenah and Menasha, five new pieces were added last year in Kaukauna and Little Chute, including “Kitty & Bunny” and “Scaramouche.” Download the free Otocast app to see exactly where they are, then head out for a scavenger hunt. Along the way, look for the colorful murals decorating various buildings in the region.

If you enjoy browsing through museums, don’t miss the Bergstrom-Mahler Museum of Glass in Neenah. Housed in a century-old Tudor mansion built by John and Evangeline Bergstrom, the museum features Evangeline’s extensive collection of antique glass paperweights. It’s also home to a Germanic glass collection purchased by Ernst Mahler, a former Kimberly-Clark executive. In all, there are more than 3,500 objects tucked in the museum, including art and contemporary glass, plus an assortment of miscellaneous pieces, such as a collection of 300 glass buttons. By the way, this museum is kid-friendly!

Appleton’s Trout Museum of Art focuses on contemporary art exhibits, especially those highlighting artists from diverse communities. The museum, which also offers art workshops and kids’ camps, hosts 12 to 18 exhibitions per year. While out and about, look for the city’s decorated utility and traffic boxes, plus the poetry stamped into the sidewalks.

In a surprise to many, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center premieres more Broadway shows than any other spot in Wisconsin. The center also hosts concerts, speaking engagements and more. At the two-stage Gibson Community Music Hall, an Art Deco structure built in 1931, you can catch a performance from artists representing a variety of musical genres.


Plan to spend some Thursday nights (June 1-Aug. 31, 5:30-8:30 p.m.) at Jones Park in Appleton. That’s when the park comes alive as host of the free Heid Music Summer Concert Series. The series features a different regional band every week, with the bands covering a variety of musical genres. Beer and wine are available, plus food from local vendors. Local retailers stay open later for your shopping convenience, too.


One creative way to have fun on a date night — whether your date is a romantic partner or bestie — is by making art. At The Fire, you can paint pottery or create glass-fused pendants, mosaics and more. The Eclectic Candle Co. operates a candle bar where you can fashion candles out of soy wax and your choice of fragrances. Custom labels are available, too. Sip some wine or beer while you re-create a featured painting at Pinot’s Palette, guided by trained, local artists. Board & Brush offers DIY wood-painting workshops.

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