Sprouting Unity

By Rachel Werner | Photography courtesy of Octopi Brewing

“Nobody owns anything but everyone is rich—for what greater wealth can there be than cheerfulness, peace of mind and freedom from anxiety?” —“Utopia” by Sir Thomas More

What began as a botanical exhibition at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art has flourished into the Civic Exchange Society, a collaborative artistic venture between key entities based in Dane County. “CES is a group of creative producers working together through acts of creative exchange for the aesthetic and social enrichment of our community,” explains MMoCA curator of exhibitions Leah Kolb. “First initiated by artist Meg Mitchell, the project is now thriving in conjunction with the museum, [local design firm] Art & Sons and Octopi Brewing [in Waunakee].”

Local artist Meg Mitchell’s primary installation of “Tenacious Numismatic Hops Exchange” began in early 2017. And the partnership with Octopi germinated from the idea to use the hops which grew last year to make a specialty brew, later unveiled at a “harvest party” originally concepted as a celebration—and conclusion—of this successful endeavor. But Mitchell’s concept truly came to embody the cycle of life by blossoming again in 2018 having taken root in the hearts and minds of community leaders from other sectors outside of the arts.

Now Kolb affirms all invested parties are seeking to push the envelope as to what it really means to be allies on a local and global level. She states, “Satisfying natural impulses through the common exchange of buying and consuming beer, they simultaneously encourage us to reexamine our consumptive habits and desires—and to probe our relationship to labor, capitalism and each other.”

Learn more about Mitchell and the early stages of this project here.