By Denice Ryan Martin
Special to TravelWisconsin.com
Add some beauty and whimsy to your weekend getaway. Exit the highway and explore Wisconsin’s small-town art studios and galleries.
These charming art shops feature paintings, pottery, folk art and more. You’re sure to be enlightened and inspired. It’s like taking an art class on the road!
Here are some destinations to get you started, along with nearby dining spots, so you can feast with both your eyes and your belly in one day.
See: Right off the scenic Great River Road, The Planted Tree highlights the work of 40 local artists, most who live close to this picturesque riverfront town. Pick your pleasure from items that include fine art, stained glass, metal art, and painted screens. Unique gifts range from $10 to $500.
Eat: Famous for their deep-friend cheese curds, Fort Mulligan’s Grill is housed in the historic Famechon Building, originally built from limestone in 1855.
See: Woodland Art Studio’s building is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The Art Gallery offers fine art, Norwegian artifacts, photography, jewelry and pottery by local and regional artists. Find a frame in their frame shop with 3,000 choices.
AmundArt Hus, the studio/gallery of acclaimed artist Bill Amundson, features original drawings, yard art, prints, T-shirts and more. A Stoughton native who returned to his hometown after nearly 40 years in Denver, he’s known for his irreverent and humorous drawings that depict hot issues and poke fun at ourselves.
Eat: Wendigo is a hip and casual eatery that caters to all appetites. Their farm to table emphasis celebrates locally produced foods. Try the Pigs in Ze Blanket appetizer or Little Bit of Mac and Cheese. Eye-catching wildlife art from area resident Natalie Jo Wright adorns the brick walls.
See: Ephraim Pottery Gallery is just steps from its studio, where nine talented artists collaborate to create exquisite bowls, vases, tiles and assorted unique pieces. It’s your chance to start your collection that celebrates the Arts & Crafts Revival Movement.
Bungalow Jo’s Market offers decorative arts by local and Midwest artists, including arts & crafts inspired tiles and quarter-sawn oak frames. Splurge on some tasty fair trade coffee and Divine chocolate. Talk bungalows with proprietor/residential designer Jill Kessenich who specializes in early 20th-century house styles.
Eat: Water House Foods offers a hearty and healthy breakfast, lunch and brunch menu along with delicious coffee drinks, craft beers and cool cocktails.
See: Everything is toadally artsy at the Toad House in this quaint and quintessential Northwoods town. Operated by members and supporters of the Rusk Area Arts Alliance, it’s a gift gallery, fine arts center and from-scratch European bakery all under one roof. Embrace your inner toad and spend a delightful day immersed in local arts, books and crafts.
Fine Arts Center Gallery in downtown Ladysmith is a must-see stop with an accent on the area’s wildlife and natural beauty through paintings and photography.
Eat: Swing by The Pickled Gill to enjoy their infamous fish fry and deep-fried white cheddar cheese curds. With its friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere, it’s a restaurant you may just frequent on your next (and next, and next) visit.
See: Steelwool Studio is housed in a newly remodeled 1904 stone and wood dairy barn. View the stunning work of Don Esser, blacksmith, metal artist and sculptor, and Anne Alessi, knitter, fabric painter and quilter. Find distinctive handmade gifts for under $50.
Eat: Mr. Brew’s Taphouse boasts a menu of 11 burgers made from locally sourced beef. Add fresh cut fries and a favorite Wisconsin craft beer (from 48-72 taps) and you’ll have a satisfying meal.
Travel Tip: Many studios have limited or seasonal hours of operation. Check before you go!
Hoping for more unexpected finds? Check out seven more small-town art galleries!