Experience a morning paddle on the Wolf River or a hike through the woods on Gibson Island, and you’ll see Mother Nature’s artistry at work in Shawano Country. Glittering water, lush green forest, the colorful pop of wildflowers: Time spent exploring this northeast Wisconsin gem is a treat for the eyes, as well as the soul.
But there’s more to discover – no doubt inspired by the area’s natural beauty, Shawano Country, located west of Green Bay and Door County, has developed a thriving local art scene honoring the creativity and culture of their communities. From striking murals to multicolor barn quilts, Shawano is bringing its history to life through innovative art and cultural experiences you can’t find just anywhere.
It’s not only sunsets bringing color to the horizon in Shawano Country – take a look up, and you’ll have no trouble spotting one of the area’s 300+ original barn quilts decorating the siding of local farms.
So, what exactly is a barn quilt? Imagine the design of a patchwork quilt, creatively patterned, painted on large wooden boards and hung up for display, all in the name of preserving Shawano County’s historic barns and agricultural heritage.
What began over 10 years ago as a modest community service project has blossomed into a full-blown tourist attraction and point of pride. Each quilt is a unique design, and touring the participating barns makes for a charming rural road trip. For an artistic adventure, grab an iced latte from Beans & Books Coffeehouse or Glas Coffeehouse, stop by the Shawano Country Chamber and Visitor Center for location information and set off on a driving tour of the quilts. Bonus points for snagging a selfie with each one!
Where some see a wall, others see a canvas, and it’s this spirit of creativity that transformed the Village of Wittenberg’s downtown district into a collage of outdoor art. The Walls of Wittenberg project spent years commissioning dozens of vibrant murals on once-ordinary walls, depicting everything from the local agricultural history to a tropical beach scene, the Green Bay Packers and more.
For the full experience, pick up a chocolate cone from Britt’s Candy and Ice Cream Shop and check out the sculptures in the nearby Art Park, or take in an evening of live music at the WOWSPACE, a refurbished 19th century building complete with restored stained glass windows and tin ceiling.
Native American roots run deep in Shawano County.
Three tribes call the area home: the Stockbridge-Munsee Band of the Mohicans, Menominee Nation and Ho-Chunk Nation. History buffs should plan a stop at the Arvid E. Miller Memorial Library & Museum of the Mohican Nation for an in-depth look at Mohican life beginning in pre-European times, or the Menominee Cultural Museum for the world’s largest collection of logging artifacts.
Driving tours offer another way to see the tribe’s public businesses and attractions; the Menominee Nation self-guided tour includes landmarks like Spirit Rock, gaming at the Menominee Casino Resort and more.
Be sure to look into War Bonnet's Native American Gift Shop for locally made jewlery, wood carvings, moccasin's and furs.
Enjoy an even deeper look at the art, music and traditional dance of area tribes by visiting during an annual powwow. These sacred events honor the tribe’s rich heritage and often offer opportunities for the public to taste traditional foods, purchase handmade crafts and observe competitive dancers in full regalia.
This article was written in partnership with Shawano Country Tourism.