The Driftless Wisconsin Area is called home by literally hundreds of artists and artisans, who find inspiration in its beauty and a peaceful place in which to work. There are those who work in visual arts, in paint or pastel, in clay or glass, in wood or metal, with a camera or even a computer. There are poets, authors, actors, and storytellers. There are those who make artisanal breads and cheeses, honey and maple syrup, brews and wines, and marvelous local foods. Together, they create the Driftless Wisconsin arts & culture scene and finding them is often a treat in itself.
Virquoa, Wisconsin Arts Thrive on Main Street
On Main Street in Viroqua, stop in a local artist cooperative to find a cornucopia of local art offerings—oil and watercolor paintings, etchings, stained and blown glass, ceramics, and jewelry in varied styles. Wander into the public market next door for more art offerings interspersed with antiques and other goods, and the irresistible aroma of bread from the artisanal bakery at the rear of the market. Further down the street is an independent bookseller featuring works of local authors.
Prairie du Chien & Crawford County, Wisconsin Arts
Head to Prairie du Chien, and marvel at the Mississippi River Sculpture Park, where life-size bronze figures from the pages of history and prehistory gather together near the central fire circle as if meeting for a present day rendezvous. Visit the county administration building, where galleries are being established to celebrate the artists of Crawford County.
Driftless Area Art Festival
On the third weekend in September, the Driftless Area Art Festival is held along the banks of the Kickapoo in Soldiers Grove. Distinguished by its mission to showcase only regional artists, the popular festival features over 80 visual arts exhibitors, live music and performances, and great local foods.
Creative literary and educational opportunities are abundant with year round events offered by the Driftless Writing Center and the Driftless Folk School, which offers experiences in agriculture, natural history, arts and crafts, and traditions of rural Wisconsin and other cultures.
Driftless Wisconsin Area Music & Theater
If it’s music you’re after, the Driftless Music Festival held mid-July under the oaks in Eckhart Park in Viroqua Wisconsin is one of the best free, eclectic community music festivals around. If you like a little boating with your music, check out the Canoe Race and Music Festival in Readstown, WI the second weekend in June. Priding themselves in throwing the “best micro fests in the mid-west”, Driftless Music Garden’s gorgeous natural amphitheater in Hillsboro brings music, arts, food and love two times in the summer with Bonfire Music & Arts Festival in June and People Fest in August. Larryfest, held near La Farge in mid-August is a must-see for folk, blue grass, and old-time music, and you can get laid-back at the Prairie Dog Blues Festival on St. Feriole Island in Prairie du Chien.
Viroqua’s restored theater is the home to a series of crowd-pleasing performances each year, from concerts to plays. The newly constructed state-of-the-art Performing Arts Center is excited to present programming that enhances the culture and artistic excellence of Westby and the surrounding communities. Also in Viroqua you will find possibly the largest collection of new, used, rare & antiquarian books in a 3 story tobacco warehouse – with nearly 100 live music shows with music ranging from Americana, Country, Bluegrass, Swing, Jazz, Classical and so much more fills the warehouse with music throughout the season. While you are in the neighborhood, check out the refurbished, historic church that is now home to art studios, a performing arts center and a a café with locally sourced lunches, snacks and beverages.- overall, it’s a sanctuary for the nurturing of creativity, sustenance and the arts within the Driftless region. And now, we’ve even got our own radio station—Radio Driftless.
Taste Driftless Wisconsin at Local Farmers Markets
Farmers markets are a perfect way to experience the region’s bounty. Every Saturday morning from May to October, the Viroqua Farmers Market takes place in front of Wisconsin Technical College on Main Street. Here you’ll find an abundance of locally-grown, often organic produce; homemade jams, jellies, and chutneys; maple syrup and honey; Amish-made baskets and furniture; and local crafts. The farmers market in Gays Mills takes place on Wednesdays from 2:30-6:00. Also on Saturdays, LaFarge and Hillsboro brings in the best from the prestine Kickapoo region from 9am to 1pm. Ontario, WI hosts their market at Cozy Nook Park on Thursday evenings from 4pm-8pm. With softball and other activities, this will be an evening for everyone with music, cooking classes, children’s activities, art and more.
Driftless Wisconsin Arts & Culture Listings
On June 1 and 2, treat yourself to a weekend of creativity and inspiration on this self-guided tour through the beauty of the Driftless landscape. As you wind your way through the springtime rolling hills you will discover a diversity of artistic expression, meeting artists in their homes and creative workplaces along the way. Take this opportunity to view and purchase artwork with an understanding of the people, process and story behind its creation.