Artist Community Potential: Kenosha, Wisconsin

I’m calling it. Kenosha is ripe for a community of comingling creatives. It’s already been on the rise but I think it can be so much more so.

Of the 10 cheapest places to rent an apartment across the country, nine are located in the nation’s midlands. Kenosha’s cost of living is about average. As of September, 2014, average apartment rent within 10 miles of Kenosha, WI is $854. One bedroom apartments in Kenosha, WI rent for $672 a month on average and two bedroom apartment rents average $794. There are cheap and perhaps cheaper places to rent just up the road in Racine, WI but they have higher crime rates there.

Why places like Kenosha and not the larger cities? The larger cities are no longer places for artists to move to in order to “make it” and/or revel neighborhoods where artists, writers, and other creatives comingle. Artists are now supposed to make money through various revenue streams (multiple sources of income, such as gallery showings, teaching positions, Web sales, commission projects and grants). You can’t expect only to be shown in art galleries if you want to support yourself.

Sure, sure, I know that many artists are selling art online but creatives and societies benefit when all sorts of creatives can comingle geographically. “Kenowhere” (Kenosha, WI) is absolutely ripe and waiting, hoping for for a more happening artist community. It’s begging (literally in many cases) to have a beneficial shake up as it’s a larger town (around 100,000) but has a small town mentality. If you want to make your mark, this is a good place to start good things. There’s too much boring here and it’s not because we don’t have places to go. We have coffee shops, bars, malls, museums, movie theaters, beautiful Lake Michigan lake front, restaurants, arts and craft stores, diners, art galleries and so on.

Art supplies. For craft stores, we have Hobby Lobby, Michaels (up in Racine), and Jo-Anns Fabric & Craft Store (one in Kenosha and a superstore in Racine). For art supply stores, we have Art Works (small but they’ll order stuff upon request and are very helpful), Dick Blick stores within day trip range to the north, in Milwaukee (Wisconsin), and south of us (all in Illinois) in Schaumbert, Evanston, Lincoln Park Chicago, Chicago Loop, and Wheaton.

Transportation. Kenosha is not far from Milwaukee (about a 45 minutes drive from here) or Chicago (a bit over an hour from here, depending on where you’re going in Chicago). One can take the train down into Chicago for something like a $5 dollar round trip ticket, although the lines could run far more often on the weekends. Unfortunately, the train doesn’t run up to Milwaukee because of political cronyism. Sorry. There is an airport in Milwaukee that’s about a 40 or 45 minute drive from here or so.

It’s probably best for artists to have their own cars here. Many areas are not pedestrian friendly (no sidewalks) and our bus system doesn’t run to enough places or for the hours one would need to really do well without a car here. (Madison’s bus system is freaking fantastic– I lived there for 14 years and never needed a car.) Kenosha does have some bike lanes and routes. However, we have long, messy winters here, so a small car is probalby your best bet.

Colleges. We have three in the immediate area.

Public Schools. “The Kenosha Unified School District (KUSD) scored an average of 65.65 points out of 100 on the state’s School Report Cards for 2013-14, earning the equivalent of a “C-” from DPI. The district did not have a single school that failed to meet the state’s expectations.”–on-state-report-cards-for-2013-14/

Crime Rates. Our crime rates are average. Kenosha Police are big on the drug war because big city drug dealers and gangs would love new territory not far away from “Chiraq” (Chicago). They’re doing a pretty good job. 🙂  My hat off to them, though I think the War on Drugs needs to be revamped on a national level.

Neighborhoods. You can check them here.

Spices. Get yours at Tenuta’s on 52nd Street. Pssssst. Their spice, seasoning, and herb prices are much lower by weighti in most cases and they have a whole isle the length of the store that has spices and herbs on one side of it. Tenuta’s also has lots of foods imported from the old countries, amazing deli counters, cheese, alcohol, pasta galore, lots of things italian, dried fruits, nuts, various treats, and cured meats. It’s one amazing store.

Vegetarian and Vegan Shopping. Woodman’s Foods. Go there. They even have hemp milk and all that there. Lots of organic and low sodium stuff.

Art Scene Resources

As a Place to Raise KidsKenosha was voted one of the best place to raise your kids in the US. So a few factories moved out. We’re still fantastic and we’ll be more fanstastic if you get over here, artists and creatives. Well, the nice ones anyway. Trouble makers in a good way.

An Artis’s Consistency, a Consistent Body of Work

My Initial Reaction

From the financial aspect, an artist is “supposed to have” a consistent body of work. So you fit in a box. A sellable box. Labels. So you’re controllable and explainable in a flash card mentality way (this equals that). That’s anti-intellectual. It’s an insult. It turns out that it’s a cruel request that undermines not just an artist but the arts. Here’s how.

It’s like slamming square pegs into round holes. No one wants to be pegged or frozen in time. It’s not realistic. It’s not very observant either. Did the masters chain themselves to the consistency box or did they experiment and learn? They experimented. Sometimes those experimentations were failures. Even Leonardo da Vinci experimented and failed. He constantly experimented. He knew that experimentation, resulting active observations, and reaching new heights or discoveries are intrinsically entangled. He wore many hats too, as it were. And we admire the results. People are multidimensional. They’re holistic. They evolve over their lifetime or at least I hope they do.

Artists don’t soar in cages.

No one should demand that, by staying in the consistent body of work box, artist should allow parts of them, the parts that want to experiment, learn, soar, try new things, and take things in a different direction, to be alienated. Ostracized. Kept out of the light. Come here so we can sell you but ostracize huge chunks of you, as if you’re a side of beef we can carve up. Ugh. That’s an anti-magical binding spell of sorts, it really is.

Again, it undermines not just an artist but the arts.

So I’m going to dive in. I’m learning. My work is going to vary. A lot.

Related Pages (Not Mine):

Now A Tempered Response

Cedar Lee’s video (above) is the only bit I’ve seen so far that readily makes sense in the morass of issues and perspectives before me.  Set specific restraints, follow them, and this allows you to try to find simplest and easiest solution to any problem. If you have too many options, you’re scattered and tend to do the obvious, the predictable, the boring. If you focus on fewer options but take them to the limits, you blossom. You push yourself. Makes sense. It’s practical too.


For me at this point and time in my life, the truth is somewhere between my initial reaction and my more tempered response. But Cedar Lee gives good starting points, that’s for sure.

Art Dolls vs. Spirit Dolls

To Learn About “Dolls” As Figurative Fine Art or as Decorative, Meaningful Spirit Dolls, See:

About Art Dolls:

About Spirit Dolls:

Art Dolls

Professionally speaking, Art Dolls are works of fine art that aren’t created to be played with and that don’t use any commercial molds in the process of their creation. They can take a week to a month or more of full-time and often overtime work to create and are sold for anywhere from a bit over 100 US dollars to several thousand US dollars each if made by highly skilled, better known artists.

Altering what you make using commercial molds means you used a commercial mold and therefore any work made with that isn’t an art doll in any professional sense. Those creations belong to different categories of doll.

Note: The array of industry-recognized, doll related categories and their titles are covered in the first link, above.

Spirit Dolls

Spirit dolls can embody or symbolize things and may or may not employ commercial molds in their creation. They may or may not be considered fine works of art. They may touch or depict human and animal spiritual natures in some way. The spiritual natures of people, places, animals and things can be interpreted through the lens of an array of world views and religions.

A Spirit Doll Definition and Resources

What’s a Spirit Doll? There are other definitions of a spirit doll. To some people, it’s a spooked/haunted/medium/possessed thing. That’s not what is meant by spirit doll here at all! See the following spirit definition.

Spirit Doll Definition: A spirit doll is frequently for display rather than for play and may symbolize or embody an archetype, idea, activity, a spiritual moment, experience, the divine, and so on. They can be made through the lens of many world views. Parts may or may not be made with commercial molds. They can be made in a variety of manner using fabric, clay, bundled sticks or what have you. They may be hung on the wall as they are, framed, part of a decorated bottle, put in shadow boxes, and so on. They are generally for display but one can tuck them away too.

Some Spirit Doll Resources

Some of the best instructions on how the bundled stick type can be found at I’m not affiliated with that artist, I just love her directions.

I also love to watch Lyn Belisle’s youtube videos on spirit dolls. She doesn’t show you how to make them in her videos but shows many examples and clips from her delightful workshops.

One of my all time favorite spirit doll artists talks about spirit dolls at .

Although she does not mention art dolls, Karin Mackay‘s video, “Art as a Connection to the Divine in Women’s Lives,” explores yet another reason why one may choose to make spirit dolls and art in general.

Note: Spirit Dolls and Art Dolls are often not the same thing.

Working with Inner Hero Creative Art Journal Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic: Inner Critic Number One

Working with Inner Hero Creative Art Journal Mixed Media Messages to Silence Your Inner Critic: Inner Critic Number One. The book’s author is Quinn McDonald. It’s a workbook.


The book has you anthropomorphize your inner critic(s) and heroes (inner strengths, skills, etc.). It looks negative only at first.

You’re asked to depict the inner critic on a 5×7″ piece of paper. It’s not meant to be fine art. Quick sketches are just fine. Here’s mine, in watercolor. No excuses, I did it as my grandson played and ran around. At points, I was painting while following him around to keep him out of trouble. He’s two. I’m determined.

In the picture, my creative wings are caged, away from public view, and the key is not within their reach. The inner critic is prim and proper. She’s part my mom’s experiences and messages to me, and part my experiences and messages I got from many sectors. (I had off-white wallpaper with small roses printed on it when I was a kid).

I write about this inner critic on the back of the painted 5×7″ paper.

My inner critic is politically correct, believes that brainwashing is for the common good (despite some of this brainwashing about art and artists hailing back to Nazi Germany). Otherwise, how can anyone have a moral compass, was the reasoning (I don’t share that reasoning). She believes in being a perfectionist while hiding in the “safety” of the mainstream (potentialy the most dangerous and unstable thing to do) and the “expected.” She views difference, especially creative and autistic differences, as wrong, suspect, futile, penniless, tragic, degenerate, unstable … as a path to suffering. Women were not supposed to try such challenging paths. Women aren’t supposed to be mavericks and aren’t the favorite as protagonists, generally.

Do a visual search for “maverick” person. You’ll see nearly all male results. A maverick is defined as “an unorthodox or independent-minded person.” The definition of the word doesn’t mention the sex of the person. Society does that. Aren’t artists, unless they only create “safe art” (avoids anything controversial), supposed to be mavericks? A lot of the time, yes.

That message is clear in the entainment industry too. It’s part of the art world too. In the movies, only 11% of all clearly identifiable protagonists are female. In 2013, during the 85th Academy Awards, across 19 categories 140 men were nominated for awards versus 35 women. There were no female nominees for Directing, Cinematography, Film Editing, Writing (Original Screenplay), or Music (Original Score). The arts and entertainment industry seem to underline that imagination and art are political. “Everything’s political.”

This sort of stuff ddn’t escape Emma Watson either, hence her 2014 UN speech.

What’s with our species? Sexism and other prejudices are advanced behaviors?

Back to the inner critic. This inner critic has, despite the fact that she’s an adult, the emotional intelligence of a very inteligent but gullible, scared eight-year-old. She is ever a political refugee (as she was as an Estonian-born child) and tends to unwittingly “kiss the ass” of the ruling class or triumphalism, which tends to be ultra conservative. She is the voice of all the things my mother told me or did to my art.

In her time, growing up in Nazi Germany, artists were degenerates. To her, artists were salty characters, bound to starve, suspect. In her time, the “infirm” (a term sometimes applied to those on the autism range) were some of the first to be gassed. Yes. In her time, artists whose work didn’t agree to tight, proscribed confines were “degenerate.” Artists back then might have their studios and living quarters raided or might be declared “unwell,” put into a doctor’s care and/or disappeared. It was dangerous to color outside Nazi lines. I didn’t know this about the art world in her time until very recently. My mother unwittingly passed along such connotations to me and discouraged me from being artistic once I was no longer a small child.

She saved the pictures I drew in crayon up until I was about eight. Later, we argued over my wanting to major in art. So I didn’t go into the arts, much to my regret.

And my drawings that my college teacher wanted to put in a show somehow ended up with large pantry food jars stored on top of them. She literally placed the practical over my art.

That attitude is still with us today. People are stil discouraged from being career artists, I suspect women especially so, outright or insidiously it doesn’t matter. My youtube  playlist “Women, Spirituality, and Art”:

Things People Say to Artists Videos. (Some commonalities are you should be cheap or even free, you must use drugs and/or alcohol, you should be my monkey, you’ll starve, art isn’t a real profession, and other backhanded comments that show disrespect for art.)

That’s some pretty deep stuff. At best, women are 8 to 13% of the artists represented in art museums and many “upper end” art galleries. You can buy 150 women’s works of art for one high end man’s work of art. Generally. Still. Generally, being a woman artist … well, we should stick to our arts and crafts approach, eh? Heh. I don’t buy that but the art world is incredibly sexist and racist even now. That’s what you’ll witness if you watch my playlist, or at least the documentaries toward the bottom of it.

My inner critic is also my wounded eight-year-old that was called “alien,” told she had koonies, suffered social ostracization from her peers, was kept out of the loop, passed over in favor others who had connections, whispered about within earshot and worse. The message she was taught was that she’d never be clever, correct, or good enough. That what you do or produce isn’t as important as who produces it and whether that person is acceptable, valued. So my “wings” as an artist that let me sore were kept in the shadows. Being on the autism range is suposed to be a “tragedy.” A painful tragedy. Being a woman doesn’t help. Or it was, as an unspoken rule, when I was a child in the 60s and 70s.

We’ve only begun to challenge that crap as a society so it should be no surprise if this stuff shows up in my iner critic.

My mother meant well, she was trying to protect me. They took us to cultural events, museums, historical places, natural wonders, and on fossil and/or rock hunting trips. We were taught languages. She wasn’t all bad. She was a product of her times. Now, however, the Net allows us to quickly dig into things, deconstruct them, examine what we find, and talk back.

Speaking of talking back, this book has you depict your inner heroes next. The heroes and inner critics then engage with each other. The result is that one doesn’t have to be stuck and flow in the act of creation is possible as a result.

This is especially great for me because I tend to be a visual thinker first and often stuggle to find the frameworks and words for my experiences, hopes and dreams. So, here I am in my 50s finally dealing with all this.

My grandson is napping. I hope to join him for just a bit. Write a little, nap a little, do art and cook when he gets up. That’s the plan.