What’s better than a fall drive along the country roads of Wisconsin, enjoying the multicolored leaves that Mother Natural has appropriated for her autumnal artwork? The answer: stopping along those same roads to see the creations of Chippewa Valley artists whose studios are scattered amid the fall splendor. Now in its 11th year, the Falling Leaves Art Studio Tour – which is typically held on the first weekend of October – winds its way through the wooded farm country of Fall Creek, Augusta, and Fairchild in eastern Eau Claire County. Between these burgs you’ll find 34 artists at 17 locations.
“Nothing’s nicer than being able to invite people into your place to see you create,” explains Rozan Henning, an Augusta-based painter and coordinator of the tour. She conceived of the tour more than a decade ago after growing tired of making the rounds at art fairs at which sales could be slim (if a show’s jury allowed an artist to exhibit in the first place). “I though I’d rather have people come to my gallery than try to pack up everything and go to a show,” Henning says.
Inspired by other art tours that traverse the Wisconsin landscape, particularly along the Mississippi River, Henning and other rural artists banded together to create the tour. The lineup of artists fluctuates annually as some join and other drop out, meaning this year’s tour will be unique, as will the artwork displayed. Visitors who follow the roughly 30-mile trail will see wheel-thrown stoneware, original paintings, landscape photographs, hand-crafted jewelry, steel sculptures, knitted creations, carved deer antlers, and much more. Several of the artists will be demonstrating their methods as visitors explore their studios, while some will exhibit work at other points of interest, including Dells Mill near Augusta and the Victorian-era Fairchild Public Library.
Beyond the beauty of the artwork, of course, will be the tumbling leaves that give the tour its evocative name. The region is full of maple trees, which Henning says typically accommodate early October visitors with a beautiful display. “We’ve been really fortunate,” Henning says. “Even when we’ve had rain, it’s always been really, really colorful.”
If you’d like to explore the tour, visit www.fallingleavesarttour.com to download a map. Once you get on the road, you’ll find that the recommended route is marked with leaf-shaped orange signs as well as arrows bearing the word “ART.” The studios and other exhibit sites will be marked by large, leaf-shaped signs bearing numbers that correspond to the map. Visitors are welcome to visit as few or as many of the sites as they wish. Henning says ambitious visitors can hit all the spots in one day.
Some important tips: Bring your camera and drive slowly – both to enjoy the scenery and to watch for horse-drawn vehicles. Oh, and don’t forget your wallet: As sure as autumn leaves will fall, you’ll be sure to find a piece (or two) of artwork you can’t live without.
Falling Leaves Art Studio Tour • Saturday, Oct. 4, 10am-6pm • Sunday, Oct. 5, 10am-5pm • 17 locations in and around Fall Creek, Augusta, and Fairchild • FREE • (715) 286-2464 • fallingleavesarttour.com
Painting: Ruth A. Lundblad "White Birch Forest"