The Art of Tradition | The Denmark News


By Charles Collier, The Denmark News

Mill Art Center to host holiday “experience”

DENMARK—The leaves are falling, the air is becoming crisper, turkeys are beginning to vacate grocers’ reserves, and the all-familiar feeling of the winter holidays is slowly taking hold in the hearts and minds of Northeastern Wisconsin. The holidays are thickly marinated in traditions spanning multiple generations and now come as second nature. This year in Denmark, a new holiday mainstay aims to take hold.

“I’ve lived in Denmark for 21 years,” Molly Johnson, co-founder, teacher, and executive director of Denmark’s Mill Art Center says. “It’s a great village and we’re getting to the point where we don’t need to go to the big cities for everything anymore.”

Johnson and her husband Brian took over the former Denmark Flour Mills and Elevator building at 217 Broadway St. nine years ago and have renovated the 108-year-old building into three levels of burgeoning art studios and teaching space.

“When people hear ‘artist’ they think just of someone with a paintbrush,” Johnson says, preferring the term ‘artisan.’

Typically the bottom floor of the Art Center does feature easels and canvasses sporting the brushstrokes of area artists under Johnson’s guidance, but from Nov. 18-26 (excluding Thanksgiving) the space will play host to the work of over 50 artisans from around Northeastern Wisconsin for The Holiday Sale. Ranging from handwoven scarves, handknitted hats and sweaters, uniquely sewn shirts, sweatshirts, and jackets, Viking knit Sterling silver jewelry.

Some of the work presented will be that of Johnson’s former students, including the handcrafted jewelry DHS graduate Faye Willems’ Designs by Will O and local musicians will be filling the halls with Irish folk tunes.

Previously held at Kewaunee’s KeLe Alapacas since 1997, the event is a favorite among the artisan community and will be calling Denmark home for the first time this year. Despite the label as a holiday event, goods are not holiday-specific, granting those perusing a chance to complete their gift searches.

“What we do is our passion and we do it for ourselves, but for someone to enjoy the final product…it’s a blessing,” Johnson says of sharing work with others.

The artisan community, Johnson acknowledges, is somewhat under-the-radar, with several masters being relatively unknown outside of their circles. The second day of the sale, Nov. 19 from 2-5 p.m., many of the artisans will be on-hand for Meet The Artist, giving context to their creations and answering questions about the minute complexities that go into their passion.

Though the Mill’s first two levels will be densely populated with various products throughout the week, Johnson hopes to achieve something more enriching than a purely commercial venture.

“It doesn’t have to be just about shopping. There will be cookies, coffee, we’ll have the fireplace lit up—it’s more about experiencing the holidays with the community,” Johnson says. “It’s part-showing the culture that’s here and part-enhancing the culture to come.”

Johnson envisions continuing to hold the event for years to come and potentially expanding its reach should it prove a well-attended attraction.

“I hope it becomes a tradition that people look forward to,” she says, “It’s such a great opportunity for local artisans to display their work in a big venue and a great opportunity for people from all over to come together and enjoy the holidays.”


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