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Everybody Polka!: Museum Of Wisconsin Art Showcases State's Polka Culture

There’s something about polka. Whether it’s the middle European version, or the Mexican version, or some amalgamation of a number of styles, the dance and music that supports it is infectious.

Photographer Dick Blau first got hooked on polka in the early 1970s. A book of photographs, Polka Happiness, came along soon after. Years later, Blau found himself in Wisconsin to set up the film department at UWM and discovered, and began to document, Wisconsin’s vibrant polka scene.

Credit Museum of Wisconsin Art
Dick Blau in front of "Polish Hop"

His new exhibit of those explorations, Polka Heartland, opened at the Museum of Wisconsin Art last week. Blau and Graeme Reid, the director of collections and exhibitions at the museum, joined Lake Effect's Bonnie North to chat about polka and the exhibit.

"I'm basically looking for peak moments," Blau said. "And the best way to find them is not to function as an observer, an analyst from the outside, but actually to join the party."

"One of Dick's main goals with the exhibition was for you to stand in the center of one of those rooms, and you can hear the music in your head, you can feel the party. You've either been in this situation yourself having gone to a polka event...or you can just get a sense of what is going on through the power of the photographs," Reid said.

Polka Heartland opened at the Museum of Wisconsin Art last week and will run through the end of March. Photographer Dick Blau will give an artist’s talk at the Museum on Thursday, February 12th. Visit the museum's website for more information on the exhibit and a schedule of upcoming events.

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.
Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.