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Art & Conservation Team Up To Explore Treasures Of Oz

We're not talking about Dorothy's ruby slippers or the Wicked Witch of The West. This is a story that started 10 years ago, when a small group of volunteers devoted to conservation in Ozaukee County designed a day of exploration called the Treasures of Oz.

The aim is to entice people to come out to spend time in natural areas throughout the county. Naturalists and scientists would be on hand at each site to fill visitors in on the unique features of each spot. Today, nearly 100 volunteers make the event possible.

On Saturday, art and conserancy will meet. Five artists who've been “in residence” in natural areas since last September will be at featured sites. A total of 12 artists have been developing a body of work through a program called ARTservancy —  a partnership between the Ozaukee Washington County Land Trust and Gallery 224 in Port Washington.

Credit Risë Andersen - photo courtesy of Eddee Daniel
Nest Marker

Artist Risë Andersen will greet visitors at Sauk Creek Nature Preserve. Its 27 acres include a series of wetlands and forest. The creek eventually makes its way into Lake Michigan near the Port Washington marina.

"I have been here before, but maybe 20 years ago," Andersen now considers it her preserve. "I've grown very attached to it. Being part of the natural world is really important to us and we keep forgetting that."

Andersen says she's more or less a 3D artist.  

"I just make things so I started this rapport with the land where I would come here and listen to it and find things, objects of the land and making something out of it," Andersen adds, "I didn't want it to be impermanent. I didn't want it to be lasting. I wanted to come to here with a soft footprint and listen to it."

Her first temporary "installation" in the preserve was a drawing she created with her mittened hand in the snow.

Credit Risë Andersen
Snow Totem by Risë Andersen

Jane Suddendorf coordinates the ARTservancy project and directs Gallery 224. That's where Andersen and her fellow artists in residence will exhibit their work next September.

"I visited Risë in her studio last week and it's really amazing what she's doing and how she's encapsulating her experience in this space. It's not totally defined yet and she's not committing what it's going to look like ... but that's good," Suddendorf adds, "Artists, they are never done ... It's that process, and I love being able to witness that process."

Suddendorf says blending art and nature in this year's Treasures of Oz is a perfect combination.

"It's also in alignment with our commitment to the environment. Artists have an important vehicle for telling a story and making something visible," Suddendorf says.

Credit Susan Bence
Jane Suddendorf of ARTservancy, Marjie Tomter creator of Treasures of Oz and artist in residence Risë Andersen at Sauk Creek Nature Preserve.

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Susan Bence entered broadcasting in an untraditional way. After years of avid public radio listening, Susan returned to school and earned a bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She interned for WUWM News and worked with the Lake Effect team, before being hired full-time as a WUWM News reporter / producer.