Our Location & Community Engagement
OUR LOCATION & COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT
The ARK is located in the heart of Viroqua Wisconsin, a rich community of artisans, actors, performers, musicians, creators of all kinds, metaphysical and energy workers, poets and writers, visionaries, organic food lovers and cultivators, activists who are passionate about community and good food and creative expression, students from every walk of life that are growing and learning and expressing their talents in many forms, and local people who love living and working and being in the Driftless region and all it has to offer.
ARTISTS GALORE IN OUR LOCAL COMMUNITY!
There are over 300 working artists/crafters, including printmakers, comic book makers, actors, writers, visual artists working in various mediums, ceramicists, an avant garde filmmaker, musicians and hand-made goods creators, from clothing/jewelry to puppets and body care to chocolates, candles, baskets and weavings.
GIVING BACK TO THE COMMUNITY:
The ARK’s strengths include a dynamic involved community, plus a strong individual ordained mission willing to do whatever it takes to create a viable and self-sustaining venue for inspiring, enriching and expanding creativity and the creative life. The Ark has always received a tremendous amount of support from the Viroqua community.
The ARK is sinking its roots as the Community continues to show support and use the building to inspire, enrich and expand our sense of being human, of expressing our deepest fears and hopes and receiving witness thru a generated mutual support, cheering on our neighbors, our children, our elders both the professional and the amateur. This is the ARK’S greatest gift fulfilling our deepest needs: to commune, to celebrate, to comfort and to rise and clap for a performance well done.
This building is an institution and has established a pattern for humans to want to gather to express creativity, spirituality, coupled with the need for cultural and general socializing in person. The ARK extends its mission to everyone. The doors are open to any reasonable activity that supports the mission.
Since opening the doors, the ARK has become THE place for multiple school groups, individuals, other non-profits to gather and do their thing. The Viroqua Community is amazing in that it features a strong intergenerational component as a given and the ARK provides a center for many of these types of activities.
VIBRANCY OF OUR COMMUNITY:
While off-the-grid geographically, the Ark is vitalized by a community of professional retirees, young Green families, and “local food” organic farmers, who connect culture with permaculture.
The recent awarding of an FCC license to and the development of WDRT community radio station (founded 2010), which is developing as a communications hub for the regional music and journalistic arts community.
Vernon Trails (founded 2010) which is committed to expanding and maintaining sustainable roadways and trails, and does this through annual trail building events, summer camps, and community rides.
Viroqua’s food systems are thriving and the region boasts one of the country’s highest concentrations of organic farms, which supply Chicago, Minneapolis, Madison, and Milwaukee.
Vernon County is home to Organic Valley’s headquarters, and Kickapoo Coffee, a top-ranked specialty coffee roaster, as well as some of the oldest CSA operations in the country.
DIVERSITY OF OUR COMMUNITY:
One of the reasons that young “local food” Driftless farming families are thriving is that this influx is matched by a growing local medical professional community that serves two hospitals—Vernon Memorial Healthcare and clinics from the Gundersen Health System, and the corporate expansion of Organic Valley. All together this influx is, on average, highly educated and community involved.
The Ark’s support is anchored in Viroqua, a community of 4,000 whose Viroqua Food Co-op has over 3,000 members, from employees of Organic Valley’s Headquarters. Additionally, educational options reflect the diversity of the community and include a Pleasant Ridge Waldorf Elementary School, public system, Montessori public elementary charter school, Laurel Charter high school, Cornerstone Christian Academy, a Kickapoo Homeschool Cooperative, a Western Technical college campus, and the Driftless Folk School. The two major hospitals support integrative medicine therapies and are complemented by a comprehensive range of alternative healthcare providers, such as the Healing Arts Center.
Intergenerational: The Ark’s puppetry “Harvest Parade” demonstrates its emphasis on nurturing young people to develop as renaissance artists who are committed to community service. Critically, the Ark’s varied educational offerings fill the gaps left by the underfunding of art education in local public schools, while its adult and public programs introduce stimulating art education serving pre-schoolers to elders. During 2013, over 4,500 volunteer hours and pro bono professional services evidenced the key role the Ark already plays across demographics to impact community wellness. (See, Appendix D, “Harvest Parade.”)
Family-centered: Small, rural towns and surrounding agricultural communities are traditionally family-centered. Historically, local churches hosted many social events and provided social services. Picking up on this long-standing community value, the Ark’s marketing offerings and programs focus on presenting events and classes that reach each community sector from pre-school to young families to group homes residents to elders in assisted-living and adult care facilities.
Community “owned”: While “intergenerational” and “family-centered” convey two prime Ark values, they also buttress the fundraising effort as, when combined, they lead to a participant’s sense of the Ark being community “owned,” that is, that it is a valuable community asset that also is a family asset. When each and every member of the family—from tots to grandparents—have a reason to attend an Ark event, they become a potential “owner” and so also a fundraising resource. Simply, classes, program and events attended by children and young adults customarily end-up attracting other family members. Since the total sum of available fundraising dollars in a rural region is relatively modest, here, given the size of most Driftless cities and towns, attracting every possible support dollar is a prime fundraising objective.