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The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

The student news source of the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

The Racquet Press

A closer look at the City of La Crosse Arts Board
The La Crosse Arts Board meets the first Tuesday of every month at 8:30 a.m. in the City Hall Chambers. Photo retrieved from

The City of La Crosse Arts Board is currently a nine-member council focused on empowering and bolstering artists, performers, writers and non-profit organizations whose contributions bring visual and performing arts to the La Crosse community. The board’s website states that it is committed to fostering diversity by equitably distributing public art throughout the city and providing a platform for a range of artists and forms of art. 

The board meets at La Crosse City Hall in Council Chambers every first Tuesday of the month at 8:30 a.m. 

The Arts Board primarily supports artists through its annual grant program where artists can submit grant applications. There are three levels to the program. Small Project Grants are designed for emerging artists and enable those individuals to create new works or progress on existing projects. These grants award up to $750 to five projects per year. 

Creative Development Grants are the next step up, awarding up to $2,500 to four projects per year. These grants are intended for professionally active artists and organizations undergoing significant projects or substantial bodies of work. 

Lastly, the Community Impact Grant awards up to $12,000 to two projects per year. These awards are for transformative projects or events that will leave a lasting impact on the La Crosse community. Applicants for this grant must also present their project proposal at a monthly Arts Board meeting. 

Recently finished projects include Natalie Hinahara’s “Yarrow and Vervain” mural on the Main Street ramp in downtown La Crosse and the construction of the “4th Street Stage”, a window storefront where artists can perform. 

The Racquet Press sat down with two current members of the Arts Board, Chair of the Board Zachary Stensen, assistant professor of art at UWL, and Dr. Sana Illahe, associate professor of race, gender and sexuality studies at UWL. 

A recent winner of a Community Impact Grant was La Crosse Habitat for Humanity’s “ReNew the Block” project. This project centers on revitalizing a neighborhood block in one of La Crosse’s most underserved neighborhoods. The funding from the Arts Board will be going towards creating a large mural on the corner of Logan Middle School. 

“It’s a really brilliant project in terms of accessibility. People who are coming together to [build the mural] don’t have to spend any money; they’re building the community as they come together; at the same time they’re decorating the neighborhood,” said Illahe.

According to Stensen, the board has over $30,000 in grant funding available to artists. As chair, he advocates for spreading the word about the grants. “We want to ensure the creative community is aware of the grant program. I don’t have a preference for the type of art I want to see – I only want to see more of it,” said Stensen.

“We promote the grant program through our social media with the La Crosse Arts Club, and this past summer we hosted a public listening session at the Pump House, where the public could attend to learn more,” he continued. 

Illahe is a singer trained in Hindustani-Pakistani Classical Music tradition and advocates for different forms of music and art that don’t fit typical art forms. 

“As a woman of color, one of the things that I advocate for is artists of color and artists with marginalized identities and creating and making spaces for them,” said Illahe. 

Illahe is also a member of the Art Club La Crosse. According to their Instagram, the club meets the first Monday of every month to connect with the La Crosse arts community. 

In Nov. 2023, the Arts Board was granted $75,000 from the La Crosse City Council via American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funding to support artists who struggled during the pandemic. “Post-pandemic, we had lost a lot of connection with the community, and arts had suffered. It’s really for getting culture to recover from the negative impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Illahe. 

At the most recent Arts Board meeting on Tuesday, April 2, the board discussed whether or not to widen the geographic range of artists supporting grants. As of now, the grants can only go to residents or taxpayers of the City of La Crosse. 

While some members of the board said a broader community range would support more artists, others spoke about how the board should prioritize local artists and their work. So far, the board agreed to refer the decision to the next meeting on May 7, where they plan to have written an addition to the eligibility requirements.  

The board also sponsors Artspire, an annual community art event that celebrates La Crosse’s culture, stimulates regional appreciation for the arts, and makes the arts accessible for all. This year Artspire is on Saturday, June 8 from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at Riverside Park. Donations and grants help keep the event free.

Artspire 2024 includes performances by Ho-Chunk singers and dancers, Driftless Urban Orchestra, Tania Tandias Flamenco and Spanish Dance, Seasaw and The Braided Janes. The event also includes a Fine Art Fair and Sale. Check out volunteer opportunities on their website.

 To learn more about the City of La Crosse Arts Board, you can follow them on Instagram @cityoflacrosse_artsboard 

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About the Contributor
Ann David
Ann David, Multimedia Editor
  • Year at UWL: Junior
  • PGPs: She/Her/Hers
  • Hometown: Eau Claire, WI
  • Major: English: Medical Professions Emphasis
  • Minor: Biology; Music Performance
  • Other Campus Involvement: UWL Wind Ensemble and Orchestra Member
  • Future Plans after Graduation: Attending grad school in Minnesota
  • Favorite activity in La Crosse: Walking through the Rotary Lights at Riverside Park in the winter with friends.
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