River Arts Center

River Arts Center building front

River Arts Inc. (RAI) was formed in 1997 and in 1998 became a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that served as the capital fundraising organization for the Sauk Prairie community’s River Arts Center. When that charge was complete in 2000, the organization restructured itself as an arts presenter. River Arts Inc. produces an annual performance series in the 500-seat theatre in the River Arts Center as well as curates multiple art exhibits in the 1700 square foot River Arts Center gallery adjacent to the theatre. The organization moved its administrative office and ticketing outlet to the River Arts on Water gallery in 2011.

River Arts on Water Gallery & Studio

Opened in 2011, River Arts on Water is a beautiful space on the banks of the Wisconsin River in Prairie du Sac, Wisconsin.  Devoted to the cultural and ecological vitality of the community, it is a retail gallery, concert, and gathering place operated by River Arts, Inc.

In 2017, thanks to tremendous community support, River Arts Inc. became owners of their downtown property and now offer art workshops in the Studio for all ages.

Discover the fortunate rhythm of Sauk Prairie here.

Mission: To inspire, enrich, and educate the community through the arts

Vision: To forge Sauk Prairie’s artistic identity and cultivate a community that supports artists and patrons of the arts

History of River Arts, Inc.

by Walter Dickey, member of the first RAI Board of Directors

The prospects for a performing arts center in Sauk Prairie looked bleak after three failed referenda in 1995 and 1996. But a serendipitous conversation between Dr. John “Dusty” Koch and his patient, Ramona Kramer, changed all that. They concluded they wanted to help revive the effort by utilizing their contacts from a lifetime of living in and serving the community.

What emerged from that initial exchange was a working group that charted a course to first study the feasibility of and then execute a plan to bring a performing arts center to the community.

The basic plan called for a grassroots effort to identity donors, large, medium and small, to create the funding and develop the community support for the project.

River Arts, Inc., a non-profit, was to be a crucial vehicle for their efforts. It served as the organization through which the generosity of the community was expressed.

From the outset the middle school and high school were to be a featured element in any performing arts program because both had nurtured interest in music and theater. Because of the community’s strong commitment to its students, and viable project needed to partner with the school system. Fortunately, the School Superintendent, Richard Magnuson, and the School Board chaired by Dr. John (Tony) De Giovanni, were strongly supportive. The combination of leadership, hard work and the grassroots convergence of these and a few other factors eventually led to a successful project. The referendum that ultimately passed included the promise of substantial fundraising from the community to which the school district would add funds. A state supplement to the building program reduced the cost to taxpayers of the community and furthered the successful referendum effort.

While thousands of members of the community gave their support, the most vital contributors of money and effort were Darlene Ballweg, the Bank of Prairie du Sac, Culver’s, and those leaders like Dr. Dusty Koch, Tony DeGiovanni and Ramona Kramer who imagined what was possible and then helped to do what it took to make it happen.

Today, the River Arts Center, with the continuing support of River Arts, Inc., hosts performances, visual arts exhibits, community and school plays, as well as countless school district and community events.

Auditorium of the River Arts Center

RIVER ARTS INC. STAFF

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Lydia Park

Executive Director

Lydia Park (she/her), a Milwaukee, Wisconsin native, developed a love for the cello at an early age. She participated in the Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra and youth chamber ensembles until she graduated high school. She attended Lawrence University and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point, where she completed her undergraduate degree in Cello Performance. She received her master’s degree in Cello Performance and a certificate in Cello Pedagogy at Colorado State University. There, she was also the cellist in the CSU Graduate String Quartet and Managing Director for the Fort Collins All-City High School Honor Orchestra.

 

Lydia Park performed as a section player in the annual Colorado Mahlerfest, Opera Steamboat, Bel Canto Chorus, Longmont Symphony, Cheyenne Symphony, Front Range Chamber Players, and The Chippewa Valley Symphony. She taught cello in Eau Claire, Wisconsin, Fort Collins, CO, and at The String Academy of Wyoming in Laramie, WY. She has also acted as the Administrative Assistant for the Fort Collins Symphony, the Communications Specialist for the Front Range Chamber Players, the Music Director for the Chippewa Valley Youth Symphony, and the Special Events Manager and Director of All Ears Listening Sessions for Forage.

 

Although new to southwestern Wisconsin, Lydia Park recognizes the thriving arts community of Sauk Prairie, and is looking forward to an incredible season serving as the Executive Director of River Arts Inc.

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Kel Mur

Gallery & Studio Manager

Kel Mur (she/they) grew up in New Jersey and graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Fine Art from Monmouth University in 2011, where she received the Creativity in Studio Art Award for her senior honors thesis, Commodity. After her undergraduate studies, she relocated to New Orleans to develop her studio practice before relocating to Madison, Wisconsin, to pursue an MFA. Kel Mur has exhibited throughout the Midwest, Southeast, and Northeast, showing work primarily focused on the body exploring its various tribulations, including grief and the chronic subjugation of the femme-presenting form. Kel Mur has had artwork published in BARED: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts (La Femmes Folles, 2016), HOOT Online Magazine (November 2013, Issue 25), Sweetbitter by poet Stacey Balkun (Sundress Publications, 2022), and AJS Perspectives the Magazine of the Association for Jewish Studies (Winter 2023). Kel Mur earned her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in the Spring of 2020. She resides in Madison, WI, where she was recognized as one of the Madison Bridge Work Emerging Artists (2020-21) through the Arts + Literature Laboratory. She also nurtures a curatorial practice as a member of the Arts + Literturature Laboratory Visual Arts Team and as the current Gallery and Studio Manager for River Arts, Inc. in Prairie du Sac, WI, where she programs their multiple gallery spaces and educational workshops.  kelmur.com Instagram: @kel.mur.art

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Kristin Enge

Gallery Assistant

Kristin (she / her) isn’t a Sauk Prairie native but she’s been in and around this community for 20 years. Make no mistake, she is a born and raised city kid so think more Green Acres than Little House on the Prairie. However, after all these years of country life, she couldn’t imagine going back to the city. 

Like many folks, she wears many hats. In addition to being the gallery assistant, she is a local yoga teacher, birth & postpartum doula, childbirth educator, lactation counselor, and very part time tractor driver. While she is passionate about supporting the birth community and new families. She is equally excited about supporting the River Arts community of makers, performers, and creators that fill these incredible spaces.

When she’s not working, she’s hanging out with her two kids and partner on their little farmette nestled in the Baraboo Bluffs where they raise chickens, ducks, two cats, and a dog.

BOARD OF DIRECTORS 2023-2024

  • Krista Geier, President
  • Jeff Boll, Vice President
  • Dan Kelter, Secretary
  • Teresa Bare-Inman
  • Tracy Niesen Breunig
  • Alan Boehmer
  • Nickie Fisher
  • Carol May
  • Jared Walker Smith

ADVISORY COUNCIL

  • Lea Culver
  • Mary Dickey
  • Pat Yanke
  • Brianna Yanke