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.
RIVER ARTS INC. STAFF
Kel Mur (she/they) grew up in New Jersey, graduated Cum Laude with a BA in Fine Art from Monmouth University in 2011, and 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. Kel Mur has exhibited locally and nationally including Audubon Artists, Inc. 69th Annual Exhibition, The Salmagundi Art Club, New York, NY; La Femme, New Orleans Art Center curated by Don Marshall, New Orleans, LA; Women’s Work in the Cyrus M. Running Gallery, Moorehead, MN; Internal/External, Arts Council of Southeast Missouri, Cape Girardeau, MO; WHY MOM, Commonwealth Gallery, Madison, WI; Master Pieces, Manifest Gallery, Cincinnati, OH; Storied References, North Illinois University Art Museum, DeKalb, IL; Empowerment vs. Exploitation, Cultural Center of Cape Cod, South Yarmouth, MA; and Reap a solo exhibition at Art + Literature Laboratory in Madison, WI. She also collaborates with different chefs in her ongoing project series Feast: A Performative Art Dinner. Kel Mur has had artwork published in BARED: Contemporary Poetry and Art on Bras and Breasts (La Femmes Folles, 2016) and HOOT Online Magazine (November 2013, Issue 25), and illustrated the cover art for Sweetbitter by poet Stacey Balkun (Sundress Publications, 2022). She is a former member of the Catalyst Collective of New Orleans, an art and social action initiative in New Orleans, and has frequently volunteered for Mama Maji, a non-profit that funds water projects and entrepreneurial training for women in Kenya. Kel Mur earned her MFA at the University of Wisconsin – Madison in the Spring of 2020 and currently resides in Madison, WI where she has been recognized as one of the Madison Bridge Work Emerging Artists (2020-21) through Art + Literature Laboratory, where she also held a brief tenure as Lead Curator. She is the co-curator of the Collateral Damage Project and Exhibition and has most recently become the Gallery and Studio Coordinator of River Arts Inc. in Prairie du Sac, WI.
Maggie graduated as an Alumni of Sauk Prairie High School in 2014. She spent her time there on stage performing with the Sauk Prairie show choir. She could also be found behind the scenes helping construct and paint sets for the plays and musicals at the River Arts Center.
After graduation, she traveled for a number of years singing harmonies with a Madison based band, The Jeffrey James Show. They sang at venues and festivals all over the country. Highlights include the Telluride Mushroom festival in Colorado and Kohala Aina Festival in Hawaii.
Upon returning from her travels she began working for her father, Bernie Poff, at Polliwog Studio. Their work decorates the buildings and bike paths of both Sauk City and Prairie du Sac. Although you will still see her up on ladders installing new signs and murals around town, she is excited to join the River Arts team. “The art and music scene here has shaped who I am as an artist and as a person. I’m looking forward to being a part of this incredible team and for the opportunity to give back to our flourishing art community”
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
- Rick Ross
- Jared Walker Smith
- Lea Culver
- Mary Dickey
- Pat Yanke
- Brianna Yanke