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Don't miss Earth Day celebration
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Plant a tree or garden. Clean a ditch or the banks of a waterway. Hike a nature trail and observe the burgeoning spring. Make a commitment to recycle or use fewer resources.

These are some acts that might honor this event known as Earth Day.

But behind any action, there first must arise thought. It is thought that artist Alvin Felch hopes to inspire and influence, and by influencing, so influence action to protect and preserve the land he loves—this Driftless landscape of hills, marsh and rivers teaming with diverse animal and plant cultures.

Felch’s work is both the focal point of a new installation at the Gays Mills Art Collective Gallery throughout April and May and a focal point of the Earth Day celebration being hosting by the group this Saturday.

Beginning at noon, the Earth Day “Art-rageous Celebration” will last all afternoon in the Gays Mills Mercantile Center. Then move across the highway for a full evening of continued Earth Day Celebration in the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center.

Spanning the art he has created over a span of 40 years, Felch’s presentation of ‘Environmental Integrity and the Imagination’ seeks to carry the viewer through a conceptual history of humanity and it’s relationship with nature.

“Imagery is a language of symbols and metaphor, a way of seeing and understanding yourself through comparison,” said Felch of his work.

Integrity exists when the images in your mind and the images around you are the same, according to Felch.  When the connection between the two is lost, so too is integrity. Without integrity, our choices and the future they bring are degraded.

“The choices we make right now will make the Driftless of 100 years from now,” Felch said. “I want to inspire peoples’ imagination. Imagination is the key to making choices now that will help us choose the integrity, the reality, of our future.”

Felch’s four-part installation creates four separate environments:

• Our Neolithic origins and a cultural identity based on observable nature as we first began to develop agriculture and husbandry;

• The dancing ground – that place where we let go of ego and learn to reconnect to the world around us with reverence and gratitude, contemplating our relationship to the world around us objectively;

• Popular culture as it is, increasingly disconnected from the rhythmic cycles of nature, unaware of the beauty of a complete ecosystem, using and discarding its resources without thought of the future;

• And here and now, in the Kickapoo Valley, a place where, according to Felch, he finds his imagination and physical self can still share the same space.

“We are on the global map now,” Felch said. “Bridgeport is a precedent. The Driftless region is being eyed by the frac sand industry. If we do not develop a collective vision of protecting this place, in 25 years after mining, this place will be decimated.”

Felch hopes to inspire the imagination of those attending the show to begin developing that collective vision of a land protected.

“All of us who live here carry that the image of this land within us,” Felch said. “I want people to love this place, so they can find that it loves them back.”

A number of educational events covering prairie restoration, frac sand mining, readings from Aldo Leopold, and more will precede Felch’s presentation.

More children’s activities have been added to the lineup as well. Front and center, is children’s entertainer Magic Mama.

‘Magic Mama’s Music Playgroup’ performs at 2 p.m. The Viroqua entertainer bills herself as an ‘Eco-Edu-tainer’, performing  “Organic Hip Hop and World Beats” for all ages. Through her music, she hopes to deliver an empowering, hope-filled message of love and respect for all and inspire creative thinking and Earth-friendly actions. 

“My music is a joyfully subversive way to inspire people to think differently, become magicians and author the stories of their own lives, create healthy communities and walk lightly on this beautiful Mother Earth,” said Mama.

Additional activities for children will be held in the Xpressions Dance studio in the Mercantile Building. Children can participate in fairy face painting, recycled music (percussion toys), juggling, henna temporary tattooing, hula hooping, jump roping, poi and dress-up play.

The Earth Day Celebration ends with an evening of music and refreshments at the Gays Mills Community Commerce Center. After dark, the Driftless Fire Tribe will light up the night accompanied by spring peepers in the pond below. The music lineup includes the performances by local area bands Renegade Spade, Soul Music, Primitive ED, Bad Axe Blues Band, and Freaks of Nature.

A minimum donation of $7 is requested for adults, while children aged 12 and under are free.

 The Driftless Brewing Company will be showcasing and selling some of their locally brewed beer during the evening concert.