As another winter comes to a close in central Wisconsin and we wait in anticipation for spring to arrive, we welcome in a new exhibition season here at the Woodson Art Museum as well. While our team works around the clock this week to create more exciting experiences in the galleries, I thought some reflection would be a nice way to say goodbye to winter.
What does it really mean to live in central Wisconsin in the winter? Northern winters certainly mean enduring through a lot of long, frigid nights and short, cloudy days, but it seems that our winters affect who we are as Wisconsinites. While it’s true some of us unfortunately suffer from seasonal depression, I think many of us take benefit from the challenges that twelve inches of snow and wind chill temperatures in the -20s create. After all, the greatest opportunities often present themselves in times of great challenge.
A Wisconsin winter builds resilience. It helps us put our differences aside and come together. Whether it’s helping a neighbor shovel out their driveway or helping a stranger with a flat tire in subzero temperatures, most of us probably observed a few acts of kindness signaling that a greater sense of community comes to life during the cold season. We all have more in common in the winter. We all endure the same mess that Mother Nature can bring during a central Wisconsin December.
The Museum’s Stormy Kromer exhibition, which closed this past weekend, was another example that a strong community bond persists in the Midwest. People traveled from all over the region, joining to better understand a piece of iconic midwestern culture. Whether it was because of the exhibition I can’t be sure, but I started noticing more and more Kromers as the winter went on. Just like a Bart Starr jersey or a Cheesehead, a Stormy Kromer can give you a reason to be proud – a sense of belonging to the same tribe.
Our tribe prevails against winter every year and I think it’s the key to being a Midwesterner. As my colleague Elaina Johann recently pointed out, a winter hat in general is a badge of pride that every Wisconsinite utilizes to overcome the elements when another November rolls around. We are tough, strong-willed, and are often known by outsiders for our “Midwestern hospitality.” That’s what it means to be from this place – snow, ice, a winter hat, and resilience. I think we could all get behind a Stormy Kromer Cheesehead.