La Crosse’s story — in photos

Image of a poem carved into a sidewalk. The poem reads, "In the dark she swallows; half the moon; waiting for the eclipse; Beth M. Erickson.

Poem (from the Gustave Winter Hear, Here story) / Photo by: Ashley Kalbus. This photo is part of the exhibition on display now at the La Crosse County Administrative Center. A reception is at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16.

Exhibit on display at county building through Feb. 16 shares photos of ‘Hear, Here’ project

The walls inside the La Crosse County Administrative Center are lined with photos that tell a story of La Crosse — its diverse people, places and history.

The photos —captured by UWL photography students — illustrate the first 30 stories of the Hear, Here project, a collection of audio recordings of oral histories in downtown La Crosse, which can be accessed by dialing a toll free number at orange street signs.

A UWL class led by UWL Associate Professor of History Ariel Beaujot started the Hear, Here project during the 2014-15 school year, collecting and recording stories on La Crosse’s everyday people who have lived, worked and shopped the streets. At the same time, UWL Associate Professor Kathleen Hawkes’ “Photography, Story and Place” class captured photos that illustrate those stories — through both current and historic images.

Now the photos are on display at a photography exhibit through Friday, Feb. 16 at the administrative center. A reception for the exhibition is planned at 5:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, at the La Crosse County Administrative Center, 212 6th St. N., La Crosse.

The Tap Room (Richard Zierke story) / Photo by: Amy Bye

“I think artwork in the building should reflect various aspects of our county. This ‘Hear, Here’ show does that in a very effective way,” says Doug Weidenbach, a La Crosse County Board member who serves on the Arts Board.

Hawkes’ photography class created photo essays for the first 30 Hear, Here stories. For some of the essays, historic photos from Murphy Library Special Collections were used. In others, new images illustrate a story or portraits of the storytellers are featured.

Previously the photos were on display in UWL’s Murphy Library.

image of someone handing ice cream to children pained on the side of a brick building.

The Pearl (Rina Jeong story) / Photo by: Shellady Udoni

This semester, Hawkes’ “Photography and Imaging II” class is developing photo essays for the additional 20 stories that have been added to Hear, Here since the project launched.

Hawkes received a course-embedded research grant to design the course in 2014-15.
“The idea was that students would learn the skills to do their own creative research or community-oriented research projects,” says Hawkes.

In the past, students in her classes have taken photos for local non-profit organizations to feature on their websites, creating more high-stakes and community-oriented assignments. She says the Hear, Here project offered the same opportunity for students. “I love any project that has any sort of community engagement,” says Hawkes. “I think it is important that students learn the importance of serving their community, and how the arts can play a role in that.”

Corset (Gustave Winter Story) / Class Collaboration / Borrowed from UWL Theatre Department Costume Shop

One of the original goals of the Hear, Here was to be a catalyst within the university and the community for future projects and action, says Beaujot. It has. In addition to Hawkes’ class, William Stobb, an associate professor of English, helped launch a community poetry contest to incorporate six poems into the Hear, Here project in June 2017. Community partners including, Downtown Main Street Inc., The Public Library Archives, the Historic Preservation Commission at the City, have also embraced the project and collaborated with Beaujot to offer other programming.

“I’m so pleased that this work continues to change and evolve, and I can’t wait to see what my friends, colleagues and community partners and members will come up with next,” says Beaujot.

Under Cass Street Bridge (Toni Asher story) / Photo by: Shellady Udoni

About Hear, Here
To date, the Hear, Here project includes 50 stories, as well as poems. It has received the Leadership in History Award from the American Association for State and Local History. All stories and poetry can be identified on La Crosse streets with orange-colored street signs, which have toll-free numbers allowing people to use their cellular phones to listen. Learn more.