Frank Polizzi leans forward over the clay on his wheel, and with a few gentle upward pulls, he shapes a pot’s neck. He speaks to a gathering crowd as he works, one clay-speckled blue-jean leg rhythmi- cally kicking the wheel, glasses perched at the very tip of his nose.
“Every pot is actually an abstract sculpture of the human body,” he says to his rapt audience at Mulberry Pottery in Mineral Point, Wisconsin (50 miles southwest of Madison). As he talks, a tall vase rises from the wheel, like a slim dancer stretching on a stage, one more piece of art among thousands on display during the Fall Art Tour.
For three days each October, 50 artists around Mineral Point, Dodgeville, Baraboo and Spring Green open their studios and homes to the public. The self-guided tour spans 60 miles of south- west Wisconsin’s dairy country, with signs pointing to painters, sculptors, photographers, weavers, jewelers, glass artists, potters and woodworkers. Visit- ing artists on their private turf is an inti- mate treat. You’ll see watering cans hanging like an oversize mobile above goldsmith Frank Kudla’s patio, and at Longbranch Gallery, you’ll peek into the cozy nest where Judith Sutcliffe paints tiles by a pellet stove. At many stops, you’ll spend as much time chatting as browsing. And you’ll eat lots of cookies.
On the tour, visitors might see in-progress pieces, such as Linda Kelen's print I Live Here. Photo Courtesy of The Fall Art Tour.
Rather than rush, savor the tour by staying at an inn or bed-and-breakfast in the historic mining town of Mineral Point, where restaurants feature local cheese and produce. Fall foliage dapples the rolling hills like thick daubs of paint on a grassy canvas, a fitting backdrop for a weekend of Wisconsin-born art.
Art Tour Trip Guide
The free Fall Art Tour runs in mid-October. Check the website for dates, hours, maps, detailed info about the artists, and ideas for restaurants and lodgings. fallarttour.com
The town-to-town route measures 60 miles, but you’ll zigzag a lot between rural stops. You’ll enjoy the tour more if you meander and accept that you won’t see everyone. That said, here are a few stops to watch for.
A Different Angle/Helen’s Daughters Studios Jewelry maker Frank Kudla and handbag artist Char terBeest Kudla welcome visitors to make s’mores by their fire pit. helensdaughters.com
Longbranch Gallery Open year-round, this gallery shows work from 60 artists. We love Beth Bird’s colorful etched portraits. longbranchgallery.com
Alan Anderson Design It’s fascinating to watch how the grain and bend of wood guides these father-son furniture makers. alanandersondesign.com
Mulberry Pottery Frank Polizzi crafts wheel-thrown stoneware and some hand-formed pieces, such as an alligator downspout. themulberrypottery.com
Little Village Cafe A soda-fountain-style restaurant on Baraboo’s downtown square surprises diners with its flavorful, original burritos. littlevillagecafe.com
The Spring Green General Store The “blue place with the porch” serves fresh, simple sandwiches, salads, burritos and breakfast dishes. (608) 588-7070; springgreengeneralstore.com
Brewery Creek Inn Spacious rooms offer whirlpool tubs and fireplaces, plus there’s a brewery-restaurant. From $169. (608) 987-3298; brewerycreek.com
Shake Rag Alley The creative hub of Mineral Point, this art school also offers homey lodgings. shakeragalley.com
A version of this story was originally published in the September/October 2011 Midwest Living. Prices, dates and other details are subject to change; please check specifics before making travel plans.