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[imgcontainer] [img:Hammond002.jpg] Foster Hall, the past and current home of the Hammond Arts Alliance in Hammond, Wisconsin. [/imgcontainer]
Hammond, Wisconsin, is a town of fewer than 2,000 people located just east of the Twin Cities metro area. Hammond doesn’t have a big box retailer, a laundromat or even a grocery store. Structures that once housed a general store, a hardware store and a pharmacy have stood empty for decades as ghostly relics of the past.
But they do have an art gallery.
One local organization has made a step toward a better future in Hammond, taking over one of those empty buildings and creating a community of artists and art-lovers that spans the entire Western Wisconsin region.
The Hammond Arts Alliance (HAA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to the promotion of arts and artists in the St. Croix Valley and Western Wisconsin.
[imgcontainer right] [img:Hammond003.jpg] A community that values whimsy often values art. Brothers John (left) and Dirk Vrieze go head-to-head in a Running of the Llamas race. Started as a customer appreciation event for the Hammond Hotel in 1997, the festival now combines food and shopping with competitive llama racing. [/imgcontainer]
For over 16 years, The Hammond Arts Alliance has been a resilient, inclusive hub in the community. It is recognized in Wisconsin as being the smallest arts non-profit in the state, doing “the most with the least,” producing shows of consistent quality and variety and attracting people from throughout the region.
HAA creates a safe and fun environment for community participation in the arts. HAA presents 11 or more non-juried shows per year, open to anyone who wishes to exhibit. Besides visual arts, the shows often include a performance component of poetry, music or film. HAA’s regular contributors hail from communities throughout the St. Croix Valley and range in age from 12 to 78 years old.
[imgcontainer left] [img:Hammond006.jpg] Art by Greta Hammelman of Hammond. [/imgcontainer]
Their small annual operating budget has meant they have relied on donated space to house the gallery. After being displaced three times in the past few years, the group finally secured a permanent gallery and performance space.
For years, the HAA held its exhibits in a building owned by local resident Bruce Foster. Upon his death, the building was sold and the HAA was forced to move into a new gallery space.
Another move brought the group into the basement of the local bank. The HAA found themselves displaced once again, when the bank (the only in town) was closed.
Now the Hammond Arts Alliance has come home. They moved back into Foster Hall, their original home, in early 2013. The building had gone into foreclosure and was owned by a bank, leaving the group in constant fear that they would again be displaced if a buyer for the building was found.
However, two anonymous donors purchased the building from the bank for $25,000, and sold it to the HAA on a land contract, giving the group 5 years to pay off the note. This turn of events gave the organization a chance to breathe and begin the process of fundraising.