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Ho-Chunk sculpture proposed at Nature At The Confluence Campus

Scale model of the proposed sculpture overlooking Turtle Creek.

Truman Lowe, a nationally acclaimed artist and member of the Wisconsin Ho-Chunk nation, has created a concept for an outdoor sculpture inspired by traditional dwellings called “Ciporoke” (chee-poe-doe-kay) found at Ke-Chunk, a Winnebago Ho-Chunk village which existed ca. 1830 along Turtle Creek in South Beloit, IL. This work of contemporary art would honor the Ho-Chunk Native Americans who once cared for the land at the confluence of Turtle Creek and the Rock River. This would be South Beloit’s first public sculpture and would be located on a bank overlooking Turtle Creek at Nature At The Confluence, an environmental learning center.

This sculpture is being proposed by Jo Ortel, Nystrom Professor of Art History at Beloit College and author of Woodland Reflections: The Art of Truman Lowe.

A student team in Ortel’s Environmental Art class in Spring 2018 proposed this sculpture as part of this class. Ezra Rodgers is a Beloit College senior who was part of the student team in Ortel’s class. In collaboration with the students, Lowe created a small-scale model loosely based on a cirporoke (single-family lodge) out of willow & wire to diagram how the metal sculpture could look. Ezra Rodgers proposed the sculpture concept in September 2018 to South Beloit Mayor Ted Rehl and commissioners and they unanimously and officially approved the installation of the sculpture.

ABOUT TRUMAN LOWE: Truman Lowe is a nationally acclaimed artist and one of Wisconsin’s foremost contemporary sculptors. Lowe was born and raised in the Ho-Chunk community at Black River Falls, Wisconsin. His work utilizes natural materials to intertwine philosophical musings, personal experiences, and Native American history.

Truman Lowe has held the positions of Professor of Art (Sculpture) and Coordinator of Native American Studies Program at University of Wisconsin-Madison. He’s received many honors in his life, including a National Endowment for the Arts Individual Fellowship in 1994 to pursue sculpture and the commissioning by the White House in Washington D.C. in 1997 to create a sculpture for a yearlong exhibition to honor Native Americans. Most notably, from 2000 to 2008 Truman Lowe held the position of Curator of Contemporary Art at the National Museum of the American Indian of the Smithsonian Institution.

ABOUT THE SCULPTURE: Lowe has proposed this metal sculpture to stand at 9 ½ x 9 ½ x 7 ½’’, constructed almost solely of curved metal rods which will be welded to form an artist’s interpretation, rather than replica, of a traditional Ho-Chunk dwelling from ca. 1830. The context of the sculpture will be conveyed in a small plaque, roughly 3 ½’ tall, depicting the historical Ke-Chunk village, honoring the contemporary Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin, and describing Truman Lowe’s work as a sculpture-based storyteller.  The fabrication and installation of this work will be completed by Hooper Corporation, a Madison-based construction company. Truman has a longstanding relationship with the Hooper Corporation, they have fabricated several metal works he designed – including an outdoor bench (Ojibwa Stream, 1992, made of polished stainless steel & rocks, 18 x 48 x 288”, permanently installed at Cloquet Community College, Cloquet, MN) and Bird Effigy (aluminum, 10 x 16’), which was exhibited in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC during Clinton’s presidency. It is currently installed on the campus of Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI.

SCULPTURE SITE LOCATION: In consultation with Therese Oldenburg, Executive Director of Nature at the Confluence, a site has been selected for the sculpture high up the south bank overlooking Turtle Creek. The sculpture will be visible from the Learning Center, but because it is an open-form structure, it will be unobtrusive and the bronze-like metal finish will blend in with surrounding vegetation. This location will allow the public to explore the sculpture and get a feel for how large such a structure would have been historically. Please see map and photo at the end of this document.

PROGRAM INTEGRATION: The historic Ke-Chunk village is a prominent part of the history of the confluence and this sculpture will directly impact Nature At The Confluence’s programming goals of telling the story of Ke-Chunk village. A programming initiative called “Ke-Chunk At The Confluence” will be launched in 2019 which will teach children and adults what life was like in the historic Ho-Chunk village. This programming will use research and materials prepared by Sara Pfannkuche and Dan Bartlett of Midwest Heritage Resource Consultants. Nature At The Confluence has plans to work with Bill Quackenbush, Ho-Chunk Tribal Historic Preservation Officer to demonstrate cirporoke building and other Ho-Chunk cultural crafts such as flute making.

Through this programming visitors will come away with not only an appreciation of the history of the Ke-Chunk village, but the vitality and contributions of the Ho-Chunk culture in the 21st century.

FUNDRAISING: Fundraising is currently underway for this project estimated at $30,000. Truman Lowe has generously waived his artist fee, and this generosity is valued at approximately $10,000. If you are interested in supporting this project with a tax-deductible donation, you make a contribution to the “Truman Lowe Sculpture at The Confluence Fund” at Be Active Outdoors, Inc. Be Active Outdoors, Inc is a Wisconsin-based 501(c)3 organization that supports efforts to engage more people in being active outdoors. For further information please contact or project coordinator  Jo Ortel, Nystrom Professor of Art History at Beloit College,

BAO helps launch WINN for Kids – Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network for Kids

New Nature-Based Collaborative Network Forming in Stateline Area: WINN for Kids – Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network for Kids

Healthier, happier children and families was the focus of a recent meeting of a group of environmental educators, health officials, park administrators, teachers, and conservationists at Welty Environmental Center. The intention of the meeting was to introduce a new collaborative effort, WINN for Kids, to organizations in the Stateline community that have a stake in developing children who are happier, healthier, and better engaged in school as a result of being outdoors and connected to nature on a regular basis.

WINN for Kids (Wisconsin Illinois Nature Network) will be a collaborative organization that will initially focus on the communities of Beloit, South Beloit, Rockton, and Roscoe, with future expansion envisioned. The representatives steering this collaboration are Heidi Andre, head of the science department at Beloit Memorial High School; Therese Oldenburg, from Nature at the Confluence and Be Active Outdoors, Inc.; and Brenda Plakans, from Welty Environmental Center. The concept of WINN for Kids was inspired by CiNCA (Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin) in Austin, TX, a successful organization started in 2010 that has grown to 41 member organizations.

“I met the CiNCA team at a conference and was inspired in what they are doing in Austin and felt that our region would benefit from the same type of collaboration and focus”, said Therese Oldenburg. “WINN for Kids will offer the opportunity to envision and shape the future of our communities’ neighborhoods, education system, health care system, public health, recreation, and business development with the natural world as a central organizing principle. These efforts will offer our communities an opportunity to stand out, and to enhance our region’s quality of life.”

Thank you to the Stateline Community Foundation for supporting WINN’s organizational meetings

The initial WINN for Kids meeting was facilitated by Pam J. Clark Reidenbach from the Northern Illinois Center for Nonprofit Excellence (NICNE), to determine the initiative’s mission. Using small-group work from the initial meeting to define goals and mission, WINN for Kids will hold a second meeting on March 16.  This second meeting will expand the invite list to other key organizations that are vested in the overall impact of the project, to help identify its goals and metrics. The Stateline Community Foundation is providing the startup funds to establish the framework for the group.

The desired outcome from these two meetings is to structure a plan to create a formalized collaborative network of organizations working towards the common goal of creating a healthier regional community.  “It was very energizing to get a group of like-minded organizations in the room, sharing our ideas of how to get kids and their families outside and the implications for ‘normalizing nature’ in our community.  I look forward to the ongoing conversations and seeing how these ideas become a part of Stateline children’s daily lives,” said Plakans.

For more information visit the WINN for Kids website. 

Celebrate the Grand Opening of the Rock River Trail – June 3

Therese Oldenburg of Be Active Outdoors is organizing the grand opening celebration for the Rock River Trail to be held on Saturday, June 3, 2017, 10-11am at the Rotary River Center, 1160 S Riverside Drive, Beloit, WI with events held in both Beloit, WI and South Beloit, IL. Events will be held in the Beloit/South Beloit area that celebrate the trail, including paddling, hiking, flying, biking, horseback riding, history and chocolate! In addition, communties along the 320 miles of the trail will also be holding events during the week of June 3-10, 2017.

See all the Grand Opening events

Transcendence Mural will inspire those who use the Fox River Trail

Transcendence Mural Martin Soto Hesed House Aurora Illinois Public Art Fox River Trail (Custom)Be Active Outdoors is a non-profit with the mission to be a catalyst to encourage individuals to seek outdoor activities. We are pleased to support the transformation of the back of Hesed House Comprehensive Resource Center building in Aurora, Illinios into a beautiful, inspirational mural that captures the spirit of not only the mission of Hesed House, but captures the spirit of the people of Aurora. Hesed House serves the homeless in Aurora and the building sits along the Fox River Trail. The artist Martin Soto appropriately named this mural “Transcendence”, a word that’s origin means “to climb beyond”, or go beyond the ordinary limits… excelling.

It’s been exciting to see the community come together to paint this beautiful mural stroke by stroke, bit by bit this fall. Transforming an eyesore into a beautiful public art installation along the trail. I look forward to seeing the completed project.

Since Be Active Outdoors became involved with the City of Aurora several years ago with our Amped Up Adventure Races, the city has been in a state of transformation and truly has been excelling at revitalizing the heart of the community along the river. It’s exciting to see the positive momentum that has created outdoor activities and animation of your riverfront.

Thank you to Charlie Zine for seeing an opportunity to improve the Fox River Trail, and thank you Martin Soto for creating a mural that truly depicts the spirit of this community.

Submitted by Therese Oldenburg, president, Be Active Outsoors, Inc.

Read more about the project:

Stateline Spinners biking group is growing

Stateline Spinners beloit bike (Medium)The Stateline Spinners is a voluntary association of bicyclists in the Beloit, Wisconsin area that enjoy riding together for fun! Their motto is “No rider left behind.” They meet every Tuesday evening and Saturday morning in downtown Beloit to ride together.

They’ve recently complete a map of  great bicycle routes in the Greater Beloit Area. For the first edition there are 33 routes covering urban areas and the picturesque countryside of Southern Wisconsin and Northern Illinois.  The maps are available as a book, downloadable pdfs or gpx files.

Be Active Outdoors supports this group by designing their logo, their website, maintaining it and setting up their email database.

Learn more about the Stateline Spinners

Stateline Spinners logo 500 s


Rock Trail Coalition is forging new paths in Beloit area

FINAL_horizBe Active Outdoors recently assisted Rock Trail Coalition with completion of a new website. Learn more about the Rock Trail Coalition and their work in Beloit and Janesville, Wisconsin and surrounding area: Website 

Formed in 1992, the Rock Trail Coalition is a group of volunteers dedicated to the development, maintenance and enjoyment of hiking, biking and recreational trails in Rock County. Rock Trail Coalition is a 501C3 non-profit organization.





Planting new life at Nature At The Confluence

Originally Posted in Nature At The Confluence |South Beloit, Illinois | May 2, 2015 | By Therese Oldenburg

Learn about Nature at The Confluence

We’re working to bring new life and energy to the land where the Rock River and Turtle Creek meet, the confluence. And on this day, we were doing it one tree at a time.

For the fifth year in a row, the Rock River Trail Initiative (RRTI) distributed 10,000 trees in the 11 counties of the Rock River, April 22-24. Chad Pregracke, president of Living Lands and Waters’ One Million Trees program, has donated these trees to the Rock River Trail Initiative and our river. Read more about the Rock River Trail tree project.

Nature and the Confluence South Beloit Oak Tree Planting (1)

I picked up 50 black oak saplings to plant along the river and creek right at the confluence. Talk about hard work! There is 7-10 feet of industrial fill in that area, including foundry sand. A lot of rocks, broken glass and other debris make digging a hole big enough for even a small sapling difficult.

We persevered and got 20 of the largest saplings planted. The rest will be going into a raised bed nursery to spend the summer growing a bit more before planting in the fall.


I planted one of the black oaks right at the spot where I took a picture of South Beloit Mayor Mike Duffy just a week before he passed away in June 2014. Mike was very excited about the Nature at the Confluence project and he was proud to invite the public down to see the beautiful spot on the river at the inaugural “Meet Me At The Confluence” event held June 13-14, 2014.

Nature and the Confluence South Beloit Oak Tree Planting (2)While digging the hole for “Mike’s” tree I unearthed an intact shot glass. I thought that was positive sign that Mike was toasting this project from the “other side”. After planting that tree and giving it a drink of water, I asked Mike to watch over it. It will truly be a miracle if these trees grow and thrive in this poor soil, but we hope for the best!

Today, before heading out to plant the trees, I read the Beloit Daily News and found this poem written by John Kalkirtz, recently retired executive director of the Grinnell Hall senior center in Beloit.  I think it’s very appropriate to share it here.
Grandma’s Wisdom
by John Kalkirtz
Life is of balance.
Look to nature.
See the trees.Green leaves give us oxygen, shade and shelter.
Green leaves randomly fall to the ground.They decay.
They return to the earth.
The cycle of life continues.We may ask as to why the leaf must fall?
The answer comes in the whisper of the wind.
It is time.We are of nature.
We have gifts to share with one another.
We are a part of the balance and harmony of life.When one soul leaves this life and enters.
All are one in the harmony of life.
We are one.Reprinted from Beloit Daily News, May 2, 2015

Nature At The Confluence project in South Beloit

Nature at the Confluence Logo jpegBe Active Outdoors is exciting to lend volunteer support to a new and exciting intiative in South Beloit, Illinois call Nature at the Confluence. It will be a destination, nature-based, public open space dedicated to making City Center’s historic confluence of the Rock River and Turtle Creek a place of gathering, exploration, recreation, learning, and inspiration for people for all ages and abilities.

Be Active Outdoors board president, Therese Oldenburg is chair of the Programming & Marketing Committee and has created the organization’s website – and it’s Facebook page.

The Goals of Nature At the Confluence

1. To develop a center of pride for South Beloit; a year round, regional destination that will interpret the cultural and
environmental histories of this piece of land.
2. To provide a serene and accessible place to enjoy nature and view wildlife.
3. To create hands on activities that will enrich the understanding of the transformative power ecological applied over time to remediate the damage caused by degradation.
4. To connect the Confluence to the areas disparate ecological systems, parks and trails that border the Rock River and Turtle Creek.
5. To be a catalyst for the redevelopment of adjoining property and street infrastructure.

One of the goals of the space is that it would include opportunities for natural play. Learn more about the importance of connecting youth with their natural world through play at this website: Children and Nature.

The Rock River – An Underappreciated Local and Regional Natural Asset

By Walter Loos
Executive Director, Be Active Outdoors, Inc.

I hope everyone has been following the recent efforts of the Rock River Trail Initiative Council to establish a multi-use trail of recreational, scenic and historical interest and significance along the 385 miles the river runs through Wisconsin and Illinois. This truly is a tremendous undertaking, and something that should have everyone’s fullest attention and support. It has only been through the council’s tireless dedication over the last couple of years that the Rock River basin has started to be seen as the local and regional natural asset that it is.

Unfortunately, for many years, the Rock River basin, along with many of our regional and national waterways, has faced its share of challenges and neglect issues. The stigma assigned to the Rock River basin has not been created by one single culprit. Rather, it is the combination of past use abuses, the failure to recognize the area as a treasured asset, and a range of current-day naivety that has helped paint an unflattering picture of the Rock River. The council is well on its way of meeting one of its primary objectives of establishing the Rock River Water Trail and achieving designation as a state and national recreation water trail. See full story

Rock River Trail Gains National Water Trail Status!

The Rock River Water Trail has been designated into the National Water Trails System by Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar, according to an announcement by the National Park Service in Washington, D.C. The official letter of designation and plaque have been received by the trail’s founder and coordinator, Frank Schier, editor and publisher of this paper.

The National Water Trails System is a distinctive national network of exemplary water trails of local and regional significance that are cooperatively supported and sustained. The trails system has been established to protect and restore America’s rivers, shorelines and waterways and to increase access to outdoor recreation on shorelines and waterways. See full article Congratulations to Frank Schier and the rest of the individuals that helped make the designation of the Rock River as a National Water Way a reality.

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