by Anastasia PenchiAAUW Art Fair on the Green

Once upon a time, there was a world where the existence of women’s groups was questioned.

Consider this quote from Leona Farnam, a charter member of the La Crosse branch of the American Association of University Women, who was interviewed by the La Crosse Tribune in 1981. “Lots of the husbands of members of (AAUW) didn’t see why their wives wanted to get into anything like that: most of them thought it was ridiculous. Perhaps, they thought we were flying out of the nest too soon.”

And yet, this group of women, which formed in 1922, helped change our world for the better by fighting for women’s rights and civil rights, promoting education through college scholarships and providing grants to nonprofit organizations.

Its main fundraiser for scholarships is the Art Fair on the Green, which is being held July 30-31 on the University of Wisconsin-La Crosse campus. Since the group’s scholarship program began in 1935, it has awarded almost a half million dollars. Here are the top five reasons you should consider attending this art-filled event:


1) No knock-offs allowed.

This is not your usual craft show. Consider it several steps up, much more fancy. This is a real, fine art show – a juried art show, which means that the artists had to submit five pictures of their work anonymously ahead of time and be approved by a panel of artsy people before being allowed to participate. There will be only original art for sale. No one peddling imports, manufactured or resale items need apply. Some of the type of items you can expect to see include ceramics, drawing/pastels, basketry, glass, jewelry, metal works, mixed media, painting, photography, printmaking, sculpture and wood pieces. Trust me, you won’t find these items in any big box store.

2) Feel good about helping this group do good.  

The AAUW La Crosse Branch not only provides local scholarships for higher education, it also provides grants to nonprofit agencies with the purpose of improving the lives of women and girls. Members helped to establish New Horizons, a domestic abuse shelter for women and children; as well as the Pump House, which showcases area artists and thespians. In the 1980s, branch members volunteered hundreds of hours to help Hmong refugees with language, shopping and social customs. Over the years, they have delivered thousands of mobile meals. Helping this group is like helping others.

3) The Art Fair on the Green is a long-standing La Crosse tradition.

This is the 58th year of the event, which is held on the grassy, tree-lined campus of UW-La Crosse. I can remember coming here to attend it as a kid from Central Wisconsin. I remember looking at all the art, and eating lunch on a blanket in the grass. Officials expect to showcase more than 90 artists this year, and they will compete for $3,000 in awards. They also expect to draw 3,500 Coulee Region shoppers during the two days it’s held. Come be part of this enduring La Crosse custom.

4) Help true artists earn a living.

These artists receive 100% of their sales (they do have to pay sales tax) at the show. Most of the time, artists create because something within them must be expressed, not because huge sales are expected. It’s hard to make a living this way. Commit to helping starving artists by buying something special for the home. Show people you have good taste and appreciate fine art. Don’t need anything? Consider an original gift for someone who is otherwise impossible to buy for. Save it for Christmas or their birthday or some other special event. This is your chance to truly impress.

5) Help change society by keeping this group strong.

Interesting story from the La Crosse Chapter of the AAUW Web site: On Feb. 16 1953, Mrs. Wesley Bertelson, branch president, sent a letter to the La Crosse Tribune complaining that a black student from the La Crosse Teachers College had been barred by Stoddard Hotel management from waiting tables at an AAUW luncheon because of her race. In the letter she wrote, “The mouthing of fine sentiment means nothing unless we are willing actually to put into practice the Golden Rule. There is no room in free America for the sort of doctrine that proclaims we are first-class citizens, but anyone who differs in color is a second-class citizen and, therefore, subject to discrimination.” I’m guessing the Stoddard Hotel changed its policy because the AAUW continued to have their Christmas ball there. Nowadays, the Web site links to LGBT equality, student loan debt and many other issues. The beat goes on.

If you would like to learn more about the juried art process or AAUW Art Fair on the Green, visit the Web site at or visit the Facebook Page at AAUW Art Fair on the Green.

Anastasia Penchi

Anastasia Penchi

Freelance writer

Anastasia Penchi is graduate of UW-La Crosse and a long-time Coulee Region writer who has written for area newspapers and magazines (