Writing in Stone is an evocative, theatrical installation of towering monuments to transformative ideas and events from Wisconsin’s past. Created by Terese Agnew of LaFarge with a diverse team of artists, writers, and other collaborators, it expresses Agnew’s belief that important ideas are monumental and that the wisdom of our ancestors offers powerful inspiration today.
Wandering among the monuments, visitors will encounter texts, voice recordings, and imagery that invokes Wisconsin’s legacy of civic engagement, action, and legislation to further education, civil liberties, and social justice. A grove of “Speaking Trees” is given life with a sound work by Rob Danielson, which weaves together oral histories by Walter Bresette (Ojibwe) and the Menominee Forest Keepers, poetry, and sounds recorded in nature. During the opening celebration, actors portraying figures from Wisconsin history will appear as “living statues,” some speaking, some silent.
Terese Agnew expresses her social and environmental concerns through artwork that is serious, meticulously researched, and masterfully crafted, yet conveys her message in a warm, caring manner that is nonpartisan and profoundly inclusive. In developing themes for the project, Agnew has collaborated with a wide range of Wisconsinites: artists, writers, historians, and ethicists, as well as individual citizens enlisted through a book club campaign to contribute to her message. She posed the questions that drive Writing in Stone to her collaborators in this way:
“With each hasty legislative change in recent years, the fundamental issues at stake were rarely discussed by elected leaders with the historical background they deserved. How or why did things come to be the way they were? What did our ancestors tell us? Leave us? Preserve for us?”
Some of the themes that emerged from this collaborative process include Ezekiel Gillespie’s 1866 Wisconsin Supreme Court case giving African-Americans the right to vote; women’s suffrage in 1919; conservation ethics, from Aldo Leopold to Emma Toft; the moral impetus behind the birth of the Grand Old Party; the contributions of Increase Lapham; Obreros Unidos and the migrant farmworkers’ movement; the 1982 bill signed by Governor Dreyfus banning discrimination based on sexual orientation; and more.