Dispatch from the Door: Arts & Crafts

Summer nights with the American Folklore Theatre in Peninsula Park.

It’s not every rural county that boasts two well-established, nationally-known theatre companies—but the Door is a different sort of place. The county has been hosting tourists for decades, and, in order to keep everyone entertained, a strong arts and theatre culture has emerged on the peninsula. A self-professed “oddball wonder,” the American Folklore Theatre attracts more than 40,000 people each summer, who come to take in something that’s not available anywhere else: original musicals, all of which are focused on the region, performed under the stars (or sun, in the case of matinees) in an outdoor amphitheatre. There’s probably no better place to introduce your young one to the theatre arts than through a company that presents mostly one-act plays that are focused on being funny and fun in a venue where there’s no dress code and which allows you to pack and bring in your own food and (non-alcoholic) bevies for the evening.

If you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, check out Peninsula Players, America’s oldest resident public theatre. The whole place has a convivial feel, which is aided by the fact that intermissions are spent, drink-in- hand, in a bayside, lamp-lit grove. But that doesn’t diminish the fact that serious theatre takes place here—productions hot off Broadway are performed inside a recently-constructed $7.3 million venue.

Door County is also a destination for the visual arts—the peninsula is dotted with galleries and craft shops and art schools, and for families, any visit to the Door must include a stop at the Hands On Art Studio. “Art gets a bad wrap—you’re always being made to do this and that,” notes studio founder Cy Turnbladh. “We make a point of making it fun for people. We want kids and adults to experience creativity without judgment or regimen, to just come here and have fun and create things.” Housed in a former abandoned farm—now completely renovated—Hands On is a truly remarkable place. With over 8000 square feet of studio space, people are invited to work in a wide variety of mediums, including glass, wood, ceramics—and T-shirt (which can be fashioned using special paints). For a fun family bonding experience, try some spin art. Everyone chooses a different colour and paints it onto a canvas, which is then affixed to a propeller-like contraption (Cy’s own creation) and spun into a psychedelic masterpiece. Just $7 a piece (plus the cost of materials) gets you a full day in the various studios spread throughout a large barn and various out-buildings, and if you’re not happy with your creation (doubtful, but possible), Cy and the rest of the crew at Hands On encourage you to fling it against the Wall of Shame and come back again to complete a different project—on the house.

—Tim Johnson, CF’s contributing editor

Cy Turnbladh at Hands On, showcasing some recently-completed spin art.

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