Alana Cuellar, Potter
The cool thing about the St. Croix Valley is that there’s an arts experience to fit every budget. Since I moved here three years ago, I’ve found a ton of inexpensive ways to explore the Valley and inspire my art-making.
Antique shops are like a beacon to me. I can spend hours wandering through antique malls. Designs on old pots, crocks, brass spittoons, jars and other vessels sometimes make their way into my own art. 136 Vintage and Treasure Alley in St. Croix Falls are within easy walking distance of each other.
When I want to see what other artists in the Valley have been working on, one of my favorite galleries is Judd Street Exchange in Marine on St. Croix. It’s a fairly new gallery, housed above the town’s General Store, and run by painter Mary Jo Van Dell. Mary Jo has an artist’s eye for creatively staging works by fiber artists, painters, potters, and woodworkers. Plus, she’s usually on hand to talk and show off her latest work-in-progress.
To stretch my body and my mind, I like to explore the landscapes of the upper St. Croix Valley. I often drive the River Road in Wisconsin and look for unique parks or hikes along the way. One hidden gem that I visit a lot is Standing Cedars state natural area in Osceola.
I love live music and a refreshing drink, especially if I can get a deal on both. There are great two-for-ones at both the Dancing Dragonfly and Chateau St. Croix vineyards near St. Croix Falls. On certain weekends, you can pair your wine tasting with free live music!
If you’re into the performing arts, St. Croix Falls’ Festival Theatre has a youth ticket price that extends to 24-year-olds. Whenever we’re headed to a show, we have to grab dinner first at The Vegetarian, an amazing Indian restaurant just down the street from the theater. It’s just as good as any restaurant you might find in the Indian neighborhood on Devon Avenue in Chicago. Their spicy curry is perfect on a snowy winter night.
I’m so lucky I landed in the St. Croix Valley. Artists here are so supportive! In the Fall, artists and craftspeople come together to host small sales. New this year is Three Artists at “Big Pink” in Stillwater, Minnesota. The show is hosted by Joe Samuelson, Paul Randall and Kristen Kaas, in a spectacular SALA-designed home. Yes, it’s pink!
Winter is a great time to hunker down in my studio in rural Shafer. I get to try out new ideas and build inventory for the busier pottery sales in the months ahead. It feels a bit like hibernation – a stark contrast to other times of the year, but I emerge refreshed and reinvigorated to dive back into the seasonal arts opportunities that only the Valley can offer.
In the spring, you shouldn’t miss the St. Croix Valley Pottery Tour. This annual event is a big deal in the pottery world, drawing thousands of people from across the country (and even international visitors) to seven studios in the Valley. I volunteer for the tour, and there are always amazing pots to see and great people to meet.
Summer is when the Valley comes alive! The river is a big draw, so a lot of activities naturally take place close to it. I can walk to the free Music on the Overlook concert series in St. Croix Falls, which happens every week at a plaza overlooking the dam on the St. Croix River.
After living here for just a few years, I’ve come to see what the locals already know: that art is all around you and it doesn’t cost a fortune to find it.