Written by Nick O’Brien
10/16/17 UPDATE: Please note that this article was published when Nick O’Brien served in the role of Community Engagement Specialist for MCDEVCO, Inc.
On February 2, the new community micro-granting initiative known as Wausau SOUP again drew great citizen support and turned the heads of many for its second event — appropriately dubbed “SOUP II.”
The event (brought to you by MCDEVCO, Inc.) temporarily transformed the former West Side Battery and Electric Service building into a truly unique atmosphere for area residents to enjoy art, music, food and most importantly, grassroots community development efforts.
SOUP II attendees raised $957 and voted to award that funding to a new citizen-led project called Wausau Makerspace.
Approximately 200 people attended SOUP II, surpassing the 150-person attendance mark set at Wausau SOUP’s launch event in October 2016 at the Wausau Club building.
(Not sure what Wausau SOUP is all about? Click over to read my article “Wausau SOUP II’s On” for a quick summary. I’ll wait right here till you get back…)
The second edition of the crowd-funding concept dinner featured soup donated by Urban Street Bistro and bread contributed by Polito’s Pizza – Wausau, but the food was only a part of the event’s flare…
As attendees entered the former repair and service shop, they were introduced to the work of three local artists through a pop-up art gallery.
Not only was the finished work of artists Sandra Marvel, Amelia Straub, and Tyler Adin on display, but the three artists also created live art throughout the duration of the event. The community was encouraged to “see the artists through their art” as live art was painted on two interior windows that looked out into the main event space.
That part of the vacant building, essentially an oversized garage, was highlighted from above by perhaps the most photographed art installation from downtown Wausau — the colorful umbrellas that hung over Third Street during the late summer and fall of 2016.
The room’s ambiance was set with lighting and 3-D video projection on large “Wausau SOUP” letters in the stage area — showcasing live, local music by Jacob Ramsey and Amelia Straub (who pulled double-duty with live art and music).
Attendees were given the opportunity to post information about any community events/clubs/groups on a community bulletin board, as well as “leave a note for the new owner” with sharpies hung on a wall that was quickly covered with inspirational quotes and words of advice for whomever takes ownership of the building next.
Prior to the pre-selected project presentations, Wausau SOUP founder and organizer Nick O’Brien welcomed the audience by applauding the community support shown through their attendance and $5 donation at the door.
Wausau Mayor Robert Mielke took the stage to share his support and excitement for the increased amount of community engagement that Wausau SOUP has prompted. Mielke also made an announcement on the return of “Exhibitour,” a popular downtown wine walk and art showcase event that had been discontinued in recent years.
O’Brien returned to the stage to publicize the City’s release of the RFP, or “right for proposal,” for the vacant building and surrounding city-owned property. He then invited Clint Schultz, owner of Urban Street Bistro, to the stage to share the food truck business’s vision of turning the building into a restaurant and bar. Schultz gave a brief summary of what the plans will include in the business’s response to the City’s RFP.
Talk of the Wausau-beloved Urban Street Bistro food truck becoming a west riverfront restaurant immediately spurred quite a buzz, which has only grown since the announcement at SOUP II.
Four local projects were presented during the pitch portion of the event:
- A downtown dog park
- A UW–Marathon County student-led leadership development conference
- A giant interactive public art installation called “Stitch”
- Wausau Makerspace — the winning project
Wausau Makerspace co-founder Justin Tetzlaff explained the project vision to an audience of ballot holders as a place for people who like to build, tinker, invent, and/or want to learn new skills. The goal of Wausau Makerspace is to provide access to tools and other resources to help local innovators bring their ideas to reality.
“From home projects to initial prototypes to get a business off the ground, Wausau Makerspace is where that will happen,” co-founder Brian Jojade explains.
The project received 79 of the total 172 ballots cast and will use the SOUP funding to officially establish Wausau Makerspace as a 501(c)(3) organization. Once that step of the project is completed, founders will begin seeking support and funding to secure a location for the makerspace as well as the tools the space will offer. Organization leaders say they aim to have a location that is available to members 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
- To learn more about Wausau Makerspace:
- For more information on Wausau SOUP:
Reach out to the initiative on Facebook, or call 1-844-MCDEVCO.
Community Engagement Specialist | MCDEVCO, Inc.
Nick O’Brien began his duties with MCDEVCO, Inc., in 2016, as the organization rolled out its new community engagement department. His primary role as Community Engagement Specialist is to connect people, places, and purposes in the community to each other. After his move to Marathon County from Illinois in 2012, he spent nearly 2½ years with WAOW-TV 9 as a sports anchor/reporter, followed by more than a year managing a young professionals initiative for the Wausau Region Chamber of Commerce. In the last 2 years, Nick has organized more than 35 community events, including Wausau SOUP, Young Professionals Week 2015, and the Swap Meet, which connected young professionals from Milwaukee and Wausau during a weekend tour of the community. In the spring of 2016, he traveled more than 2,500 miles in 8 days to visit 14 Wisconsin cities and filmed a video to highlight the Young Professionals Week statewide initiative. When he’s not promoting community resources, people, and organizations, Nick loves traveling, seeing live music concerts, and playing sports.
You might also like…
- Marathon County Goes ALL IN for the First-Ever International Ginseng Festival
- Thinking Green When All Is White: Wausau Winter Farmers Market Helps Keep Local Food on Plates Year-Round
- Wausau SOUP II’s On!
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