Forest Park’s arts superbloom

Apparently, something spectacular is happening in Death Valley. It’s called a superbloom.

When all of the conditions — temperature, generous rainfall, accumulation of seeds in the soil — are just right, that area of the world, known more for death than life, bursts into an enormous blanket of floral color.

It only happens, as they say, once in a blue moon, so you can’t plan your family vacation around a predictable occurrence of this gorgeous phenomenon like you can with fall colors in northern Wisconsin. 

When I heard about the superbloom happening in California, it made me think about what’s happening on the arts scene in the village with big city access and small town charm. What has happened in the last 20 of 40 years I’ve lived in Forest Park is that the residents of the big city are increasingly coming to us because, added to our small town, unpretentious charm is some big-city class.

And part of the transformation is the emergence of an energized arts scene. Call it an arts super bloom. So with the help of some Forest Park Arts Alliance (FPAA) members I compiled a list of the arts events occurring in the last 12 months.

Shakespeare on the Altenheim Lawn 

As You Like It in 2021 outside the Roos Center. Last summer Imogen on the south lawn of the Altenheim campus and this summer Measure for Measure at the same location. 

Tellers Night

Storytelling in the style of the Moth Radio Hour at Exit Strategy Brewing Company.

Stoop Concerts

Concerts held on local front porches during the summer by local talent.

Garage Galleries

On an eight-year run, up to 30 garages, featuring works by as many as 70 artists.

Cover our Rust

On the Circle Avenue bridge, since 2017

48-Hour Challenge

The challenge is to create a 5- to 10-minute film within parameters set by the FPAA.


Residents and business owners purchase a scarecrow kit from the FPAA and dress it up with lederhosen (or whatever).

Vision of a Permanent Theater

Rick Corley is leading the charge to have a permanent theater and arts center in Forest Park.

Art in District 91

Rick Corley is working with D91 officials to have actors teaching in Forest Park schools.

Public Works Hangs Rainbow Banners

Public Works got into the act by hanging something like 70 rainbow banners on the light poles last year, creating a stunning streetscape

Drag Show

Erich Krumrei, owner of Play It Again Sports, coordinated a drag show in Constitution Court last year.

Food as Art

Several local chefs present their food in artistic fashion.

Christmas Windows

Live Christmas displays and live music in local business storefronts.

Makers Market

Another opportunity for local artists to sell their creations.

Garden Club

The artistry of gardening.

FPAA/FPPL writing contests 

A writing contest co-sponsored by the FPAA and Forest Park Public Library.

Street Art

Street art became fine art on the west wall of the building at Madison and Circle.

Casket Races

The Arts Alliance created the trophies.

Superblooms happen in Death Valley only when the conditions are just right. In 1985 Wayne Buidens, Joe Bass and Karen Skinner tried hard to make Circle Theater a go, but it did not spark an artistic superbloom. 

The owner of Charlie’s Restaurant told me that what is required to be successful as an athlete or a restaurateur is talent, hard work and luck. The members of the FPAA certainly have worked hard and they clearly have talent, but right now the conditions for a superbloom also seem to be right.

Lucky us.

When I became pastor of St. Paul Lutheran Church in 1982, the leaders of the denominational churches in town were talented and we certainly worked hard, but the conditions for that ecclesiastical species were disappearing and the Lutherans, Methodists and Presbyterians have for the most part been replaced by a species that once was foreign to the cultural ecology here in the first half of the 20th century.

Thank God for the talent and hard work we are witnessing in town these days, but we dare not take the present superbloom for granted. 

Because they only occur when the conditions are right.

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