Posted 10:21 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 24, 2024

The La Crosse Depot is one of the sites of the Hear, Here North Side project. The project is set to launch in April 2024.

UWL classes unite, connecting education with an expansion of community history

This spring the history of La Crosse’s North Side will come to life — thanks to a collaborative effort among several UW-La Crosse classes. Students studying photography, art education, history and marketing will expand and amplify the Hear, Here oral history project that started nearly a decade ago. 

“My Photo II class was asked to illustrate several of the Hear, Here stories through photography,” says UWL student Trinity Rietmann, an art education major. “I was able to learn a lot about the history of La Crosse and improve my research and photography skills at the same time." 

The original Hear, Here project started in downtown La Crosse in 2015. Developed by UWL History Professor Ariel Beaujot and her students, Hear, Here captures audio stories from people of all backgrounds at specific city locations, accessed by dialing a toll-free number at orange street signs. Now expanding to the North Side of La Crosse, the project will include about 70 North Side stories and many more visual and educational elements courtesy of new campus collaborations.

The North Side project is set to launch from 1-4 p.m. April 20, 2024.

Who are the Hear, Here collaborators? 

  • Ariel Beaujot's history students as recording and conducting interviews to develop the stories
  • Kate Hawkes' art students are creating narrative photography for the stories
  • Lisa Lenarz' art methods students are developing art-integrated curriculum based on select stories.
  • Marc Manke’s art students are designing promotional materials.
  • Nese Nasif’s marketing class is creating a launch for the event and social media promotions of the project.  
  • Sierra Rooney, Art, is the project manager for Hear, Here. 

A historic picture is worth ... 

Photo by Trinity Rietmann, an art education major.

Associate Professor Kate Hawkes’ students are taking photos to accompany the stories on the Hear, Here website whether portraits of the story narrators, images to illustrate stories, or uncovering historic photographs and imagery from UWL Murphy Library Special Collections

“It is a great opportunity for students to gain professional experience, engage with the community and work collaboratively between departments,” says Hawkes. “I think students really love getting out of the classroom, photographing on location, and searching the archives. I remember, at the archive, one student in the archive excitedly saying, ‘I feel like we are solving a mystery!’” 

Rietmann took photos of various North Side locations where the stories were set. Although some spots are now empty lots where buildings once stood, she enjoyed figuring out creative ways to bring them back to life. In particular, she loved photographing horses to help tell a story narrated by William Koch about how ice was harvested using horses from the Black River and another about the use of well-trained horses when responding to fires. Although it was a tricky assignment and the horse photos ultimately weren’t used, the experience deepened her knowledge of what it is like to be a professional photographer.  

“Unlike people, horses do not follow instructions for posing. You pretty much have to catch them doing their thing,” says Rietmann. “I shot a ton of photos and only a few of them ended up being decent shots, but that's okay. You're never going to get the perfect photo on the first try, and photographing the horses was a great reminder of that.” 

Hawkes says the experience builds student’s skills of visual communication and solving problems creatively and critically. 

“I am interested in this project because students get real world experience collaborating and producing their work for the public,” says Hawkes. “It is concrete, and many unforeseen issues and questions arise that we talk through and solve together. It cannot be replicated in an isolated classroom.” 

Rietmann also loved searching for historic photos in the Murphy Library archives. “It was my first time in Special Collections, and it was honestly one of my favorite college experiences so far,” she says.  

A first for everything — including art lesson plans 

Lisa Lenarz, UWL associate professor of art, is studying students' involvement in the Hear, Here project through a SoTL grant to measure the impact of Community Engaged Learning (CEL) on students' abilities to develop meaningful curriculum.   

UWL student Maddy Atkinson’s class is creating art lesson plans for teachers revolving around the Hear, Here stories. The class project was Atkinson’s first time creating formal art lesson plans and materials, an activity she describes as a great experience for a future career in teaching.  

“This has given me a different perspective on how to write lesson plans, thinking about what materials are on hand or affordable for the majority of teachers, the time frame teachers are working with, and what prepared materials are necessary,” says the art education major.  

An overarching consideration for pre-service teachers in the art education program is to experience what it means to be a "teaching artist" that is part of their community, explains Lisa Lenarz, UWL associate professor of art.  

“When students have authentic opportunities to engage in learning that's connected to their community, it has the potential to be more meaningful and long-lasting than learning that's purely theoretical in nature,” she says.  

Once complete, the art education materials created in the Hear, Here classes will be accessible to the larger community, says Lenarz. 

“Our hope is through the developed curriculum, others will be able to elongate their experiences with these community members' stories and/or local places through art making experiences,” she says.  

In addition to learning, students in Lenarz’s class have also found the project to be engaging. When testing one of the lesson plans a student had made based on Hunter Wagner's Hear, Here story of urban hiking, students experimented with a technique called frottagé (crayon rubbings). It required they be blindfolded and use senses other than sight to document place and texture in the hallways of the Truman Lowe Center for the Arts. Atkinson recalls relying on classmates to guide her through the halls using only their voice.  

In addition to experimenting with a drawing technique, she says, "It was a good trust exercise." 

Find lesson plans

The art education materials created in the Hear, Here classes will be accessible to the larger community at www.hearherelacrosse.org/curriculum 

Bring community engaged learning to your classroom

Several UWL instructors in the story above have received the Community Engaged Learning designation for their class. See the full list of UWL classes with this designation. A CEL designation is an official mark of a community-classroom partnership that meets community needs and enriches student learning. 

If you are a UWL instructor interested in engaging with the community in a meaningful way, apply for your Community Engaged Learning (CEL) designation today. The window to apply for this designation on fall 2024 courses is open through Feb. 15, 2024 .  Find potential project ideas on the UWL Community Idea Exchange or contact UWL Community Engagement Coordinator Lisa Klein. Can't make the February deadline? The round two deadline for fall 2024 is May 15, 2024. The designation will not be applied to your course at the start of registration.