Thousands of years ago when the glaciers razed the Midwest and flattened the landscape, they left certain areas untouched, unmarred. These areasknown as the "driftless" areasabound with lush, green, rolling hills and timeless natural splendor. Meander through these ancient hills in southwestern Wisconsin and you'll find Mineral Point, a community of artists and lovers of beauty, with an intriguing queer history.
Founded by Cornish settlers in the mid 1800s, Mineral Point got its start as a bustling zinc mining town, many of the settlers having mined tin back in Cornwall, England. But when the industry changed, the town fell into decline and was in danger of extinction. Enter Robert Neal, lifelong resident of Mineral Point, who met a man named Edgar Hellum in 1935 when Hellum came to town to buy building supplies.
The two men formed not only a loving relationship, but also a commitment to preserving the limestone structures and brilliant charm of the town. Their most important effort, the Pendarvis House ( 114 Shake Rag St., www.pendarvishistoricsite.org ), stands today and is a vital touchstone to the past of the area. The preservation of many other remaining structures soon followed and signalled the revitalization of Mineral Point. About 500 structures in the town are on the National Registry and Neal and Hellum are regarded as the gay godfathers of the town.
Today, the streets of Mineral Point are lined with galleries and shops, appealing to everyone from the casual art lover to the devotee of fine, international art. Boyoyoboy Contemporary Art Gallery ( 22 High St., www.boyoyoboy.com ) is an African art collective, displaying works by some of the continent's most thought-provoking young artists, including paintings, textiles, sculpture and more. Owners Michel Metford Platt and Henk Klijn are committed to "shifting perceptions, while engendering social transformation," according to their website. Elsewhere in town you'll find Stonewall Art Studio/Gallery ( 231 High St., www.stonewallartstudio.com ), offering fine photography from co-owner Kirk Williams, practical ceramics and other housewares and surreal, hyperspace paintings by artist Madison Hawley. For a more more, folksy feel, check out Longbranch Gallery ( 203 Commerce St., www.longbranchgallery.com ). Co-owners and artists Judy Sutcliffe and Sandra Scott have been running Longbranch since its founding in 2002. Sutcliffe's prints and mosaics and Scott's figurative sculpture are all available, amongst a dizzying display of works by many of Mineral Point's favorite creators.
Mineral Point's devotion to art education is exemplified in the Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts ( www.shakeragalley.com ), which bills itself as a nonprofit center for the visual, literary and performing arts. Over 200 classes and workshops in any imaginable artistic discipline are offered from late winter through mid-November.
Shake Rag Alley also offers unique lodging choices. The Tuckpoint ( 223 Commerce St., www.shakeragalley.com ) features towering sandstone walls and a lofted master suite which looks out over the living area through spectacular colored glass. Every detail and every object in The Tuckpoint tells its own part of the story of the evolution of the community. It's a gallery all it's own.
On the more posh side, book a stay at The Brewery Creek Brewpub & Inn ( 23 Commerce St., brewerycreek.com ). New owner Mike Zupke has made some important changes to the site, which started out as a warehouse used by miners in the 1850s. Today, you can sample beers brewed on site and then retire to one of the rooms upstairs, each of which is outfitted with a sizable Jacuzzi-style tub, perfect for relaxing after a day of hiking the steep hills of the town. Among the many accolades given to Brewery Creek, it was hailed as one of CNN's Top Luxury Beer Vacation spots and as booking.com's "Coolest place to rest your head" in Wisconsin for 2018.
Other dining musts include Popolo's Pizzeria ( 20 Commerce St. )with its hand-tossed and wood-fired artisan pizzas and flatbreadsï¿½and Red Rooster Cafe, where you can take a bite of history with their traditional "pasty," a Cornish delicacy.
AIDS Memorial Quilt Aug. 8-10
As part of Mineral Point's 3rd annual Pride celebration, sections of the internationally celebrated AIDS Memorial Quiltthe 54-ton, handmade tapestry that stands as a memorial to more than 96,000 individuals lost to AIDSwill be on view Aug. 8-10 at the boyoyoboy! contemporary art gallery, 22 High St., Mineral Point.
Mineral Point Pride is hosting this free display of the quilt.
Established in 1987, The NAMES Project Foundation is the international organization that is the custodian of The AIDS Memorial Quilt. The quilt began with a single three-foot-by-six-foot panel created in San Francisco in 1987. Today, The quilt is composed of more than 49,000 individual panels of that sizeeach one commemorating the life of someone who has died of AIDS.
The gallery describes itself as an art collective specializing in contemporary South African art. See boyoyoboy.com .
There are suprises to discover around every corner and up every hill in Mineral Point. Get your start at www.mineralpoint.com .