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First Thursday spotlights live, local art in WausauSubmitted: 09/03/2015

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WAUSAU - The First Thursday means more than just a day in Wausau. It's a chance for stores to stay open later, and bring people downtown. The theme for the fourth, 2015 installment focused on live art in the Wausau River District and 400 Block.

For Wausau's Valerie Berkely, it gave her the chance to get others in touch with art.

Berkely greeted people passing by with a "Hi, I teach painting here" during the occasion outside the Center for the Visual Arts in Wausau.

She spoke with people passing by as she using her sponge to teach, what she calls, her take on impressionism. Berkely added that she uses only prime colors.

"I can make all of the colors that I need," Berkely said. "I don't need to buy a green. I can make my own purple."

She can also make artists out of other people, and that's what she hopes she's always doing with a smile.

"If I'm not happy, why am I doing it? I do art to be happy and I like to sell art at affordable prices to make other people happy. It's a win-win," Berkely said.

Organizers like Elizabeth Field, of the Wausau River District, like that win word as well. They created First Thursday as a themed retail event for the first Thursday of every month this summer, and the idea behind it seems simple.

"The idea is basically is to give people something fun to do downtown," Field said.

Thursday's theme revolved around live-art. Organizers say they keep getting winning feedback.

"It's a win for everybody, like a three-way win for our organization, the businesses and the people that come downtown," Field said.

The event offered Berkely another chance this summer to bring people to the Center for the Visual Arts.

"So many times people just don't know we are here," Berkely said. "And that traffic, that door being open, means everything for us."

It also means Berkely will keep using her skills and passion to connect more people with art.

The last First Thursday retail event will be in October. Field says she hopes to eventually go year round with the monthly event. She also added that the program wouldn't be possible without support from business in town and from grants.


Story By: Adam Fox

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