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CAB GALA celebrates milestone

The Isis Aurora Dance Collective will perform, as in years past, at the Community Arts Base Spring Art GALA being held at the River Falls Golf Club this Saturday. Submitted photo

The River Falls Community Arts Base holds its annual Spring Art GALA Saturday night (see related sidebar) not only to raise funds and awareness about its organization, but also to celebrate a big birthday. CAB is turning 15.

Founding member David Markson said CAB started after a group of locals held a "barnstorming" session, which was community brainstorming held in a barn. He estimated about 50-60 people attended with interest in seeing an arts organization form.

He and Danette Olson belonged to the Community Theatre, which started before CAB.

Through that involvement, the two had learned about a general desire to have an overall arts organization in the community, as opposed to specialized groups devoted to a specific genre, such as watercolor or pottery or theater.

Once assembled, the barnstorming group talked about what it wanted and gathered ideas.

Markson said it identified a core group of people to help start something, working to include people of all backgrounds and professions.

That core group of about eight people began meeting in the basement of Olson's bookstore, The Bookpress (now Foster Sports).

Soon they'd hammered out articles of incorporation and the other documents necessary to become an official nonprofit organization.

Markson said each original board member bought a lifetime membership in order to give CAB startup money.

From there it gained momentum, growing to its current 120 members with a vision of "facilitating arts-related events and projects in the community River Falls" and "sustaining the arts and ensuring they are available, accessible and affordable to the greater community."

Soon after forming, CAB took responsibility for coordinating the (existing) events that became Art on the Kinni and Music in the Park. Later the organization added Poetry on the River, the River Dazzle Art Crawl and the spring GALA, among others.

Markson explained how a group used to gather informally to celebrate CAB's birthday and said of the gathering, "That's what evolved into the GALA."

It's grown into a well-known musical, fundraising soiree with dancing, live tunes, gourmet appetizers, a cash bar, a silent art auction, an art raffle and food art.

This year also holds a bit of a personal milestone for Markson, a founding member and continuously on the board since then.

He's leaving the board but says he doesn't expect to have any less involvement with CAB, he just won't be attending board meetings.

So what does CAB's future hold?

Markson hopes for continued growth and possibly some kind of community space for teaching art classes. He credits the public library for filling what had been a gap in places to present and view artistic displays.

He said CAB participates in other organizations in the state, such as Arts Wisconsin and the buy-local consortium named What We Need Is Here. CAB and its members learn things from networking and coordinating with others who appreciate the arts.

Markson said, "It continues to be a common misconception about CAB that it is a club of artists."

He says membership comes not from artists but also from people who like to look at art, attend related events, and share CAB's passion for making sure the arts are accessible in the community -- many of whom are not artists.

Learn more about CAB at its website: