Almost six years ago, Sherri Kruger-Kukowski began thinking about the idea of a Badger Heritage Community Wall. At the time, she was thinking about an 8 by 10 foot wall. The artwork portion of the wall has since grown to 12 feet by 25 feet and with it Kruger-Kukowski’s responsibilities have grown to an unexpected level.
“I had no idea that I wasn’t only going to be the artist, but the project manager, which I’ve learned a lot, but I probably won’t do again,” Kruger-Kukowski said with a laugh. “I want to be just the artist.”
Coming together thanks to the city and many volunteers, the stained glass mosaic wall— one depicting Badger’s heritage— is coming together slowly but surely at Heritage Park in Badger. Kruger-Kukowski envisions the entire project being completed by summer 2022, but the artwork on the wall will be done in time for viewing at the upcoming Badger Fall Fest on September 18 this year, at which time the wall be dedicated.
Kruger-Kukowski talked about her goal behind this wall, the work done and still left to be done on this wall and its park and gazebo, what this wall is depicting, the contributions put into this project, and what she hopes people get from visiting it.
This project began after Kruger-Kukowski went out east to study public art. Her teacher out there said to start public art at home.
“So I started at home… Badger has been and is still my home. It has been so great to me,” Kruger-Kukowski said. “So it was my chance to give back to the city and to the community, probably more to the community. And so that’s why we call this the Badger Heritage Community Wall.”
From all the work done on the wall stands a scene that depicts Badger’s heritage and identity.
“It’s just all encompassing of this community,” Kruger-Kukowski said.
It shows the evolution of Main Street over time through the fires. Historic pre-fire and post-fire buildings grace the wall, as do Main Street buildings one can still see today.
The wall also displays the community’s agricultural identity, from a farmhouse and crops to the Badger Creek.
“There’s more water in my picture than there is in the crick right now,” Kruger-Kukowski said.
The individual family tiles that frame this scene like a patchwork quilt are beginning to go on. These family tiles include an initial, one that usually depicts the first letter of the last name of the family. Families got to decide what they wanted on the tile and some even made their own tiles.
“The reason I had them do that was, one, involvement,” Kruger-Kukowski said. “Two, we all come from different backgrounds and different heritages, and I wanted everybody to have their own say in it… To me public art is more than involving just the public to look at it.”
This wall will include an estimated 230 family tiles. They have 25 to 30 family tiles left to finish, all of which have been sold. She has a waiting list for tiles and may have space for four more on that list.
Speaking of involvement, she explained how many hands went into this project. She estimated that 100 to 150 people have worked on this wall— whether they came in for 10 hours putting in the Badger Creek or a field or they came in with their family to make their family tile. During two summers working on this project at the current home of Tata’s Gym located on Badger’s Main Street, people would just stop in to work on the project.
Asked if she expected this involvement, Kruger said she did, adding how this involvement reflects the town’s character, one she has witnessed before during her 12 years living in Badger, including, for example, those benefit event lines that stretch for two blocks.
“When I moved here, I had more help than I could ever imagine, getting my home set up when I moved here. And that’s just the way this community is,” Kruger-Kukowski said. “… It’s the Badger way. If something has to happen, somebody finds a way to do it, and they drag in friends and family, and everybody comes together to make it happen.”
Her hope with this project is that it continues to do what she has seen it already do: create conversations and spark memories. When it was at the community center, she would hear stories and memories.
“In our community, it might bring back, somebody remembers the fire, and maybe somebody lost their life,” Kruger-Kukowski said. “Or it brings back the parades and the happy times.”
It’s also helping keep the town’s history alive.
“Today I’m seeing because of all the unrest, I’m seeing an awful lot of our history torn down and stored away or destroyed,” Kruger-Kukowski said. “And history is what makes us who we are. And I just really, really think that it’s important that we learn from our history, so we don’t make the same mistakes.”
To see the complete story, read the July 28 issue of The Tribune in print or online.