Dear Readers: What does the term “the arts” bring to your mind? Painting? Writing? Music? Dance? Woodworking or fiber arts? Pottery? Sculpture? Photography? The arts include all these forms of expression and many more, and in this column we’ll get to meet some of the artists working right here in Rusk County. Many artists introduced here will be members of the Rusk Area Arts Alliance. Usually shortened to RAAA and pronounced like a cheer, this non-profit organization was established in 2006. Its purpose is to promote and encourage the arts, and local artists, give artists a venue for meeting and sharing ideas, and make the arts a viable, important, enriching and fun part of our county and community. Artists featured in this column will not be chosen by its writer, but will be suggested by a RAAA selection committee.

Headquartered at Toad House, 711 Lake Avenue West, in Ladysmith, the Rusk Area Arts Alliance serves as an umbrella organization linking a number of local arts and community groups and works with them to promote local art related projects. You may have seen the work of some area painters and writers in one or more of the four annual exhibits sponsored by RAAA at the Rusk County Community Library. Last year’s downtown exhibition of “Scarecrows on Parade” was a collaboration between RAAA, Toad House, the Ladysmith Care Community and the Ladysmith Main Street Program. In June 2015, RAAA sponsored “Art Along the Flambeau,” a self-guided tour of art venues in Rusk County.  And RAAA is one of many area organizations that work together to make possible the annual fall Leaf It To Rusk festival.

Anybody who lives in or has connections to Rusk County and is creating or participating in any kind of art is invited to join RAAA. People who are not active “artists,” but are interested in promoting the arts in Rusk are also invited and encouraged to join, as are area businesses. Nancy Wheeler is the RAAA president and can be reached through the RAAA website at www.ruskarts.org or at Toad House (715-532-4661). The group meets the first Thursday of each month at Toad House. Anybody wanting information on other Rusk area arts organizations can connect with them through the RAAA website.

If it’s doing its job, this column will help reaffirm that talent and creativity in the arts is not confined to lofts in New York’s SoHo or apartments on the Left Bank of Paris. Art in its many forms is alive and well and on the move in Ladysmith and Rusk County. Here’s hoping you’ll enjoy getting to know some of the talented artists in our Rusk County “neighborhood.” And if reading about your “arty” friends and neighbors inspires you to get going on painting that picture, carving that piece of wood, taking the photo, writing that bit of family history, or creating the snowman that nobody else has thought of–go for it!