Algoma, Wisconsin – a home to James May Gallery

Starting from May 1, the James May Gallery is hosting its consecutive art show celebrating our most vital resource – water. I am honored to be part of its virtual exhibition on Artsy. The James May Gallery is based in Algoma, Wisconsin – a place I had not heard of before. This post is dedicated to the town of Algoma which, after a little bit of browsing, I found very interesting.

Algoma is nestled on the shore of Lake Michigan. The first thing one finds out about Algoma is that it is a popular year-round destination for water entertainment, especially – fishing. If you google it – images of houses by the shore are mixed with images of trouts and salmons (not shabby for Algoma!).

And then, interestingly, the first two facts internet offers as something Algoma is famous for are: “like many places in Wisconsin, Algoma had its own brewery from 1869 to 1900” and “In 1897, the city was renamed Algoma, a name which may have come from an Indian term for “park of flowers.” At that time the commercial fishing fleet located in Algoma was the largest on Lake Michigan”. The combination of fish+beer+views over the lake is winning 🙂

Wisconsin Historical Society says that the white settlers visited the area as early as 1834 but it wasn’t until 1851 that the first permanent white settlement named Wolf River was established. Eight years later, the name was changed to Ahnapee. Immigrants from Ireland, Germany, Belgium, and Bohemia, as well as settlers from New England, were among the first to call Wolf River/Ahnapee home. The name of Ahnapee was chosen after a local Potawatomi legend. The book “Wisconsin Legends & Lore” talks about various legends, including Ahnappe and how Potawatomi tribe Chief Katoose was quoted on December 8, 1923 in the Kewaunee Country Press sharing the story of a great grey wolf, a Wendigo-like creature, roaming the lands in search of prey and scaring away anyone he meets. As far as I understand, the local tribe had a ritual to honor the beast, the spirit which they feared and respected so it might spare them if ever met. One word – mighty.

The end of the 19th century advanced the town’s development along with the arrival of the Ahnapee and Western Railway, which connected the coastal town with many other smaller and bigger towns in the area. Several factories were built as a result of the railroad’s arrival, including the Ahnapee Seating & Veneer Company. They were creating seating and wood panels for trains – some were excellent pieces of art deco or Jugendstil-inspired models, amazing to look back at. I bet some trains still have them.

The factory was later named the Algoma Hardwoods, Incorporated, which I now understand is no longer operational, however, the woodworking tradition continues in the manny carpenters shops in and around Algoma.

Today Algoma seems to be an epic fishing destination – I made a small collage of some online public photos of locals. I’m not a fishing enthusiast, but the smiles of people say a lot 🙂

Being a town with a population of 3059 people, also arts seem to be very present in the Algoma community with a wide and very interesting representation for such a relatively compact and charming place. The James May Gallery is not the only gallery in town – it has 8 other art galleries and studios for paintings, sculptures, and ceramics (and some also show murals).

On the right here is one mural I really liked – “MARGARET” in Algoma, Wisconsin, painted in 2007 by Nancie Phillips and Muriel Williamson and photographed by Rod Ness of Hermantown, Minnesota. And on the left – the Algoma Pierhead Lighthouse, the symbol of the town.

Thanks to James May Gallery, I am a definite fan of Algoma and will be very happy to visit it one day!

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