Julia | Community Stories

“So I think that one of the happiest moments in my life it’s actually two moments.  One was when the doctors told me that my husband Kristopher wouldn’t be paralyzed after his surgery, and then the other moment was eight months later when I saw him walk the first time.

She pauses, “when I think about this it’s tragic, but also a great time.

He surprised me, and went to my library in grad school.  I had a lot of friends there, who were used to seeing him in a wheelchair, and many of them didn’t know our back story. He just got up out of his wheelchair in the middle of the library and started walking towards me, and I just started balling.”

“Oh my god, how did this happen?” I ask.

“He was paragliding in Bolivia and ran into a building with his two feet forward.   It was a half finished building.  In Bolivia there are a lot of half finished buildings, and he was trying to avoid a barb that would have stabbed him, and so instead he angled himself to hit the building instead.

He was so calm when he landed.  He said he was fine, because he could feel his legs and also he didn’t want me to freak out.  People put him on to a board, and  even when he went into the hospital he was so calm.  He said he could feel everything, and he kept the people around us calm too.  He had x-rays, and they said parts were shattered, so it was amazing that he wasn’t paralyzed right then.

Bolivia is the poorest country in Latin America, and it was pretty scary.  He couldn’t travel because his feet were shattered.  So, he had to have emergency spinal cord surgery there. They didn’t have the supplies, so they had to ship the supplies to the hospital, even though they should have waited.   Later, they had to do ankle surgery too.

Being in Bolivia was a very sad time, but the people there came out to help us.  Strangers from everywhere came out to help us.  We found this strength together, and he wasn’t paralyzed, so we were just happy.

Later, when he was recovering at his Aunt’s house in Wisconsin, we had a lot of time to ourselves.  That was where we fell in love, and while he was getting better we just had a lot of time.  Every year we had worked so hard,  so it was amazing to have this time together.

Before all this happened, we had plans for me to go to grad school. Before Obamacare, Massachusetts was the only state that you could go to with a pre-existing condition, so we moved there.  With the care he had there, he was able to learn how to walk again.

I’m a pretty serious student, and I was to grad school at Harvard, but I would play hooky sometimes.  We were just so grateful that he was okay, that we would go out, eat lobster, and go to the beach.  We just felt so lucky, like we had a second lease on life.”

Madison Community Discourse is a community arts nonprofit in Madison, WI.  We are studying happiness throughout the community to connect our city through experience. We do this through interviews, events, and creative placemaking explorations.

To connect people through experience, we are interviewing 200 people all over Madison to create a ‘portrait’ of happiness.  If you are interested in being interviewed, please email hello@madisoncommunitydiscourse.com

Katrina | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

Study on happiness

“I think that one of the happiest moments of my life was when I decided or discovered that I could shape myself to be the best version of myself.  It was a decision making process, an actively working process, and a constantly changing process, but that in the end it would totally shape my whole life.  I could look back and say “I make my decisions with future Katrina in mind.  Is what I’m doing today helping me become the best me that I think I can be.

Sometimes you miss opportunities, and sometimes you think that you’re doing it, but it doesn’t end up being the way you think it’s going to end up, but I think that overall I have found that it’s really rewarding.  You find this center stage of your own life, maybe for the first time ever.  And I think it’s really important to find inspiration along that path.  I rely a lot on Rilke’s writing to help me find my better self.  Sometimes it can be uncomfortable because you feel like you might leave people behind you, but those people have to do their own center stage life work.  I think it’s really benefited my relationships, especially my romantic relationship. We met when I was 21 and he was 24, so we were pretty young, but we’ve been together for six years now, and part of that success has been that we’re both on that path of becoming our best people.  So even if that means we’re going in separate ways, we’re going together.

It’s benefited my relationships with my parents as well, because I can say that they’re on their own path, and even if it’s not bettering themselves all the time, they are in a stage of their life where they are figuring things out.  They are working on their own path.

I set tangible goals about how I want to be better, and working towards them.  My first big one was becoming less argumentative.  I found that I used to get in big heated arguments, and it was about winning, and that’s it.  It wasn’t about about finding a way of truth or anything like that.  I’m smart and I want to outsmart you with my words, and it caused a lot of negative feelings in a lot of relationships, and I don’t do that anymore.  And it’s taken a lot of time, and I’ve made mistakes, but now I can feel when I am doing it, and say to myself  “you know, winning doesn’t matter, let’s now do that,” she laughs.

Poetry has helped me find this.  Rumi, Rilke, Robert Bly.  Robert Bly has this book called ‘News of the Universe: Poems of Dual Consciousness’ and it’s about reflecting on life experiences from out of body ways.  How does the tree feel when its leaves turn brown and fall off, and imagining that life experience.  I know the tree doesn’t have experience for itself, but gifting it to the tree through your imagination, and I think that led me to the fact that I could do more for me than I was doing.  And it’s made everything so much better.  Because if I’m in a rut, I think about what the future me would want of my life, and I do that.  So it’s been really fun.  It’s a lot of work sometimes, but it’s worth it.”


Madison Community Discourse is interviewing 200 people on happiness in their year-long study on happiness in Madison, Wisconsin.  If you are interested in being interviewed, please email hello@madisoncommunitydiscourse.com

If you’d like to participate anonymously, please click here.

Amber | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

arts wisconsin

“There are two things to come to mind.  One is a specific moment and one is more place and time.  So the one moment, and oh, I might cry, from the time I was a little kid I always loved animals, and I had a poster of a really wrinkly puppy.  It was a really positive thing in my life and I knew I always wanted one of those dogs.  It was something happy in my life.

I learned that it was a shar pei, and so I did a lot of research on what Chinese shar peis were, and I couldn’t find any young dogs.  I had read a lot about the dogs, and sometimes when they are old from rescue, they can have a lot of issues, so long story short, I flew out to Boston two years ago and I got a shar pei.  I got a puppy and he’s my baby.

I know it sounds ridiculous, but it was one of the happiest moments of my life.  When I looked at him and he’s my little velvet wrinkle ball, I sobbed. My husband was there to capture pictures, so some people that know me think that I am the craziest dog owner ever, but I don’t know in my life if I’ll ever have children, so this is mine!

The other one I say isn’t a moment in time, but it’s my life, which is awesome.  It’s awesome to look at it and say that I am moving more and more into the happiest time in my life.  It feels awesome.  I feel like my whole life that everyone has struggles, and I was constantly having to overcome, overcome, overcome, challenges, challenges, challenges, cover things up, overcome, and now I am finally creating the life that I want. So I finally feel like I’m not overcoming and I am emerging, and it’s really good to see that transformation in myself.

I feel like crying.  Aww..”  And she smiles.


Madison Community Discourse is creating a platform for discourse.  We are studying happiness to connect our city through experience. We are interviewing 200 people all over Madison to create a ‘portrait’ of happiness.  If you are interested in being interviewed, please email madisoncommunitydiscourse [at] gmail.com.

To see the full portrait, please visit our home page.

To see our events, please click here.

Madison Community Discourse | News and Updates | Community art nonprofit


MCD connects community through art and experience. Each year we study a theme and connect community through the hands on workshops, creative placemaking events, interviews, and exhibition that we offer.

Art and discourse are at the center of what we do.  It is how we connect.  It is how we reflect and honor the reflections of those around us.

One of the components of our community study on happiness is the interviews.  We are interviewing 200 people across Madison to build a ‘portrait’ of what happiness is in our town.  The response has been incredible.  45 interviews have been completed in a span of five weeks!  Click here to see the stories and ‘portrait’ as it is developing.

In October, we also hosted two workshops.  A hands on art workshop and our ‘Happy Hour’ discussion group.  We had a great attendance and support at both events.  It is amazing to watch the mission working as strangers connect, share, and are open with one another.

If you were unable to make it to the workshops, we have the questions that we asked and explored at them here.


Community art madison wi

Happiness Interviews

Saturday, November 12 9am-12pm
Cafe Zoma
2326 Atwood 

There has been such an incredible response to the interviews that we are creating a new event each month to include more people.

The following times will be offered at Cafe Zoma to interview people on happiness. It will take about 10 minutes, but we are scheduling them for 20 minutes just in case they go over.

Please reply to this email if you would like to take one of the times below.

9:00am: taken
9:20am: available
9:40am: available
10:00am: available
10:20am: available
10:40am: taken
11:00am: available
11:20am: available
11:40am: taken

community art madison wi

Madison Community Discourse and Polka Press present  :::

Printmaking demos
Gratitude writing workshop
Thank you cards to print and purchase

Sunday, November 20 1-4pm at Polka Press
2132 Fordem Avenue 

Join us for an afternoon of thank you card making and writing. We will provide prompts for expressing gratitude, inks and papers for printing cards, plus envelopes and postage so that we can mail your cards at the end of the day. There will also be a variety of thank you cards printed by Polka Press members available for purchase.

$5 / three cards to print or purchase (all supplies included)

Please bring one non-perishable food item to donate to the Goodman Community Center Food Pantry

discourse madison wi

Happy Hour is a philosophy group that discusses different aspects of happiness in our lives and in the community.  We are inviting people, regardless of education or philosophy background, to engage in a monthly community discussion on varying aspects and thoughts of happiness.
This is a group where people can connect with new people, share their ideas and thoughts, and these larger social issues on the topic of happiness. We believe that through this social discussion group, we can explore new perspectives and understand our community, and our world, better.

This month we talk about gratitude and its relation to happiness.

Wednesday, November 16 6-8pm
Harmony Bar and Grill
2201 Atwood 

RSVP here on facebook 


We are honored to participate in the BRAVA Women’s Expo.  

November 19 and 20 10am-4pm
Alliant Energy Center 

BRAVA’s signature event is back for its 17th year and we’re having even more sophisticated fun than ever! Find your passion, get inspired, shop for great finds, try a new activity, connect with dynamic women – and savor and sample your way through the weekend!

We will be offering a number of hands on activities that call participants to reflect on their own happiness and those around them.

It has only been one month, but we are honored with the incredible response we have already seen. We are seeing that it is helping people already, connecting people, and strengthening community through a stronger sense of belonging.

People are connecting through experience, people are connecting through art.  People are connecting in Madison.

We are thankful for the partners we have worked with so far and are really excited to share the news of the new partners and sponsors that we have for the year soon.

So many good things are coming.  Things will get bigger and better with each month, and this is just the start.

If you haven’t please like us on Facebook, see us on Instagram, or share this newsletter.

Hive Social Club  One-One Thousand  Cafe Zoma  Lazy Janes   Crescendo Espresso Bar and Music Cafe  Harmony Bar and Grill  Old Sugar Distillery   Barriques   Matrix Coworking   100State   Pinney Library  BRAVA Women’s Expo

We are always grateful for our fiscal sponsorship from Arts Wisconsin.


Sara | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse


“I try not to pin happiness to one moment. I kind of knew what you were going to ask… there have been several happy moment in my life, but recently I’ve been focusing on being happy everyday.  So what does that look like?  How can you continue to be happy and it’s really about embracing you and what you have to offer, what it is that is you and not having any fear to show that.  And that’s where you can really be happy every day.

For me, the overlying answer for that is for people to express their creativity.  And that’s why I do what I do, that’s why I teach classes.  That’s why I’m an artist. Because without that I don’t think I’d be a happy person and trying to give that gift to my kids and to people.  If somebody shows me something that they’ve created, I’m not gonna say I like it or I don’t, because that’s not up to me.  If they’re showing me something that they created or a project or a creative project, that is an expression of somebody so I don’t believe I can tell you ‘oh that’s good or that’s bad’ because that expression is beautiful.  Whether I value the aesthetic or not, is a totally different story, so I’m trying to get people to go back to themselves and using creativity to express that.

I could say that happiest moment was then I got married, but then I had kids, then you get a house, so there’s all these monumental things happen, and you think oh, that was supposed to happen, but how do you propel your life forward?

I do think that gratefulness is a huge part of being present, and appreciating what you have, but also being open for positive things to happen in your life.  So, gratefulness, creativity are ways that you can be happy every day.

And you’re going to have shitty days,  but if you can have these tools, you can look at it like, okay that happened, how it that a blessing to me. How does that one thing that I didn’t want to happen, but happened, or these things that have been happening, how is this a blessing wrapped in sandpaper.  How is that something that happened to me bringing me to the spot where I am now.

So really bad shit happens, but it is actually good.”



We are interviewing 200 people all over Madison to create a ‘portrait’ of happiness.  If you are interested in being interviewed, please email madisoncommunitydiscourse [at] gmail.com.

To see the full portrait, please visit our home page.