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

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.