January 2017 News and Updates

Christopher Peterson has a three-word summary of positive psychology: “Other people matter.”  As a community arts nonprofit, we are committed to people.  It is our mission to connect people, strength people, activate people through art and discourse.

It has been an incredible start to study on happiness, and it’s an honor to work with you to fulfill this mission.  In the four short months since we have started this study on happiness, we have hosted eight workshops, interviewed 75 people, and cultivated a safe and welcoming environment for over 900 participants.

This has been a great start, and we are excited to announce the next phase of the study: the Secret Missions.  This is where our workshops build art, evolve into creative placemaking events, and see tidal waves of change in our city.  We will be announcing a lecture series, pop-up interactive art pieces, and our exhibition dates.

Other people matter to us.  YOU matter to us, and we couldn’t do this without you.  As always, we are thankful for your participation, your vulnerability, and your efforts to bring this city together through art and discourse.

We wish you a warm, safe, and happy New Year.

Mallory Shotwell

January 2017 Events

Happiness and Routines:  Make a New Year

Saturday, January 21
Goodman Community Center 

Participants will create a set of attainable goals for their lives, set or reset their path, and connect with others.

This workshop will not be a drop in experience. Instead, we are creating a space where people can explore their own experiences, and those around them. In this immersive experience, we are encouraging people to dig in, wear their hearts on their sleeves, and begin to create the life that you are meant for.

Limited seating, so please sign up soon.


Happy Hour: Happiness and Routines 

Wednesday, January 25
Crescendo Cafe

Happy Hour is a philosophy group that discusses different aspects of happiness in our lives and in the community.

We will be sharing ideas on the topic of happiness and ritual or routine. Particularly looking at the routines that we have with ourselves and other people. Which of these are healthy? Do these lead you to a life of happiness or contentment? Are you leading a life that you want, if not, how does one redirect themselves to a life that they want?


February 2017 Events

Random Acts of Kindness:
Interactive Art Workshop

Saturday, February 18
Hawthorne Library

In this drop-in event, artists from across Wisconsin will be joining us for an interactive art workshop. For this unique event, each artist will be setting up a station for participants to create art or pieces for random acts of kindness.

Featured Artists:

Jennifer Bastian: offering tea and conversation
Danika Brubaker: sharing ‘For the One Who Finds Me’ providing flower bouquets for strangers
Anja ‘La Prosette’ Notanja Sieger: Current Artist in Residence at Redline Milwaukee, offering personalized typewriter poetry for participants (See her featured on CBS Sunday Morning!) 
Katrina Lord: From @MKELoveLetter, Katrina will offer a station to write love letters to strangers
Mallory Shotwell: providing a positive spin on the parking tickets

This event is designed to create a wave of random acts of kindness in the Madison community. Each of these artists work independently, serving strangers in their actions, and hoping that these actions stir up other random acts of kindness. When we bring all of these people together, we create a tidal wave of kindness in the community.

Come to participate, be a part of the waves, and watch what happens.


Happy Hour: Happiness and Kindness

Wednesday, February 22
Field Table

Happy Hour is a philosophy group that discusses different aspects of happiness in our lives and in the community.

February will be our analysis on kindness and happiness. What is the relationship between kindness and happiness? How is kindness interpreted if you don’t understand it? Are there universal forms of kindness? Can you have happiness without kindness? Or kindness without happiness?


Secret Missions 

Starting in February, we will start our secret missions.  Secret, pop-up creative placemaking endeavors that will encourage participation, art, discourse, and community development on a large scale.

We will only be sharing these on our facebook group, so please join us below to see what we’ll be doing.

Participate in the Secret Missions Here 

Stephanie | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

community art madison wi

“It’s hard to pick a happiest moment because there are so many different ways to be happy.

A few are coming to mind, but the one that is strong is the day that my wife and I got together. I remember the feeling the next day when I waking up, a little groggy, and then you remember.  And my eyes shot open, with this ridiculous smile on my face, I had this giddy feeling like ‘oh my gosh, I am so happy and so excited that I met this person who I really am intrigued by and I think is really awesome and cute.  Something is happening, and that feeling of possibility and that feeling of excitement, that electric giddy happiness, was really special. It just felt significant in a way I hadn’t experienced before.  So it was just really fun.  I was really useless at work and just mooned out the window all day, it was just so awesome.  It was a really happy moment.

I also think of doing Eat for Equity, and those were interesting days.  It was a lot of work, planning the menu, working with the them, and working with the beneficiaries to pick the theme, but there was this magic moment when it would all come together.  Where all the volunteers were there, the beneficiary was there, the people were showing up, the food was being cooked, and we had this incredible community of people coming together to make this.

There was this drumbeat of happiness throughout the day.  Even when it was stressful and we were running and doing five thousand things, even under all that there was this steady drumbeat of happiness that was mostly due to us creating things with people.  For me that gives me great joy.  Building a thing together, whatever that is, and the fact that is was through these organizations that were doing this amazing work to make our community a happier, healthier, and a better place to be made it a thousand times better.



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.

September News | A New Year, A New Study | Madison Community Discourse

What is happiness, anyway? And why do we need to study it?

According to Google, happiness is commonly searched term in Wisconsin. According to their topic search site, an average of 77 people a day search for the meaning of happiness or related topics in Madison alone.  We are looking for answers, we are looking for connection.

Happiness as defined by Websters and other modern dictionaries, cannot be defined without using a synonym of happiness.  Joy, elation, spirited are frequently used to describe such a word.

We at Madison Community Discourse are taking this topic by the horns.  We are studying it over a one year period – academically, socially, culturally, personally, to find what it means to the city of Madison.

Our mission?  To connect people through their experiences.  (The formal description is in the ‘about’ section) We want to make our city better, stronger, happier.  We believe that when people get to know one another, they understand people better, and they will care more.

How will we do this?

Our goal is to interview two hundred people over the course of one year.  People of all ages, races, genders, religions, backgrounds.  We are ensuring that a very diverse crowd of people are interviewed in this process.  We ask people one question, photograph them, and share their photo on this site.  This creates a “portrait” of what happiness is in Madison.

We really want to reach people, engage them in their community. People are looking for happiness, seeking the answers online or in self-help books. We think the answers lie within ourselves, in the people around us, in the footprints of the people before us. We are also hosting events each month to get people thinking, talking, sharing, opening up, even becoming vulnerable to their community.  We want one less stranger, and one more friend.

There are two types of events that will occur.  One will be a discussion group for everyone called ‘Happy Hour’.  We offer ideas and we share them.  For example, what IS happiness, anyway?  What is it to you?  What does it look like?  What does it feel like when you experience that?  Do you seek happiness?

The second is an community art workshop that will be held monthly.  This is a ‘making’ workshop, where we explore topics that are related to happiness – joy, play, relationships, mindfulness, gratitude, kindness, legacy, and more.  Here we reflect and actively engage in activities that relate to our own interpersonal happiness.  Future events will include making gratitude lists, setting goals for our lives, brainstorming and jump-starting random acts of kindness, creating happiness maps, and more. We are expressing ourselves, and we are building a support network of people that will help you through it.

At the end of this study, in October 2017, we will have interviewed 200 people, hosted 24 workshops, built a ‘portrait’ of people sharing their wisdom and experiences, created a platform for support, expression, and wellbeing in our community, and we will share the work that the community has done in an interactive community art exhibition.  It will coordinate with gallery night of that month.

We are strong in our mission, and we are excited to bring it to you.  Each interview, workshop, day and month is dedicated to making our community stronger, connecting people who didn’t yet know each other, and shining a light of wisdom and beauty in a world where we need it.

Madison is searching for happiness.  Let us find it together.  Let’s be stronger through that.

I look forward to sharing the year with you and seeing where we go.