Sabrina | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse


“There’s just so much to talk about, but I think literally the happiest moment of my life is my son. I had my son before my sixteenth birthday, and I wasn’t afraid it was just more so thinking about what I’m gonna do now, how am I gonna take care of this kid, and I had to make a very conscious decision about wanting a different life for him that what I had, and so the happiest moment just had to be the focus I had when I was raising him.  So it wasn’t just being a good parent, I wanted to have a child that didn’t have this chaotic lifestyle, I had to be more focused in my life, and my parenting, and making sure my life was together.  I think lots of parents feel this way, but it really is watching him grow, and putting things into him has allowed me to grow.  When I’m out in public and someone knows my son or has met my son, and then they are describing their relationship with my son whether it’s a five minute interaction or however long, and when they come back and tell me ‘you know your son is so awesome, so respectful, so great, he was this, that, or the other,’ THAT feels really really good for me because I’m happy all over again that I have this young man.

He’s almost 22 now, so he’s not this little boy anymore, but I would have not been so involved in community.  I wouldn’t know what it means to serve other people and what it means to work in a way that’s consistent and conscious in my relationship building, so I can’t be all bad attitude with folks because that leaves an impact on them.  The way I raise him and the way I interact with him, and then that’s how he goes out and that’s how he interacts with other people.  So through my son I am always having these happy moments because I’ve learned how to be with other people and how to work with other people, how to put other people’s needs first.  I get what I need out of it too, but I could have not come to this place without him.

I wasn’t expecting to have him, but now that I have him what am I going to do about it? At the time I was always in trouble, I was running away from home, I was fighting, so to have this child that I’m not responsible for and I have to figure out what to do and what I’m gonna do about myself.

And it’s my son that is continuously giving back to others, so it’s through him, through our continued relationship that I have learned how to be a better person, a better giver, a better supporter, a better server.

People teach us how to be better people overall, people are constantly teaching us, so he has been my happiest moment because what I have given to him has played out in other relationships. Being able to be his parent.  Truly I think I would have been a totally different person had I not been his parent.  I was that little jerk, but now watching him and getting to witness what you have done with him.  You get to see it right upfront.  He’s taught me to be more accepting, he has role modeled for me, so I can learn from him too.  So it’s not all in me, it’s watching him.  He’s always my happiest moment, because it’s always giving back.”


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]

To see the full portrait, please click here.

To participate anonymously, please click 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]

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

To see our events, please click here.

Brent | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse


“There are so many happy moments in my life.  What I think about is that it’s not so much one moment of happiness, time, or place, or memory, but it’s a particular person that has influenced me.

As I went through the catalog of happy moments in my mind, I started thinking happy times, happy times, happy times, and I can’t put one thing before the other, but one thing I did notice in the majority of those memories was my Grandfather.  And I thought that was interesting.  So I couldn’t put on particular time… was it the Christmas’ growing up, was it Thanksgivings, was it spending countless summer days on sandbars in the Mississippi…”

He pauses.

“What was he like?” I ask.

“The funniest person.  The funniest person I’ve ever known. Cared enormously for his family, I would say to a fault.  Didn’t really agree with him politically, but that’s okay.  He was just…. always there. Especially for me.  Being his only grandson.  He would say that I was his favorite grandson, you know, as a joke, his only grandson.

He was someone that I could always talk to, and despite our differences in lifestyles, he was a very traditional, conservative businessman, but he was always encouraging me to go into business, get a degree, you need to be successful.  He and I measured success very differently.

But he was always there.  There’s a certain security that gave me space to be happy.  I’ve done a lot of dumb shit in my life, and I’ve gained a lot of wisdom, but despite all of my dumbness, my grandfather was always there.  I could fuck everything up and he’d be like, alright. Whether it be a conversation or helping me fix my car, pick me up, I mean I can attribute just about everything I have in my life today that I’m thankful for to him.  To my Grandfather.

“So there’s not one happy time in my life, persay, because there have been innumerable…but my Grandfather is the reason for my happiness.”



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]

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


Madison Community Discourse | News and Updates | Community art nonprofit

We are so excited to officially start the year studying happiness in the city of Madison.  We are taking this on as a real study, ensuring that the people in our town truly are engaging with each other, connecting with each other, and building a stronger sense of belonging.

Our goal is to interview two hundred people over the course of the year.  In the two weeks that we have officially been working on the project, we have already interviewed 26 people and have started to release the interviews.  We will be releasing two a week over the course of the year.  All ages, races, genders, backgrounds will be our focus, reflecting what Madison really is and who the people in it are like.

Click on the pictures below to see our portraits of happiness that we have shared this month.

wp-1475244400511.jpg    barbara-0047


sarah-artz-0025         sara-meredith-0041


We are asking each and every person the same question and the results have been incredible.  People are so wise, so fascinating.  They each have their own perspectives and stories to share.  This is a vulnerable moment:  sharing your world with the public, and we are so honored when people participate.  

We are even more amazed and frankly, happy, when people are engaging in other people’s responses.  It gives a glimpse into someone else’s world, allows us to step into their shoes for a moment, and if we are lucky, we can see through their eyes.  The project, the goal, is already starting to work.  We are already starting to connect people through our website and through various social media.

There are two scheduled events for the coming month and we hope that you can attend.  

Our ‘making’ workshop will be an interactive art experience called Frame of Mind.  Here we examine positive thinking and its affects on our emotional state.  We present related research that we have collected on positive thinking, play a game that engages this topic, and create art that will help retrain your mind to think positively.


This free event will be held at the Pinney Library on October 15, from 10am-12pm.  It is designed for teens and adults, but children are welcome to interact as well.  There is the children’s play area in the library close by as well.  

The second event is our discussion group called “Happy Hour.”  Here we collectively discuss different components of happiness and what it means to us individually and as a community.  In this first Happy Hour, we will share our ideas about happiness and its definition. What does it mean and how does it shape our lives? Are we SUPPOSED to be happy all the time?

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.

The first Happy Hour will be hosted at Old Sugar Distillery on October 26, from 6-8pm.  

All of the events and workshops that we are creating is building towards our exhibition that will be held in October 2017.  This will be unlike any other exhibition that we have hosted.  There are many details to work out, but it is all very exciting.  And hard to keep it secret.  Details to come as the months roll on.

We at MCD are committed to forming community partnerships of all kinds.  We have many worked out already, but if you have any suggestions or would like to be a part of the project, please email us at madisoncommunitydiscourse [at]

Please see more on our Frame of Mind workshop here.  

Please see more on our Happy Hour workshop here.  

We are on the forefront of an amazing year, the start of something that will change our city.    With this ripple of happiness, we will share in something great together, something that will make us happier, more connected.

Thank you so much for your support of the project.  We could not do it without you.