Meg | Community stories

Happy Madison Wi

“There are many happy moments in my life.  But when I think about it, I think of two specifically.

First there was the birth of my son.  He was not a planned pregnancy,  but I was happy to roll with it.  I was wondering how I would do this, I was scared, but then when I had him, I thought ‘oh my god, look at him!  He’s mine!’ and the same thing for my daughter as well.  Again, it wasn’t planned, but everything happens for a reason.  Those two moments were probably the happiest.

But there are the little things as well.  When I graduated from college, or even when I got my website up, I know that what I am doing is right, and it feels right.  I know that I did that, and no one can take it away from me.  Little things throughout the day make me very happy, and it’s good to see those. ”

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

April | Community Stories

“Two happy moments came to mind right away, one was when I was alone, and one was in a group.

I had just gotten a divorce and quit my career job, and was traveling on a road trip through the Pacific Northwest.  The first happy moment that comes to mind was in the midst of a conference, with a group of like-minded people.  The conference was called the World Domination Summit, and I was sitting there realizing that these people were the tribe that I didn’t know existed.  It was one of the first moments that I had where I thought that there are people like me.  And there is good in the world.  There are people who want to make good happen in the world, and I am a part of a movement.

The happy moment was realizing that are other people who want to change the world through happiness, compassion, and love. There are a lot of people that want to do it in the same way.  And it felt inclusive.”

She pauses.

“I’m gonna give you two, if that’s okay.” April adds.

“Yes, of course!”

“I think on my own, the happiest moments have all been very similar, but one that I can think of was just sitting in nature, and feeling the same exact feeling that I had at the conference, but instead it was coming from people, it was coming from the universe.  I had felt so alone, and at that moment I didn’t feel alone.  I just knew that I am here on this Earth to do things, and there was a fullness in that moment.  I was able to soak in the beauty of that moment in time.

So both of these moments were very much the same, and I’ve had similar instances since then, but that summer in 2013, was the summer that I realized that okay, I’m not crazy for quitting my job, and having my marriage end in divorce, and moving on with my life, I can do this because there is a purpose for all of this.  So happiness to me is feeling comfort with my humanity and who I am.  My purpose may feel insignificant at times, but it’s very important and significant.”

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

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 

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

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

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.


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.


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.

Holly | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

community art madison wi-study on happiness

“I would have to say I’ve had a lot of happy moments, which is a really beautiful blessing. Probably one of my happiest moments was when my daughter decided to move here, she decided to move here under really hard circumstances.  She had lived in Missouri her whole life and I had lived here a couple of years already.  My son also lives in Missouri part time.  So it was a really hard decision for her, but one of my happiest moments was knowing that she had this inner strength, but also feeling that as a parent that I had to have that inner strength to give to her, and to guide her through that.  In that we also helped her brother, guiding him through that inner strength.

So I think that maybe one of my happiest moment was feeling like I had done something really good and strong for my children, and seeing her be strong. I am hoping that also rubs off on him.  So I guess for me, seeing my children be strong is happiness.  Feeling that strength and finding gifts in hardships.  Finding things that mean something when things are really hard.  Looking at the lessons that we have learned and knowing that nothing lasts forever.  Loneliness doesn’t last forever, sadness doesn’t last forever, hardships don’t last forever.  I think that happiness can also be fleeting, but it’s always there, it can be deflected for a moment.

So I think that was my happiest moment was having her come to live here and knowing that she trusted me enough to help her with her own situation and her own happiness, seeing her turn around and help her brother through and the people around her has been the most beautiful gift probably ever.

Happiness can be fleeting, it’s important to not hold on to it so tight, it will come back.  The ins and outs, ups and downs, and riding those downs through, looking around and appreciating it.  Even the winter days that are long and cold, I mean we have these lakes and it’s so beautiful. We lived in Missouri and we were never able to walk on a frozen lake.  So finding the beauty in life, even in the coldest of days.

I think that was my happiest moment was empowering her to be strong. And I thought ‘Oh my God, I might have had something to do with that.’

I want her to inspire herself, because she’s out in this world.  She’s twenty now, so she’s a woman. That’s my job, that’s all of our jobs as mentors and teachers or as friends to make sure the people around us are happy and healthy and surviving and knowing that they’re not alone no matter what hardship there is.  We celebrate the goodness and celebrating the hardships, saying ‘wow, you made it through that, look at you, you’re amazing.’


Madison Community Discourse is a community arts nonprofit in Madison, WI.  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.

Gregg | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse


“I thought about your question before you asked it, and I can come up with theoretical feeling. I remember that I would call thoughts happy at some point, but I’ve been struggling with pretty severe depression for a while and trying to figure out the best way to deal with it.  So now my sense of what my happy moments are seem really theoretical, it’s hard to connect with them emotionally, but I can look back and know that I think I called that being happy. So with that proviso, let’s see now.

More recently I was very happy when I got accepted in an MFA program for writing with a full scholarship, but then I discovered that I did not get a full scholarship and I couldn’t go.  So, maybe that’s the depressive thing talking.  Sort of like saying, ‘Yeah, I was really happy and it was an illusion.’

But that would be one thing, but it was a mistake and I ended up feeling foolish and wrong.”

After a pause, he continues.

“I was very happy when my son was born, but it was so much mixed up with sheer terror that it was an especially inflective happiness, almost kind of a hysterical happiness.  So that was something.

I was happy when I was accepted to art school for the second time.  The first time I was too young and I didn’t know what I wanted to do. So I felt really ambivalent about it, but it was three or four years later I applied to a different school.  I was happy for that.

I was happy with my first show in New York.

More recently I was really happy when I got a novella published in a journal that I had been trying to get into for years.  Two or three years, and I had been working on this piece for eight years, sending it out and had it rejected for seven or eight years.  When it finally got published, I felt really good.

It’s hard to remember, honestly.  I think my feeling about happiness is a tiny little increments of  ‘I got through this day, I think I did a pretty good job in this class, very tiny modest bits.  So my sense of happy is much smaller.

I was really happy when I fell in love with someone, but then they dumped me.  You see, depression is kind of like that.

Depression changes my perspective.  I can’t remember ordinary pleasures, the kind of happiness when you have that first cup of coffee in the morning, or you have a nice conversation with somebody, you work out and feel good, that kind of stuff I can’t even remember.

You know what happened, it’s sort of like a theoretical appreciation of it, but I don’t remember the feeling.  So that’s the worst part of depression.  I think I’m a pretty proud, fairly stoic person, so trying to be this open is something I’m working on, because I think it might help.  But I take pride and doing my writing and doing my artwork everyday, whether I feel really terrible or not, so that’s something I do that I think helps.  But feeling hopeful about the future is something I can’t even remember.

I have been feeling this way a long time, but I think I’ve masked it or taken medication for many years that made it more manageable. More recently I’ve thought maybe I should try not to take anything, so that’s been one of the reasons that all of this is much more acute, but I thought maybe I can learn or do therapy, get a better handle on what is going on.  Make it better.

So I think fundamentally I am doing better, I am doing this to get better.

Everything is really dark and small and no hopefulness or joy, ordinary joy.  I don’t expect happy, you know the kind of thing that gets you up in the morning and makes you feel like there’s stuff I wanna do, and I can give things to people, and it’s good to alive, that kind of thing.  I miss that.

I get so self-conscious about talking to about this stuff.  I know that it’s gotta be making people feel bad, but to a certain extent it is a really good thing to do.  An awful lot of people feel this way, and it’s okay to talk about, and we can help each other and it’ll be alright.

When I talk about this stuff, people say it’s okay, but some people don’t talk about it because they feel ashamed or stupid.  And you don’t want to make other people feel bad.  Or, like awkward because they don’t know what to say.  You know, you don’t have to say anything,” he laughs, “just listen to me. It’s okay.”



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.

Rachel | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse


“For me I guess a happy moment was the birth of my daughter. Part of that is the amazing experience that you just can’t know what it’s gonna be like.  You envision in the months that come…and there’s anxiety, there’s fear, and there’s excitement as well. There are all these different emotions that happen at that time, but when it actually happens nothing can prepare you for that moment.  Your child is coming out of you and someone hands you your baby that is yours. You created this person, and this life force is coming from you.  I think it’s God and you are shepherding this person into the world.  It’s this amazing experience.

The ripple effect of that happiness continues throughout your life.  You watch this child grow and change and you can see who they are.  You receive this love back from them that’s pure and this unconditional adoration. That happiness that comes from that only grows.

Not that there aren’t challenges.  It was a difficult birth. I almost died, my daughter almost died, but what’s amazing is the continuation of life in itself even with all the struggles there is a lot of beauty in that and a lot of joy in that.

I think that’s where happiness and joy start to split off some. I recently read that happiness is getting something that you want, whereas joy is getting what you need or what was meant for you. And I think having a child is a very apt example of that because no matter what comes with that – the challenges or struggles that unfold, there’s still this sense as a parent that there is this infinite joy that comes from them.  Whatever comes after that doesn’t change that. You go on and live your life and they live theirs separate from you, but I think there’s this innate joy that comes from your connection to them.  There’s that truth in that.”


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.

Sarah | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse


When you first said ‘your happiest moment’, I started thinking of specific moments in time when you think ‘well, this was a really good feeling, or this was a really good event, but when I think of what happiness has started to mean to me, it’s more of a phase.  And so, I think that I’ve felt the most happiest in my own skin when I quit my job and my career to pursue building my business.  And I think it was the combination of doing something that was so scary to me and so shocking to people who were doing the more traditional thing in my life, and that really started to feel comfortable and real to me.  And so, I don’t think that I knew what happiness was most of my life.  I think I was always in survival mode and i think I was always trying to find the perfect answer of what life should be like.  And especially after my momdied, it was more so.  It was like, okay, this is what I should be doing, this is what my life is supposed to be like.  I’ve got to finish school, get a house, get married, get a job, be successful, blah blah blah.

But it always felt like zombie-mode.  And so I think when I started to own my life and start to make some decisions, I think that it took me living as an adult for ten years that way, and all of sudden I realized that it doesn’t have to be this way.  It really doesn’t.  ANd my mom had been gone for a long time, and it was the first time I could realize and have the inkling that I could make my own choices for myself, it wasn’t what everybody else was telling me. It wasn’t what she was telling me.  It wasn’t what my family was telling me. It was like I could actually say no to all that.

So I think when I made that decision to do all that, I came to be in one of the happiest times of my life.  It’s mine and I’m doing something even if other people don’t think it’s right.  I’m starting to understand who I am and own that. And it’s not always happy, sometimes its very stressful, but overall that’s what happiness is to me.  Truly experiencing all those feelings and all of those emotions that happen with existing versus just doing because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

I feel like people feel think that happiness is supposed to be this really good feeling that happens you’re going to feel joyful all the time, and that’s not what it means to me.  I think it means being true to yourself.


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.