Valerie | Community Stories

“The happiest moment of my life was realizing that life can go on after loss.  So, at a very young age I lost my brother to suicide.  And he was just weeks away from his 21st birthday and I was 24.  Just after finding that out, I turned around and saw the person that is now my husband, standing, waiting there for me out of nowhere.  He was there, and he was there to support me.

Normally that would be a very traumatic time for someone, but I was able to take the love and support that I could and ran with it.  From there, we started a relationship, and now a family.  You never know where life will take you, so you have to embrace all of life’s adventures.”


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

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 hello@madisoncommunitydiscourse.com

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 hello@madisoncommunitydiscourse.com

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.

Best,
Mallory Shotwell

January 2017 Events

Happiness and Routines:  Make a New Year

Saturday, January 21
10am-12pm
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
6pm-8pm
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?

RSVP Here

February 2017 Events

Random Acts of Kindness:
Interactive Art Workshop

Saturday, February 18
10am-1pm
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
6pm-8pm
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?

RSVP Here

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 

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.’

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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] gmail.com.

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

To see our events, please click here.

Danika | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

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“So one of the happiest moments of my life was when my daughter was born.  She was born at home and that was a somewhat controversial choice that we made and things did not go completely as planned as birth can go. There was a moment when we were almost ready to transfer to a hospital, she just was not coming along, and in the final hour with a great team of midwives and her Dad, she was finally born and we got to meet her. She was giant, healthy, lovely, and the first thing I said to her was “I don’t understand you.” It was just amazing to meet this new brand new person and definitely such a happy moment in my life to finally get to meet her.

It was the contrast of worrying about her and wondering if we were going to make it and it we were going to need medical intervention. It was the not complete peaceful birth we imagined, it was a little bit fraught and so, but that contrast made it even happier when she was fine and everyone was okay, and we got to enjoy the day together.

Really that contrast brought out the intense high of that moment.”

 

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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.

Brent | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

brent-gerlach-0096

“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.”

 

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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.

 

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.

lattedesignmidcenturymodern

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] gmail.com.

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.

Sara | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

sara-meredith-0041

“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.”

 

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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.

Sarah | Community Stories | Madison Community Discourse

sarah-artz-0025

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.

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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.