Nancy Camden’s Spotting Wisconsin™

SPOTTING WISCONSIN™  Nancy Camden proposes a radio series in which part of the story is how it was found.  As she takes quiet streets and back roads in her old art-fair van and walks and bicycles, Camden spots unheard stories and interesting people by being friendly with strangers. Her radio features have been on Wisconsin Public Radio, Milwaukee Public Radio, Kalamazoo Public Radio and Michigan Radio. You never know what you might learn when you are neighborly to those you meet.

Meet the neighbors in the neighborhood of Wisconsin. Spotting Wisconsin™ honors the tradition of the disappearing small-town newspapers and radio stations, where the stories of everyday life in a community have traditionally been shared and documented.

Spotting Wisconsin™ seeks sponsorship and radio stations that value the diversity of everyday people, whose colorful lives and enriching stories should be recorded, shared and archived. HELP GIFT THIS SERIES OF THE PEOPLE, TO THE PEOPLE. 

  •  Broadcast on radio.
  •  Sponsor the series.
  •  Sponsor interactive website with interactive map.

While Spotting Wisconsin™ will have it’s own style, the following stories produced by Nancy Camden have aired on public radio in Wisconsin. 


Bike race at the Washington Park Velodrome in Kenosha

Heard on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Wisconsin Life.”

For 87 years, every Tuesday night in the summer, bicycle racers have thrilled spectators at the Washington Park Velodrome in Kenosha. Producer Nancy Camden went to see the riders race around the oval track. Listen to the story.   Music by Ben Hans

Paul painting the scene in the story 4689Heard on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Wisconsin Life.”

For nine days, 160 local and national artists paint in the annual Cedarburg Plein Air Painting Event. It’s the state’s largest gathering of artists. Producer Nancy Camden discovered the appeal of painting outdoors. Music by Matthew Schroeder

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Boxed bees 935

Heard on Wisconsin Public Radio’s “Wisconsin Life.”

Every spring, Wisconsin beekeepers swarm to Watertown to buy bees for their hives. Producer Nancy Camden captured the Big Bee Buy after the exceptionally long, cold winter. Music by Fairland Bluegrass

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 A Walk Through Tim Heard on Wisconsin Public Radio’s  Wisconsin Life

 Marilyn Rinehart on the Indian steps

2. Angie Kauffman between her house and the rock

Driving through the Driftless Area near Rockbridge, Nancy Camden spotted a geological formation that juts up between two valleys. Beside it, cheerful Angie Kauffman (left) was raking leaves.

The next year, Camden came back to record Marilyn Rinehart (left) whose great grandfather built a house here after coming home from the civil war.

3. Natural Bridge - West Branch of the Pine River

Native Americans had worshiped the Great Spirit at the natural bridge that rises over the Pine River where millions of years ago, there was an ancient sea. Pier Natural Bridge Park is in Richland County. Music by local musician Kathy Fry. Photographs by Larry Sanders  LISTEN by clicking the triangle on the gray icon. 3 min.                                                

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Ernie's Free Tree June 2013Ernie’s Free Tree heard on Wisconsin Public Radio’s Wisconsin Life. (Originally produced for Third Coast International Audio Festival Short Doc Competition.)

When Ernie Winger of Mequon died, his legacy became what happens under a tree across from his garage. His family and neighbors gather there to share the long and continuing swapping tradition of Ernie’s Free Tree. Nancy Camden bikes past this tree regularly, poking around each time.  3 min.    

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Beasties in CedarburgBeasties heard on Wisconsin Public Radio’s    Wisconsin Life.

For over forty years, in yards around Wisconsin, artist Dennis Pearson’s brightly-colored, fiberglass Beasties, make-believe animals have been spreading real cheer. Camden’s neck craned the first time she passed these outside of Cedarburg.

 3 min.   Music by  Kara Barnard

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Hanging Out!

Hanging Out  heard on Milwaukee Public Radio.

One windy day, Jo Ann Westphall was spotted at her farm near Fort Atkinson, hanging laundry on her clothesline. It became a story about the vanishing clothesline and those who still “hang out.”  7min.  Music by Milwaukee’s Pike Creek   

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The Cohns

Master Potter heard on Milwaukee Public Radio.  In his eighties, Abe Cohn is one of Wisconsin’s honored master craftsmen. He is determined to keep making clay pots despite the kiln explosion that showered him with bricks in his Fish Creek studio. His wife, Ginka says that she now supports him as they walk arm in arm. “We walk together, which we’ve been doing all our lives, anyhow.”

LISTEN 6min  Music by Kara Barnard   

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Kites and Life heard on Milwaukee Public Radio.  Robert Liberski was spotted flying a kite in Veteran’s Park/ Milwaukee.  As he shares his life story, the kite becomes a metaphor for unemployment, caring for elderly parents, losing weight from worry. The kite keeps crashing. But with hope, Robert sends it up again and again.  LISTEN BELOW  7min. Music by Kara Barnard   

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Ann Engelman at Lorine Niedecker CabinLorine Niedecker’s Poetry  heard on Milwaukee Public Radio. From Fort Atkinson, Ann Engelman takes Camden down to Blackhawk Island. The flooding Rock River surrounds the cabin where Lorine Niedecker wrote her internationally-recognized “poetry of place,”  in poverty. Engelman caretakes Niedecker’s legacy as if she was a friend. 6:20 min. Music by Jeffrey Wagner  

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Troy Reeves, the Head of the Oral History Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison Archives will archive the Spotting Wisconsin™ collection:   “With traditional methods of communication (letter writing) on decline and with modern methods (tweets, texts, emails) short on depth, collecting and curating stories becomes vital to preserving Wisconsin history for future generations.

It seems clear that while we  think this digital based communication will be preserved somewhere, there is so much of it that even if it is preserved how accessible will it be? Plus these types of communications do not give the texture and color (even with emoticons) that hearing someone talk about an aspect of his/her life or tell a poignant, rich story do.”

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  • Copyright 2007-2013 All content on this page is copyrighted and may be used by written permission only.  Nancy Camden, Independent Audio Producer