Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts

Literary Events

January to March

Now Virtual!

award-winning authors in residence

Writers in residence will read from and discuss their work Wednesday evenings from January to March 2022. It’s the perfect mid-week pause to reconnect with meaningful language.

Winter Writers Reading Series events are held Wednesdays, from 7-9 p.m. Engage award-winning authors in conversation!

Our Winter Writers Reading Series Partners

June to October

Select Saturdays

picnic lunch with live music & play reading

Wisconsin playwrights present original plays in progress on our intimate outdoor theatre, Alley Stage. Besides being fun to watch, a staged reading is an important way a playwright can get important feedback from an audience (you!) and determine what their next steps are with the script. Purchase picnic lunches featuring local restaurant fare, available at noon, to enjoy on the beautiful Shake Rag Alley grounds as local musicians perform. Stroll the short path to Alley Stage at 1 pm for a new play each visit. You can even get in on the act by signing up to be an actor or musician!

January to December

Now Virtual!

sharing books & crucial conversation

Our NEA Big Read of Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen: An American Lyric” concluded in November 2020, but after more than 15 book discussions and art-making sessions, we know that the important conversations confronting racism in our country must continue. We’re grateful to Arts Midwest for spotlighting our NEA Big Read and look forward to continuing the journey with a virtual antiracism book club throughout 2021.

Materials and resources accumulated while reading Rankine’s award-winning work will remain in place, below the Antiracist Book Club schedule

To continue the crucial conversations Shake Rag Alley is hosting a monthly antiracism book club throughout 2021.

Our first meeting is scheduled for 6-7:30 pm Thursday, January 21, via Zoom to discuss The 1619 Project, published by The New York Times Magazine. In addition to the PDF linked to above, you can access the project online.

Please join us for one or all of these discussions as we consider the following probing and insightful books:

January 21: The 1619 Project

February 18: How to Be an Antiracist, by Ibram X. Kendi

March 19: The Fire Next Time, by James Baldwin

April 15The Fire This Time: A New Generation Speaks About Race, by Jesmyn Ward

May 20: Men We Reaped: A Memoir, by Jesmyn Ward

June 17: The Undocumented Americans, by Karla Cornejo Villavicencio

July 15Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents, by Isabel Wilkerson

August 19: Sundown Towns: A Hidden Dimension of American Racism, by James W. Loewen

September 16: Their Eyes Were Watching God, by Zora Neale Hurston

October 21: Homeland Elegies, by Ayad Akhtar

November 18: A Peculiar Indifference: The Neglected Toll of Violence on Black America, by Elliott Currie

December 16: So You Want to Talk About Race, by Ijeoma Oluo

For more information and to register to receive a Zoom link to any (or all!) of these FREE events, use the button below, send an email, or call (608)987-3292.

May 21-23, 2021

Friday - Sunday

write alongside other writers

Join us for the 5th annual Writing Retreat at Shake Rag Alley, open to writers of all levels. Enrich your talent and prospects in this charming art community and old mining town. Choose one of three genres taught by either Patricia Ann McNair (Memoir and Personal Essay; Retreat Artistic Director), Christine Rice (Crafting Fiction), or Sarah Hammond (Writing for Young People) for an in-depth workshop that will challenge you across the three days. These workshop directors are award-winning published authors and active, experienced teachers of writing.

Interwoven around these main workshops will be optional and inspiring creative activities, including talks on Writers Dreaming with Shawn Shiflett, Confessions of a Literary Magazine Editor with Christine Rice, Writing Your Opposite with Eric May, Magic in Your Pocket (Easy Handmade Books) with Philip Hartigan, Trust Your Voice, Trust Your Reader: Revision as Craft with Sheree Greer, a panel discussion on Literary Citizens & Building Community, a Faculty and Local Author Reading, and Open Mics that will make for a retreat jam-packed with opportunities to learn, share, network and write.

Manuscript consultations are available with instructors on a first sign up, first served basis, at a very affordable price.

We are pleased to work in partnership with Hypertext Magazine & Studio, a social justice writing nonprofit organization. 

Second Saturday

2 – 4 pm

Now Virtual!

workshop poems & deepen your craft

Driftless Poets meet on the second Saturday of each month at 2 pm on the Shake Rag Alley campus and via Zoom.

New poets are always welcome, but only those who have submitted work in advance will receive feedback and critique. Poets take turns leading the workshops by sharing a poem that demonstrates a form or craft technique and monitoring time.

What to Expect

In a writing workshop, a group of people engage in intensive discussion during a time set aside to focus on and improve one’s craft. Driftless Poets meet monthly to learn from one another by listening carefully to feedback on work submitted to the group.

How to Participate

The Driftless Poets workshops are free. You are welcome to attend in person on the Shake Rag Alley campus or to participate virtually. To receive the Zoom link, please register for the month(s) you’d like to attend:

For more information: (608) 987-3292.

Readings & Resources

Creative Writing Library

Several shelves of writing related books are available in the Art Cafe. Most are available for circulation, and include:

  • literary & small press journals
  • poetry, fiction &  nonfiction anthologies
  • craft & marketing guides

Meeting outdoors for social distancing.

Hold Your Own Events at Shake Rag Alley

Choose your favorite historical building, the spacious Lind Pavilion, lush gardens & outdoor spaces, Alley Stage, or the entire campus!

Campus Map: Shake Rag Alley Center for the Arts

Coach House
18 Shake Rag Street

1 of 32

Art Café

2 of 32

Ellery House

3 of 32


4 of 32
restrooms 5 of 32

Open Air Parking

6 of 32

Lind Pavilion Parking

7 of 32
Roadside Parking
allowed on Commerce Street 8 of 32

Smejas’ Studio parking

9 of 32

Smejas’ Studio
30 Doty Street

10 of 32
Curbside Parking
as indicated 11 of 32

Accessible Parking
with curb cut

12 of 32

Alley Stage

13 of 32

Cabinet Shop

14 of 32

French Cabin

15 of 32

1830 Log Cabin

16 of 32

Potter’s House

17 of 32

Blacksmith Barn

18 of 32

Federal Spring

19 of 32

Monarch Garden

20 of 32

Lind Pavilion
411 Commerce Street

21 of 32

two blocks to

High Street & Commerce Street
Restaurants, Shops & Galleries

22 of 32
To Grocery Store
Point Foods
622 Dodge Street 23 of 32

Street Parking with Additional Parking behind Smejas’ Studio

24 of 32
The Green
open air park 25 of 32
Stair Steps
Cabinet Shop & Lind Pavilion 26 of 32
Stair Steps
to Alley Stage 27 of 32
Stone Bridge
Federal Spring 28 of 32

Roland’s Loft

223 Commerce St.

29 of 32

The Tuckpoint

223 Commerce St.

30 of 32

The Sardeson Pottery Studio

225 Commerce St.

31 of 32

Weaving & Fiber Arts Studio

Cannery Row Arts Incubator
121 Water St.

32 of 32

ADA compliant buildings: Lind Pavilion, Coach House, Smejas’ Studio