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Blugold's vision leads to place where artists can thrive

| Julie Poquette

If not for Erin Klaus’ time in Arizona following her 2005 graduation from UW-Eau Claire, she may not have become a partner in a successful small business in downtown Eau Claire.

Armed with a Bachelor of Arts degree in English, Klaus set out for grad school in Tucson to pursue her passion for women’s studies. She was disappointed in the program but not before falling in love with the vibrant arts culture there.

“Tucson had an amazing art community,” Klaus says. “All of the shops there had art components. It was super-inspiring to be down there. I wanted to bring that community-based art culture back here to Eau Claire.”

It wasn’t long before Klaus, a Milwaukee native, returned to Eau Claire, the city she had come to love as an undergraduate at UW-Eau Claire.

To begin, Klaus went into business with Jamie Kyser, a local artist who shared Klaus’ love of creating handmade arts and crafts. They purchased a jewelry kiosk in the Oakwood Mall. By 2009, they made the move downtown, opening Tangled Up In Hue, a colorful art collective where a community of artists can sell their works.

“As soon as people in the arts community found out we had a space, everyone came in asking how they could be involved,” Klaus says. “The interest was unbelievable — there was a huge need for what we were doing. We became an artists’ hub.”

The popularity of their shop led to The Artist Market of Eau Claire, where local artists display and sell their work in Phoenix Park each Saturday from late May to mid-September.

This March, Tangled Up in Hue moved into bigger space, allowing Klaus and Kyser to feature the work of more than 100 artists and open the door to other forms of creative expression. They can now host events, including art exhibits, poetry slams and musical performances.

In their original storefront, the partners plan to open Blue Boxer Arts, which will offer supplies for those who make jewelry and work in the fiber arts.
Klaus’ experience at UW-Eau Claire was a big factor in choosing the city of Eau Claire as the place she would live, raise a family and run a business.

“The university had a lot to do with that decision,” Klaus says. “The culture at UW-Eau Claire was so student centered, and the faculty and staff are truly there to help you find your path. In my journey to find a major, I took a variety of classes. I was being prepared for really any career.”

Klaus, who serves on the board of Downtown Eau Claire Inc., is thrilled to be a part of the revitalization that’s been happening downtown. She and other business owners in the area have seen a noticeable increase in foot traffic, especially in recent months following the renovation of two hotels, the opening of UW-Eau Claire student housing at Haymarket Landing and the start of construction of the Confluence Arts Center.

“Sitting on the DECI board, I’m made aware of how hard so many people are really working to make this a place where anyone would want to live, work and play,” Klaus says. “I tend to forget sometimes that even our small business is part of that momentum. And then I stop and think, ‘How cool is this!?’”