Where Past Meets Present

Statue - Three Graces

From The RCHS HistoryTeller: The Arts and History: Cultural Cousins


By Teresa Nguyen
RCHS History Teller
September, 2017

Teresa Nguyen

Teresa Nguyen, RCHS History Teller

Listening to fond memories of days gone by, jotting down humorous lines for a script, finding the right chords on my guitar, researching the fascinating history of a local school building … at night, sweet lyrics float around my head as I drift off to sleep.

From August through October my work at RCHS merges with my personal hobbies. My life has suddenly, albeit temporarily, become a busy and creative whirlwind. On some days, my brain has literally ached. But creativity brings excitement and my heart has even skipped a beat each time one of my talented musician friends would agree to help record a song. The weaving of my job as History Teller with my creative interests has led to this desire to share a few observations on the relationship between history and the arts.

If you visit the Rock County Historical Society campus, you will be delighted by eye-catching gardens and seasonal flower displays. You might view the breathtaking, antique Pickard China collections in the Helen Jeffris Wood Museum Center.

While on a tour of the Lincoln Tallman House, you will see gorgeous paintings, elegant statues, beautiful furnishings, one-of-a-kind fabrics resting in the surroundings of amazing, detailed architectural designs. You might visit the newly remodeled carriage house, with its gorgeous wooden flooring and staircase…giving you a kind of warm, rustic, cabin-like welcome. These artistic gardens, pieces and styles of architecture are all types of art reflecting Victorian history during the time of the Tallman family.

Art and history are cultural cousins, if you will. One almost always holds the other in its soul. As human beings, we have found numerous, creative ways to express our history through art, whether it be through poetry, paintings, dance, fashion, music or theater. Just as award-winning productions like the Broadway’s “Hamilton” or the film “Lincoln” reflect history, our pop culture, even our politicians are often inspired by art. Daniel Day-Lewis’ powerful performance as Lincoln left so many of us with a renewed motivation to stand by our convictions, to find humility in our daily lives, and yet dare to be great.

The Rock County Historical Society recognizes that the arts are integral to our culture and our community. In my role with the Story Squad, it was exciting to go from tent to tent, interviewing artists for our 60th annual Tallman Arts Festival. People of all ages mingled, enjoyed and purchased beautiful woodworking, striking paintings, lovely quilts, unique jewelry, delicious culinary art, saw a bit of children’s theater and listened to original music on the stage. Even the youngest visitors were giddy with glee at the chance to make some art of their own. What a wonderful annual event for our county.

"Tales of the Old Marshall"

RCHS, JPAC team up on ‘Tales of the Old Marshall’

It should come as no surprise that art has found its cousin once again at RCHS. As History Teller, and as an artist, I am thrilled with the collaboration of three of our longstanding community organizations on a theatrical project. The Janesville Performing Arts Center, Janesville Access Television and the Rock County Historical Society are producing “Tales of the Old Marshall”, an original, one-hour play that combines local stories with brilliant acting and fun music.

The RCHS Story Squad and JATV have been actively collecting memories and photos from Janesville High and Marshall Junior High alumni in our community. It’s been amazing to witness the enthusiasm as they recall their younger days, tween mischief and even a splash of romance. Highlights of these stories have been written into an original script, co-written with talented local actress and director, Michelle Dennis.

As a musician, my untamed urge to create came at the right time, so I penned three songs, all inspired by this collection of people’s stories. The music is being recorded by Steve Weber, Laura Schuler, Dũng Ngũyên, and JATV’s Alan Luckett, who also plays bass … all wonderful musicians from our community! These songs will play during the production, as local actors entertain us in the roles of students, narrators, teachers and the principal in this fun-filled play opening Sept. 29 at JPAC.

‘Spirits in the Night’ returns to RCHS this October

2017 Spirits in the Night TourAs the days roll by, leaves are beginning to turn deep shades of yellow, orange and crimson, the air now cooler and crisp, and apples are ready for harvest in the orchards. Children have returned to the classroom, and westerly winds blow over sprawling fields of tall corn. As the dark veil of night arrives sooner, RCHS Director, Mike Reuter, continues to find innovative and creative ways to keep the arts and history alive.

Did I say ALIVE? We shall see! While walking to and from work over the beautiful RCHS campus, I swear that from somewhere inside the Lincoln Tallman House I hear the echo of a man’s sinister laughter.

Beware! More theatrical tricks will startle you in our second annual RCHS “Spirits in the Night” tours in October. It will be my delight to guide you through a new, mysterious and spooky story about our glorious mansion on the RCHS campus. One never knows what, or who, might be lurking in those dark corners and hallways. I’ll be waiting for you in the Stone House, so come find out! We might have to sneak around…but, prepare yourself for a chilling thrill!

As our community grows and changes, just like seasons of the year, it is my hope that we all recognize the dynamic and vital relationship between the arts and history. We must be mindful and appreciate their profound value to our culture. Your continued support helps to keep our amazing Rock County arts and history ALIVE and well!