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ændre arthouse: Exploring Creativity & Community

By Lynsey D. Moritz | Summer 2024 Inspire(d)

ændre i) verb, Danish: to shift, to alter ii)  an arts collaborative and destination in the Driftless Region

In the heart of Ferryville, Wisconsin, where the rolling hills of the Driftless embrace the mighty Mississippi, sits ændre arthouse. Located on a 16-acre property near Copper Creek, ændre arthouse is a place for dreams: live music, art happenings, intimate local meals, and creative connection in the Driftless. 

Founded in 2022 by Sarah Farrell and James Mackessy, the non-profit hopes to bring communities together through art. Sarah is originally from Indiana, and James grew up in central New York, but has family in Wisconsin. After living many years on the West Coast, the couple decided to create a life closer to their families in the Midwest.

ændre arthaus founders James Mackessy and Sarah Farrell
James & Sarah / Photo courtesy ændre arthaus

Their journey to founding ændre arthouse is as eclectic as their many, diverse artistic endeavors. Sarah’s and James’ paths first crossed in the bustling service industry of Portland, Oregon.

“Sarah worked as an actress, arts volunteer coordinator, house manager, clown, and a client service specialist for a performing arts ticketing company. I was a furniture builder, gigging musician, meandering-engineering-then-music-major, amateur sound and lighting guy, bartender, and handyman,” James recalls with a smirk.

In the early 2000s, they were both working in the same restaurant together. One night, while Sarah was handling an event upstairs and James was working in the bar downstairs, he rode the elevator up and handed her a matchbook with his phone number. It took a few years, but she finally called. They met to hang out and play music, and so it began. 

“Make a space for the things that inspire people, and you will continually be inspired by the inspiration people bring to and derive from being in your space… it’s like a feedback loop.”

ændre co-founder James Mackessy.

The two went on to create music, art, and, eventually, a home together. They married in 2012 and that same year, moved down the coast from Portland to California. In 2015, they opened lille æske, a venue for visual arts, live music, culinary events, and performance in the heart of Boulder Creek, California, in the Santa Cruz Mountains. There they witnessed the profound impact of art and music on a community, and it proved to be a recipe for their future dreams.

“Taking care of people, making art and music, loving the art and music of others, and maintaining a platform for visual, performance, and culinary artists… Through it all we got the sense that those types of experiences provided so much of the richness of life in community – not just for us, but for everyone participating,” says James.

For their next project, they wanted to create something similar in the Midwest. They moved to Wisconsin in 2019 and started planning. It was the height of the pandemic, though, and they realized this creative gathering space would need to have a new approach in order to be successful. They decided to launch the venture as a non-profit community asset. 

ændre arthaus live music
ændre arthaus / Photo by Brandie Myhre

They officially received 501(c)3 status in July of 2023, which allows them to apply for different funding opportunities and focus on making a greater impact on the arts community and its supporters.

“We wanted to grow this project as organically as possible, in sync with our community, our artistic impulses, and our lives,” Sarah says. 

The name “ændre” – Danish for shifting or altering – reflects Sarah and James’ philosophy of constant evolution and adaptation. It embodies their commitment to embracing change. 

“After moving across the country, recalibrating what we really wanted to focus on, and trying to live closer to nature, the name holds as a guiding principle for our own creativity as well as a record of everything we’ve done,” James says. “As a non-profit arts collaborative, ændre’s name encourages the community it serves to see life, art, and meaning as creative acts – ever-shifting and never static. It is about growth and the immense reward that comes with shifting our context and our expectations.” 

So far, they have hosted eight music-centric shows at ændre. Starting with their opening show in October 2022, followed by one show per month from April through October in 2023. Along with the music, each event had a spread of locally sourced homemade food and a bar that offered a variety of options including a cocktail made with seasonally foraged ingredients. They have also collaborated with chefs from Salt & Tipple in Viroqua and Coffee On The River in Lansing for a couple of the events.

“What really makes the whole thing sing is a core ethic of collaboration, and a commitment to that process,” James says. “This will become even more evident as our partnerships grow and develop, and as we develop the space on our property to be able to host art and artists in more established and sustainable ways, via gallery space, residencies, dinners, and more.” 

They hope this momentum will catalyze economic growth, promote tourism, and elevate the cultural vibrancy of Ferryville and its surrounding rural communities. 

“We were drawn to this area because it has a reputation for natural beauty and serenity – it seems to attract and nourish nature lovers and artists, any folks who value peace and beauty, really,” Sarah says. “This valley…our perch near the Mississippi River and the generous, adventurous spirit of the Driftless Region…there’s a community of national and internationally touring artists that we cherish who are eager to visit us here.” 

hoop house with glowing lights
The glow of the hoop house is magical. / Photo by Brandie Myhre

Many of those artists will have their first experience of the Driftless because of their show at ændre arthouse. 

“Having them share their talents and experiences with our local community, and having those artists in turn recharge and gain inspiration from our community and our region’s natural beauty… that exchange is at the heart of what the arts really have to offer participants,” she says.

As they start their second season, Sarah and James reflect on some of their favorite memories from the first full year of events.

“The nature sounds interacting with the music adding a sort of spell over the audience,” Sarah says.

“The glow of the lights through the hoop house. Having people explore the property on trails we made or gathering around the fire pits… these little moments all add up to big magic,” James says.

“Also, being able to host the musicians overnight, getting to know them better and adding another level of hospitality to the whole experience,” Sarah continues. “That level of care really guides us. Having worked in both the music and service industries, we have seen the opposite, and we really want to put extra effort into everyone having wonderful and memorable experiences at ændre.”

Looking toward the future, Sarah and James envision ændre as a place of inspiration and possibility, showcasing a deep appreciation for the magic that happens when art and community collide…reminding us that true beauty sometimes lies in the act of creation itself.

“It’s jobs, it’s quality of life, it’s mental health, but most fundamentally it’s that sense of place and connection that is much of what makes life worth exploring, and we’re here to facilitate, share in, and celebrate all those opportunities,” Sarah says. “We try to put a lot into what we do because we get so much from our community and the people we work with. Sometimes it’s subtle, sometimes it’s staggering, but it’s always inspiring!”

Lynsey D. Moritz

Lynsey D. Moritz is a Decorah, Iowa, native who has planted roots in rural Southwest Wisconsin. She is a graphic designer, freelance writer, and budding herbalist. Lynsey enjoys learning traditional skills, adventuring with her husband, and being a part of this inspiring driftless community! Instagram: @LindenFern

Learn more, get involved, and see upcoming events online at
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