Heinen: A less-cluttered mind to celebrate Madison

Madison is becoming a 'wonderful to all' city
Heinen: A less-cluttered mind to celebrate Madison
Gary Geiger Photography
Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce IceBreaker

My mind has been doing a little spring cleaning recently. I’ve valued these periodic re-organizations ever since I read several years ago a surely unscientific explanation of memory loss as the brain’s need to clear out some of the unnecessary clutter to make room for new, more relevant information. I’m not forgetful; I’m current.

In any event, I’ve had a few experiences since the start of the year that have apparently been important enough that they regularly skip ahead to the front of any given line of thought and challenge me to find their rightful place in the pantheon of memory. What connects them is their roots in Madison, in this place I so enjoy considering and usually celebrating in this column.

The first was my annual Valentine’s Day visit to Choles Floral Co. on Regent Street. Is there anything sweeter than spending time in a flower shop? One of the things I envy most about people living in New York City is the flower shop on almost every block. I’ve been going to Choles on Regent Street for probably close to 40 years, and seeing Lauren and John is like seeing old friends. It makes me happy I live in Madison.

In April I attended the Madison-Area Urban Ministry’s annual Partners for Change luncheon and as always was moved by the social justice work of MUM’s mission. MUM makes a difference in this community on so many levels, and every year the people in that room lift my spirits and give me hope, precisely what it does for countless families, folks in need and, especially, citizens returning from prison. It makes me proud to live in Madison.

Greater Madison Chamber of Commerce President Zach Brandon has, among other significant contributions to this region’s business community, nailed putting on events. GMCC gatherings are always interesting, fun and worthwhile. This year’s IceBreaker luncheon continued Brandon’s promotion of innovation as Madison’s brand. But Brandon’s commitment to Madison’s future goes way beyond marketing. Under Brandon’s leadership (or perhaps pressure is more accurate), Madison’s business community is inclusive. The star of IceBreaker 2017 was Ajani “AJ” Carr, the 14-year-old African American Verona High School student who also happens to be an entrepreneur, author and actor. To paraphrase an old Bruce Springsteen story, I’ve seen the future of Madison business, and his name is AJ Carr. It makes me optimistic to live in Madison.

And then there was the rainy, chilly last Sunday in April when my wife Nancy and I visited the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art to see the stunning Do Ho Suh exhibit. The exhibit is something you’d expect to see in a city five times Madison’s size. It’s big time and it wowed us. But after a stop in the gift shop, we walked past the Rotunda performance space in the Overture Center for the Arts. There, a dance company was inviting young people in the audience to join in a traditional Israeli dance, and a half dozen or so kids enthusiastically accepted. It was one of the most diverse scenes I’ve witnessed in Madison in some time–families in a rainbow of colors, all ages, enjoying the music and movement. Nancy and I looked at each other and almost simultaneously said, “Thank you, Jerry.” This was such an important piece of Jerry Frautschi’s vision for Overture when he made it his extraordinary gift to the community; that everyone would have access to the facility and could share the pleasures of the arts, together, in a breathtaking building. And it makes me grateful to live in Madison.

It’s not cool anymore to talk about what a wonderful city Madison is without acknowledging that it’s not always wonderful to all. But in my now less-cluttered mind, these experiences demonstrate that Madison–mindful of its disparities–is becoming a “wonderful to all” city. I feel lucky to live here.