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Woodland Pattern Book Center

Woodland Pattern Book Centerby Kevin Flaherty / photos by Tess Reiss

Anne Kingsbury, the soft-spoken co-founder of Woodland Pattern Book Center on Locust Street, exhibits the same traits as many entrepreneurs: passion for what she does and a clarity of vision to hold true to the “company” mission. The mission, though, for Woodland Pattern, isn’t selling the most books at the greatest profit, but to promote poetry, literature, and audience development for writing. Kingsbury founded Woodland Pattern with her husband Karl Gartung in 1980. Both literature lovers, they had previously run a for-profit book venture, but incorporated the company as a non-profit (and changed its name to Woodland Pattern) when they moved into its current location at 720 E. Locust St. in February 1980. Prior to Woodland Pattern a government-funded social services organization, Pride Community Center, occupied the space. Kingsbury says she was drawn to the artist-friendly, urban Riverwest neighborhood that was more philosophically in sync with the bookstore’s mission than consumption-oriented suburbs. Eventually Kingsbury and Gartung purchased the building from their landlord, who had been disappointed that the effort to widen Locust Street was defeated and was eager to sell the building. Inside WPBCWoodland Pattern’s non-profit structure is unique for bookstores, and in fact, the term “bookstore” may be a misnomer for Woodland Pattern: by design, the organization earns 30% or less of its revenue from the sales of books. To make ends meet and serve its organizational intent to support poetry and develop and educate audiences for writing, Woodland Pattern writes grants, contracts for services, receives donations, and sponsors workshops and classes. For example, Woodland Pattern has received NEA and Wisconsin Arts Board grants and federal block grant money (administered through the County) in the past. Woodland Pattern’s work with the Pierce Elementary School, 2765 N Fratney St., is a prime example of its neighborhood involvement. Woodland Pattern brought in Juan Felipe Herrera to give an engaging, entertaining poetry reading to second and third graders at Pierce. Herrera, a Mexican-American writer, read from his book, The Upside Down Boy (Children’s Book Press), a tale empathetic to children who feel like their lives are somehow outside the “mainstream.” Herrera then talked to students about communication and led the class in a writing exercise. Woodland Pattern’s programs often stress how to make writing fun, frequently by mixing writing with the visual arts. In addition to its involvement at Pierce Elementary, Woodland Pattern is further tied to the neighborhood as two of its six employees — Kiki Anderson and Stacy Szymaszek — reside in the Riverwest neighborhood. Karl and Anne live just east across the river on Cambridge Street. Because of its unusual structure, Woodland Pattern is able to offer an unusually broad array of poetry. Most brick-and-mortar bookstores cannot afford the inventory costs of carrying a poetry collection of the breadth Woodland does. Of more concern to Kingsbury, though, are “virtual” bookstores like Amazon. Still, because of Woodland Pattern’s unique mission — and because most shoppers still value the social interaction of bookstore “browsing” versus point-and-click retailing — Kingsbury does not seem to feel threatened by book retailers. Although most of its inventory is purchased, some of the titles on hand are consigned from local and regional poets. Says Kingsbury: “If there’s a space and context for it, we will accept books on consignment.” When asked why she enjoys her work, Kingsbury mentioned how exciting it is to meet so many different writers and performance artists. She’s also not afraid to get her hands dirty with the mundane: “I like that I’m always learning something even if it’s stuff that some people might consider grungy — like balancing a check book.” Kingsbury commented on the narrative nature of reading a check register: although some checkbooks tell more exciting stories than others, seeing how the money flows is always a “story” of sorts. In addition to poetry readings, Woodland Pattern offers programs in film and music. The Experimental Film and Video series is co-sponsored by the UWM Film and Video Department and curated by Carl Bogner. The series is presented on the last Friday of the month, begins at 7 p.m. and costs $2. Hal Rammel, who DJs the Alternating Current WMSE radio program, curates Woodland’s music program. On Saturday, May 3 at 7 p.m., poet Ed Friedman and multi-disciplinary artist Mark Anderson will each read from their work. Anderson is also known for his role as Associate Artistic Director of Milwaukee Dance Theater. Woodland Pattern Book Center is open Tuesday through Friday from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday from noon to 5 p.m. The store is closed on Mondays. Woodland Pattern can be reached at 263-5001. Riverwest Currents – Volume 2 – Issue 5 – May 2003
Woodland Pattern Book Center

Woodland Pattern’s non-profit structure is unique for bookstores, and in fact, the term “bookstore” may be a misnomer…