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Rock the Barn with Dead Horses, Milwaukee Water Commons & The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin

“This has been one of the strangest years anyone could imagine,” Dead Horses bassist Dan Wolff shared on a recent Zoom call with Rock the Green, “Being a musician, it’s really weird to not be playing shows. We cancelled up to 100 dates and are at home, picking up some other jobs and enjoying domesticated life these days. In reality, it’s been nice to just hit the pause button and allow our lives to breathe a bit outside of touring and the band.” Singer-songwriter and Dead Horses guitarist Sarah Vos echoed her bandmates' sentiments. “We have had to reprioritize a lot of things in life this year. This has been a break in reality for everybody, and what makes it fascinating is that we are all going through this collectively, not just in Milwaukee, or across the state or country, but rather throughout the planet. This pandemic is something that affects us all.”

Dead Horses have been actively touring across the country for several years, most recently in support of their critically acclaimed 2018 LP My Mother the Moon, and their most recent EP Birds, released in February of this year. The Americana-folk rock duo known for their superb storytelling and Vos’s beautifully vulnerable lyrics have become more accustomed to being at home these days, which isn’t a bad thing according to Vos. “It’s a breath of fresh air to keep the suitcase in the closet right now and be at home. We are working on recording something new and trying, like many others, to make cool art during this time. We’re eagerly awaiting what the music industry will look like when we get through this pandemic.”

One thing that both Dan and Sarah, as well as many others throughout the world shared is how the COVID 19 pandemic has helped connect them, as people and artists, with nature. “Milwaukee is very beautiful with nature and has amazing biking and hiking trails,” Wolff shared, “I rely on the beauty of nature daily, especially right now.”

Partnering this week with Dead Horses is nonprofit, Milwaukee Water Commons, an organization committed to using the beauty and power of water and nature to unite our community. Anne Bohl, Communications & Administrative Manager of the Milwaukee Water Commons went on to explain, “Water connects us all. Our goal is to engage folks about water and its importance in our community. Environmental justice is something that is very important to us as an organization. We have a vision of Milwaukee as a model water city. To accomplish this, we need to build stewardship, create equitable access to water and nature for all citizens in our city, and to look at the collective impact we can make as a community.“

Like so many other noble nonprofit organizations, the Milwaukee Water Commons had to cancel their three annual events due to COVID 19. Bohl continued, “We had to cancel the ‘Cream City Classic’ swim race in the Milwaukee River. In the last ten years we’ve come so far in terms of the quality of the Milwaukee River. We’re bummed we cannot do this event this year.”

Joe Fitgerald, Water City Program Coordinator, of the Milwaukee Water Commons, shared a bit about the role environmental justice plays in helping our city come together to grow and heal amidst everything going on in the world at the moment. “With the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement coming into view, it has helped us prioritize the work we do for environmental justice. This has been a long time coming. We use water as a way to connect our city, and our work is ramping up to think of ways to create systemic change in our city to meet the needs of all of its residents. By investing in a water-centric city and by creating an appreciation and reverence for nature we can connect citizens from all walks of life in Milwaukee.”

Fitzgerald further added, “One of the programs we are excited to be working on is our “Branch Out Milwaukee” program - a neighborhood arborist program where we teach people how to plant and maintain trees in neighborhoods where there are not as many trees. We examine the impact trees have on both our health and water quality. In addition, we engage with the community at large to share how trees can benefit neighborhoods. There is a disproportionate amount of trees in certain parts of the city and not as many in

other parts. For Milwaukee to truly become a water-centric city we need to design our programming based on community input. We received information from 1,300-1,500 residents so far. The goal is for the population to have a stake in the health of the water as well as the many benefits that water and nature bring to people. Milwaukee is the first major city with an arborist program aimed at training people to take care of trees and to examine the role that trees play in improving health and quality of life in communities. We aim to make connections and think about ways green spaces and racial justice can be intertwined.”

Emily Mills, Media and Communication Relations Manager for the The Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin further added on the Zoom call, “The Nature Conservancy is a global nonprofit organization. We have chapters in different states, and one of our goals as an organization is to look at ways to both protect land and water as well as provide food and water sustainability for farmers to help them become part of the solution to climate change through knowledge sharing and support. People are engaging in nature a lot more these days and we want people to have access to good outdoor spaces where they can refresh and renew themselves. Partnering with groups like Milwaukee Water Commons will be an essential part of our work to branch out into the city. We are excited because the “Branch Out” that Milwaukee Water Commons is working has tremendous potential to unite communities. It’s pretty awesome.”

Fitzgerald continued, “Some of our key goals are to examine water quality, drinking water, green infrastructure, blue/green employment and the relationship between water and the arts and culture of our city. Water is a great resource and a great unifier.”

Reflecting on the importance of Milwaukee Water Commons’s work in the city, Dan Wolff shared, “during this time we are all asking ourselves the question, ‘What do I need to feed me?’ The beauty of nature is something that matters so much.” Sarah Vos added, “With the pandemic, maybe people will stop and realize the real effects that our actions have on our environment and our communities. It is good that people are thinking about these things now more than ever.”

Check out the amazing sounds of Dead Horses, who will be performing as a trio along with their drummer Jamie Gallagher live from on July 23 @ 7pm CDT. This week’s Rock the Stream will be performed live from The Barn with the world-famous Pedal Power Stage and a socially-distanced team of seven riders keeping the music going! We hope you tune in and support an amazing band and a fabulous cause.

Please consider donating to support Dead Horses & Milwaukee Water Commons

Funding format:100% of the funds donated from the live-streams are split equally between the musician and nonprofit. The nonprofit partner accepts the donations and distributes half to the artist.

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