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WXPR's We Live Up Here series is a home for stories that focus on the people, history, and culture that make the Northwoods of Wisconsin and the Upper Peninsula of Michigan such a unique place to live.

Treehaven's Labyrinth

This Sunday, August 12th, Treehaven College of Natural Resources in Tomahawk is celebrating the installation of a labyrinth on their grounds. There will be an official ribbon cutting ceremony at 2:00 p.m., followed by the first official walk of the labyrinth. The event is free and open to the public and will feature a cake in the shape of a labyrinth.

Mackenzie Martin talked to the UW-Stevens Point student behind the project about how it came to be.

Meghan Wagner remembers the moment she became obsessed with labyrinths. It was last summer. She was studying abroad in Ireland.

“We walked probably seven or eight labyrinths and I found a few on my own that I went to explore,” she says. “And the first one we walked, I had never heard of a labyrinth and I just thought it was the coolest thing.”   

Before we go any further, I should really clarify what a labyrinth is. Or maybe what it is not. It is not a maze.


Meghan Wagner's labyrinth is a short walk into the forest at Treehaven away.

“So a lot of people confused mazes with labyrinths,” says Wagner. “So when you enter a maze, you walk in and all of a sudden there are two paths, and you’re like ‘which way do I go?’ When you walk in a labyrinth, there is one path and one way only. So you walk in and if you follow the path that is given to you, you will make it to the center. Whereas a maze, you have to find your way. So mazes are fun and you get to explore, but labyrinths you can just walk not have to think about it. It will lead the way for you. They’re used for meditation and reflection.”

Wagner says she came back from Ireland still a University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point student, but changed. She’s an art major and she was taking a glass class at the time. Suddenly the focus of her next semester became all about how to bring more labyrinths into her life and her art.

“And so I started designing labyrinths on glass,” she says. “It just kind of felt right.”

Then in March of this year, she visited Treehaven in Tomahawk for the first time with her environmental art class. Treehaven is operated by the UW-Stevens Point College of Natural Resources.

Naturally, she made a labyrinth there too, in the middle of winter.

“I went on a Dragonfly Pond and it was a perfect, clear sheet of white snow,” she says. “So I went out and I just started walking it and I was out there for like 5 hours, walking in the snow. Then I finished and my whole entire class came out and we walked it all together.”

Present day, though, she’s about to unveil her largest labyrinth yet this Sunday. This labyrinth is also at Treehaven in Tomahawk, but it’s going to stick around a little longer than her last one.

She leveled the ground and placed stones in an outline. Within that outline, she placed mortar with smaller river walks. She used 6 tons of river rocks and over 7,000 pounds of mortar. Glass is also incorporated into the project in multiple ways.

She says it was really important to her that building the labyrinth was a community project, so she hosted community days at Treehaven and invited people to get involved, and people did.

Credit Mackenzie Martin / WXPR Public Radio
WXPR Public Radio
Community members help make the labyrinth at Treehaven.

  “I just really want to connect all of the people that put their work into this,” she says. “Because it’s not just me who created this. I created this in a community of a lot of people.”

Treehaven's facilities rest on an ancient glacial ridge that overlooks 1,400 acres of forest and wetland habitat.

“I mean having a labyrinth on campus would be cool, but having it out in nature, that’s really where they should be,” she says. “Treehaven was just the perfect place to put it.”

Wagner was able to do the project because of a grant she received from UW-Stevens Point. She says it’s kind of a weird time to be studying art and arts management though. In spring of this year, UW-Stevens Point administration announced it was considering cutting 13 majors in the liberal arts field in response to a budget deficit, among other things. Art was one of the majors that was proposed to be eliminated.

There’s been a lot of backlash to the proposal. The last few months have been full of discussion on how to spare the 13 majors. Valerie Cisler, dean of the College of Fine Arts and Communications, says they’re “still offering the majority of [their] art courses albeit with fewer faculty” and that they’re exploring “possibilities for future programs that include more collaboration among disciplines.”

“It just makes me even more grateful for the time that I had there,” says Wagner. “Doing things like this, I just want people to see how many great opportunities Stevens Point has given to their students and just show that this is a great place where people learned a lot about art. I never would have had this opportunity if I didn’t go to Stevens Point.”

Discussion on how to prevent eliminating the 13 majors at UW-Stevens Point is expected to continue into the fall.

As for Wagner, in the next month, she’s off to New York State for an externship at the Corning Museum of Glass before she officially graduates in December. After that?

“People are like ‘what do you want to do when you graduate?’” she says. “I’m not sure where I’ll end up, but I’m just going to continue doing what I love, which is bringing art to communities and letting other people experience it too. You know, I hope to make more labyrinths in my life. So we’ll see where it takes me and where my next community is that I might build a labyrinth. Who knows.”


This story is part of our We Live Up Here series, where we tell the stories of the people and culture of northern Wisconsin. Some music for this story came from Podington Bear

This story was funded in part by a grant from the Wisconsin Humanities Council, with funds from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the State of Wisconsin. Any views, findings, conclusions or recommendations expressed in this project do not necessarily represent those of the National Endowment for the Humanities. The Wisconsin Humanities Council supports and creates programs that use history, culture, and discussion to strengthen community life for everyone in Wisconsin.

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