602 in the Sixties – Hotbed of Cultural Evolution

Through a series of serendipitous connections, starting with Scott Seyforth of the LGBTQ History in Madison Project, the University Archives became interested in a project I had done over fifty years ago while an undergraduate at the UW. I was tending bar at the now legendary 602 Club, pouring schooners, making change, and shooting all the while with a 35 mm Nikon SP in low light with Tri-X B&W film pushed to ASA 1600. The Archives wanted to know if I still had any negatives from that era. They were interested for several reasons: the Six (as we called it then) in the sixties had become a hangout for many groups that were at the forefront of what would become a widespread cultural revolution, including the UW Art Dept, the Marxist Drinking Society, and artistic and intellectual literarti of many other sundry and sordid sorts. And on Friday and Saturday nights, it became home to one of the very first places where the Madison gay community could publicly gather in safety.

After digging through old storage piles I found a trove of some 500 negatives from that project. The Archives felt it would be a valauable addition to their collection, and I agreed to donate them. But first, we decided, lets mount an exhibition!

The negs were (are) in abominable condition, with hairline spider webbing cracks throughout the emulsion that has made the process of digital restoration in order to enlarge the prints hugely time consuming. The resulting imagery is raw and gritty, but appropriate, I feel, to the material. I have spent this past fall and winter on the project, while trying to find a venue appropriate for the display. Lo and behold, unbeknownst to me, Judy and Ben Sidran have been organising a Conference entitled “Madison Reunion – A Party with a Purpose” and “Conference on Madison in the Sixties” to be held at the Memorial Student Union this coming June 14th thru the 16th. After several chats with Judy, it was clear our 602 project would fit perfectly within their Conference tent, so I submitted a proposal to the student curating committee of the Union, and learned just last week of their acceptance of the proposal. So we have a show! The conference includes lots of exciting notables from the sixties presenting, paneling, and concerting. See the website for lists and schedules http://www.madisonreunion.com/exhibits. There are only a few tickets left for the Friday night Blues show with Boz Skaggs, Tracy Nelson, and Ben Sidran at the Union.

The exhibit is called “602 in the Sixties – Hotbed of Cultural Evolution.” The opening will be Friday evening June 15th from 5:00 to 7:30 in the new “Class of ’25 Gallery” just down the hall from the bigger Porter Buttes Gallery in the Union.

And Also, Beth Racette, curator of the Overture Center Galleries has organised an exhibiton to coincide with the 60’s conference called “The 60’s Revisited.” She will be including several images from the 602 show, and will feature the work of thirty-some local notables reflecting on the sixties era. Info to be found here: http://www.overture.org/galleries/overture-galleries/upcoming-exhibitionsThe opening for this exhibit will be Wednesday evening June 13th, from 6:00 to 8:00 pm.

602 in the Sixties – Hotbed of Cultural Evolution – Part 2

The 602 Club – Hotbed of Cultural Evolution for Catalogue


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