WIIIIIIIIIIIILD RIDE: A look at Odd Humyns’ first artist in residence

Jessica Mahlum, photos by Andrea Paulseth

NEW ART IS HEADED OUR WAY. Altoona native Luke Thomas Benson is the first artist to win a four-month art residency at Odd Humyns, a downtown Eau Claire arts and goods shop.
NEW ART IS HEADED OUR WAY. Altoona native Luke Thomas Benson is the first artist to win a four-month art residency at Odd Humyns, a downtown Eau Claire arts and goods shop.

Earlier this summer, Serena Wagner and Elle McGee, owners of Odd Humyns, an arts and goods shop at 209 N. Barstow St., announced their plan to host a four-month art residency. The owners, both artists with graphic design degrees from UW-Eau Claire, wanted to promote local creatives through the residency, wherein the selected artist would create an installation at the store for a cash stipend.

Drumroll please! And the winner is: 30-year-old Altoona native Luke Thomas Benson. “He had a strong application in terms of laying out what he was doing … he shined,” said Sarah Johnson, the shop’s director of operations and fly swatter extraordinaire. 

The installation, which opened earl9ier, features Benson’s creative designs in the front window of the business and on the front face of the register cabinet. An early look at his sketchbook revealed “strange characters” inspired by Odd Humyns. 

“(They) are a little different than what would exist in reality,” Benson said as he showed off his black-and-white sketches. Once the images were complete, he scanned them into his computer and colored them digitally. The process is much easier and less time-consuming than working with paint, he said.

“My dad was an art teacher, so that’s just kind of what he did, so that’s what I did,” Benson said.

He went to UWEC for a bachelor in fine arts with an emphasis on illustration. Since then he’s done a lot of freelance work, but decided to take his own creations more seriously in the past year. He’s excited to get his art in front of an audience. 

“Most of what I do is done online alone in a room and I might not see anyone,” Benson said. “I think it’s cool to do something with other people in a collaborative setting ... I can actually see other people seeing it.” The reception for Benson will be at 6pm Friday, Aug. 23 at the shop. There, he will speak briefly about his work and socialize with guests.

Odd Humyns plans on hosting the artist residency program a few times per year. They received a lot of strong applicants and want to pursue those artists in the future. 

Their last call for entries relied mostly on word of mouth and social media marketing. Artists who entered the shop were encouraged to apply. Odd Humyns’ next go-round likely will be even bigger because college students will be back in town. The current installation will be showcased until Nov. 15.

“It’s just a cool thing to celebrate,” Benson said. “Celebrate art. Art’s cool.” 


To find out more about Odd Humyns, find them on Instagram (@oddhumyns), or search Facebook for Odd Humyns. Luke Benson can be found on Instagram (@luketbensonart) or at www.luketbensonart.com.

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