On the Wisconsin River by Trinity Lee

On the Wisconsin River

Acrylic on Canvas

Trinity Lee, University of Wisconsin-La Crosse

In Collaboration with Amy Workman, Director of Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Extension

Upham Woods is an outdoor learning center located in Wisconsin Dells, providing opportunities for youth to engage in environmental and leadership education. The land Upham Woods is located on was gifted to UW-Madison in 1941 by Mrs. A.V. Keene and Mrs. C.H. Davis, daughters of Horace J. and Mary Green Upham, to conserve the natural habitats and woodlands of the area. The center sits on the banks of the Wisconsin River, which flows directly into the Mississippi River.

Lee’s work is informed by the historical significance of this land, beyond European settlement. For hundreds of years prior to the Uphams’ ownership, it was occupied by the Ho-Chunk, or “People of the Big Voice,” whose territory also extended from Green Bay, WI to the Rock River in Illinois. Ho-Chunk fished and canoed along the Wisconsin River in particular, maneuvering up and down using dugout canoes which could stretch as far as 14.5 feet long.  European settlement and laws enacted by the U.S. government drove many Ho-Chunk out of their homelands and prevented them from legally reclaiming it. Many traditions, culture, and language were lost as a result of white settlement and pillaging.   

However, the Ho-Chunk are enduring and resilient, with many efforts to restore and continue their ways of life, including a widespread Ho-Chunk language program. Lee hopes to convey a modern depiction of Ho-Chunk people interacting with land that was always theirs, canoeing on the Wisconsin River. Lee takes inspiration from contemporary indigenous artists, many who seek to dispel the notion that indigenous people are of the past.


Trinity Lee is an artist and illustrator based in La Crosse, WI. Her work is vibrant and incorporates imagery inspired by her Hmong American heritage. Lee seeks to explore what this identity means in the context of creating contemporary illustrations and art. Lee currently attends the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse and is pursuing her B.S. in biology and minor in art. Explore more of her work on her website or her Art Instagram.

ABOUT THE Water Partner

Amy Workman is the Director of Upham Woods Outdoor Learning Center, operated by the University of Wisconsin – Madison Division of Extension under the Natural Resources Institute. The center sits on 320 acres of forested land on the Wisconsin River, including a 210-acre island, two miles north of the Wisconsin Dells. The center supplies lodging for 200 people, meals, and environmental education year-round for youth and youth leaders, including environmental lesson plans, summer camp programming, leadership workshops and other conferences. Our missions is to, “provide educational opportunities to youth, youth leaders, and adults through programs focused on environmental and leadership education.” Our goals are to develop caring and responsible stewards of the natural world and its inhabitants and to develop future leaders capable of addressing environmental issues. Visit our website or find us on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram. Call us at 608-254-6461.