The School of the Arts (SOA) at Rhinelander, a weeklong arts enrichment program for adults, is beginning a new chapter in its lengthy history this summer.
Retiring director Harv Thompson, who has directed the annual program since 1985 and whose involvement with it reaches back to the 1970s, is passing the torch to new director Miranda McClenaghan. To ensure a smooth transition, the two have been planning this year's workshop as a team. Says Thompson, "I'm excited to welcome Miranda as director of School of the Arts."
And this year's workshopto be held July 26-30, 2004promises to be exciting, indeed. A new arts management component has been added, offering instruction in fundraising and grant writing for nonprofits. Other subject areas include folk art, dance, photography, theater, music, writing and even computer skills. There is also a special "Learning through the Arts" component for arts educators, which offers graduate-level credit. Taught by UW-Eau Claire professor Cheryl Starr, "Learning through the Arts" gives teachers new strategies for course development and incorporating arts activities in their curriculum.
The program offers plenty for both beginners and participants with experience in these areas. As Thompson notes, it's a "safe environment" for adult learners to try something new, since they're surrounded by the energy, enthusiasm and support of their fellow participants and instructors. Classes take place at Rhinelander's James Williams Junior High School, which is transformed for the week. Says McClenaghan, "You don't recognize it as a junior high when you walk in as an adult student."
Since its founding in 1964 by the late University of Wisconsin professor Robert E. Gard, School of the Arts has become an essential part of the fabric of Rhinelander, a community of about 8,000 people in northern Wisconsin. The first annual School of the Arts was begun with a grant Gard was awarded by the National Endowment for the Artsthe first rural arts grant the agency funded. As McClenaghan tells the story, the grant almost didn't get funded, but legendary conductor Leonard Bernstein, who was serving on the review panel at the time, argued in favor of the grant and the rest is history. McClenaghan is planning a research study to document the impact of SOA after forty years of operation.
Although SOA is run by the University of Wisconsin-Madison Division of Continuing Studies, many Rhinelander-area groups, agencies and individuals are involved in making the event happen, including the City of Rhinelander, Northern Arts Council, Rhinelander Chamber of Commerce, the local branch of the American Association of University Women, and many others. McClenaghan describes with appreciation the enthusiastic involvement of so many community groups, saying that SOA strives to pay back that generosity by "trying to be an asset to the community."
The Wisconsin Ideathe idea that the boundaries of the university should be the borders of the statelives in the SOA tradition. While many participants are local, others come from beyond Oneida County and even beyond Wisconsin. In 2003, 46 of Wisconsin's 72 counties were represented, along with fourteen states outside Wisconsin.
Many participants make a habit of attending yearly. Says one previous participant from Sheboygan Falls, Wis., "It was a powerful week! I felt like I was on fire with creativity. What a week of inspiration!"
For information on specific course offerings, fees, registration procedures and more, visit the SOA Web site run by the UW-Madison Division of Continuing Studies. You may also call 608-263-3494 or e-mail coordinator Kathy Berigan at firstname.lastname@example.org.