Take a vast expanse of forested Wisconsin land near Ripon, a large, gleaming lake and an array of multi-hued gardens, and add about forty enthusiastic artists of all skill levels. Together, they add up to the week-long studio painting program offered at Green Lake Conference Center twice a year by the University of Wisconsin-Madison's Division of Continuing Studies, Department of Liberal Studies and the Arts.
The Green Lake Studio Painting Workshop was started about thirty years ago by UW-Milwaukee Extension art professor James Schinneller. When he retired a few years ago, longtime student Donna M. Miller of Madison was so saddened by the possible demise of the annual program that she decided to seek a new sponsor for it on her own.
She asked UW-Madison if it could find a home for the program. While the university was considering the idea, Miller coordinated the program herself for one year. "I kept the enrollment up to its usual level," she explained. "So many of us came every year, and no one wanted to see the workshop end."
Several years ago, the Division of Continuing Studies requested that art professor Susan Farmer-Tiefenthaler lead the program. She was thrilled. Farmer, now a retired emeritus professor, no longer coordinates the program but will be the instructor for the upcoming winter workshop.
"The students are so enthusiastic," Farmer said. "I'm delighted to go there every year. In fact, I expanded the program so we hold it twice a year now, in the fall and in winter. I also added a basic, or beginning, class to the program." She added, "The special thing about this program is that the students, many of whom are quite experienced, help each otherand they are eager to do it."
In the fall, the students wander through the dappled woods to find the perfect landscape to paint, but in winter most opt to work from photographs or still life, Farmer noted. Depending on the time of year, other art instructors, such as Pat Dobrinska and Chuck Bauer, also teach for the program.
"Many of the people take their vacation from work to attend, so they are very motivated," said Miller. "Most of the group start about 8:30 a.m. and work, with a few breaks, until supper." The artists work in a spacious room with a large expanse of windows overlooking the lake. Farmer gives an optional lesson each morning and offers one-on-one consultations throughout the day. In the evening, people get together and "talk shop."
"This program helps artists of all levels develop their interests," Farmer noted. "This is a time for the individual to do what he or she wants to do. The instructors are here to assist you, but we don't dictate what you do."
The artists, who are adults of many different ages, develop a bond. Some stay in the hotel that is connected to the conference center, while others choose one of several lovely "manor houses" that dot the grounds. An optional meal plan is offered by the hotel or participants can cook in the manor houses.
The fee for the Feb. 22-27, 2004, program is $135 (for instruction only). The Green Lake Conference Center offers lodging and a meal plan at an additional cost. The painting studio will also meet Oct. 3-8, 2004. For information, call 608-263-3494 or e-mail email@example.com. Information is also available on the Division of Continuing Studies Web site.
And, yes, Donna Miller will be there as a studentfor her twenty-fifth year. She wouldn't miss it.