Big thanks to Arts Wisconsin’s board members

Founding board members and friends, at Anne’s house, 5-16-17

Earlier this month, several of the founding board members and supportive friends of Arts Wisconsin gathered at my house in Madison for dinner. It was an informal, delightful evening of laughter and storytelling. Most of the people sitting at the table hadn’t seen each other in a long time, but fell easily into spirited conversation as if they had been continuously connected over the years. We raised a glass to toast several colleagues who couldn’t join us that evening, and to those who have passed on.

These were the people “in the room where it happens” in 1992, when the Wisconsin Arts Board, led by Chair Kathryn Murphy Burke, Director Dean Amhaus, and Assistant Director George Tzougros, brought together local arts leaders from around the state to dream and plan for a vibrant statewide network advancing the creative sector. These people put in a lot of time and effort in the first few years to establish the Wisconsin Assembly of Local Arts Agencies (WALAA) as an organization with an inspiring mission and a solid foundation that would last.

Robert E. Gard, The Arts in the Small Community, 1968

The scope of our services has expanded and the name has changed from WALAA to the Wisconsin Assembly for Local Arts and finally, to Arts Wisconsin. The work was, and still is, based on the idea expressed by the late UW-Madison Professor and community arts visionary Robert E. Gard, to provide advocacy, service and development that “expands the worth of art in the places where people live.” What was put into motion in 1992 has continued, all the way to celebrating our 25th anniversary in 2017, with a bright future ahead.

I was not part of the original group, but came to Arts Wisconsin in 1995 as the first (and so far only) director of the organization.  I’ve been lucky to building enduring friendships with the original board members and the people who have served on the board over the past 25 years.  As I laughed and reminisced with these old friends a few weeks ago, I thought about these very special people, our board of directors. These people have come from every corner of the state bringing their special skills, expertise, smarts, and perspective to our organization.  They’ve connected with Arts Wisconsin because they believe that everyone, everywhere in Wisconsin should have the opportunity to participate in the arts, and that the arts and creativity are essential to the state’s economic vitality, education for the 21st century, healthy, vibrant communities, and engaged residents.  It’s been a gift to work with all of them.

The board of directors is a critical component of that unique ecosystem known as a nonprofit organization. Board members are people who care deeply enough in a cause to put time, money and energy into turning ideas into action. They aren’t getting paid for this work. The reward is the benefit to people and communities. It’s not a perfect system (are there any perfect systems out there?), but it is one that provides commitment, community, and dedication to our cause and every other civic endeavor.

I want to publicly thank the 75 + people (listed with the communities they represented at the time) who have served as board members since Arts Wisconsin was founded in 1992.

Founding board members:

  • Mortimer Cushman, LaPointe
  • Jerilyn Dinsmoor, Onalaska
  • Lynne Eich, Madison
  • Ellwyn Hendrickson, Menomonie
  • LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery
  • Megan Matthews, Delavan
  • Gerry McKenna, Stevens Point
  • Jim O’Connell, Wausau
  • Lee Parker, Appleton
  • Cynthia Pitts, Milwaukee
  • Karen Spahn, Milwaukee

Board Presidents:
• Lee Parker, Appleton (1992-1995)
• Karen Spahn, Milwaukee (1995-1997)
• LaMoine MacLaughlin, Amery (1997-1999)
• Ellen Rosewall, DePere (1999-2002)
• Karen Raymore, Sturgeon Bay (2002-2005)
• Peter Crawford, Waukesha (2005-2010)
• Debra Karp, Racine (2010-2014)
• Christopher Naumann, Green Bay (2014-2017)

Board members 1995-2016:
• Dean Amhaus, Grafton
• Martha Ahrendt, Green Bay
• Chuck Awe, Siren
• Frank Burdick, Menomonie
• Kelly DeHaven, Black Earth
• Rachel Demitrios, Middleton
• Max Dershem, Racine
• Claire Duquette, Washburn
• Genyne Edwards, Milwaukee
• Caitlin Fitzgerald, Madison
• Maggie Foote, Menomonie
• Jan Gallagher, La Crosse
• Pamela Garvey, Milwaukee
• Nick George, Madison
• Judy Hanne, Ashland
• Spyros Heniadis, Wisconsin Rapids
• Harold Henson, River Falls
• Edna Hovde, Pepin
• Frank Juarez, Sheboygan
• Ann Kohonek, Colfax
• Larry MacDonald, Bayfield
• Marian Maciej-Hiner, Belmont
• Paul Mathews, Milwaukee
• Larry McCoy, Baraboo
• Oscar Mireles, Madison
• Martha Mitchell, Beloit
• Christine Moeller, Siren
• Frank Montano, Red Cliff
• Barbara Munson, Mosinee
• Bill Murat, Stevens Point
• Alan Nugent, Stockholm
• Sam Perlman, Baileys Harbor
• Jon Richards, Milwaukee
• Margie Shurgot, Green Bay
• Joanna Simpson, Madison
• Martina Skobic, La Crosse
• Carole Spelic, Mineral Point
* Terry Stanley, Green Bay
• Jean Tehan, Wausau
• Jennifer Terpstra, La Crosse
• LaCrecia Thomson, Milwajkee
• Taeli Turner, Madison
• Gregg Underheim, Oshkosh
• Tiffany Wilhelm, Stevens Point
• Jonathan Winkle, Brookfield
• Dean Yohnk, Rice Lake

Remembering those who are no longer with us:
• Patricia Blankenburg, Madison
• Walter Bresette, Red Cliff
• Mortimer Cushman, LaPointe
• Jerilyn Dinsmoor, Onalaska
• Ellwyn Hendrickson, Menomonie
• Rick Grobschmidt, South Milwaukee

And finally, a big note of thanks to our current board members, who are leading the way into the next 25 years:
• Melinda Childs, Rhinelander
• Daniel Goscha, Madison
• Ann Huntoon, Stevens Point
• Debra Lewis, Ashland
• Lu Lippold, Pepin
• Christopher Naumann, Green Bay
• Kate Rericha, Sturgeon Bay
• Ben Richgruber, Eau Claire
• Melanie Tallmadge Sainz, Wisconsin Dells
• Jennifer Stephany, Appleton
• Jenny Toutant, Milwaukee.

There’s not much more to say except thanks for the leadership and friendship, and here’s to more interesting and important work to be done.

Anne Katz, Executive Director