Interviews with board members

Greg Wright, Executive Director, CREATE Portage County, Stevens Point

Kari Hanson, Director, Turnaround Arts, Milwaukee 
(interview July 2018)

How have you been involved with the arts?

Since childhood! I used to put on performances for my family in our basement and do drawings all day all summer long. I moved to Milwaukee to go to the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2018 and have been working in various capacities in the arts since then including exhibiting artist, teaching artist, arts education program manager, museum education program leader, arts grant administrator, and director of an arts based school reform program!

What has been your favorite arts experience in your life so far?

Taking 12 4th-8th graders to the Turnaround Arts National Talent Show where they performed an original piece in the style of Hamilton the Musical about the life and legacy of Frederick Douglass. But it wasn’t the actual performance at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts that was the most amazing part, it was when our students decided they wanted to do an impromptu performance of the piece on the front porch of Frederick Douglass’s home! It was a moment when the students took ownership of their experience, their learning, their identities, their history, and performed because they felt moved and inspired to do so, not because they were performing for someone.

What’s your favorite arts activity in your community?

Live music in the parks in the summer! Whether it is Musica del Lago, Skyline Music, Chill on the Hill, Washington Park Wednesdays, or Jazz in the Park – I love local music of all kinds, I love the comradery of neighbors coming together to enjoy the arts on a warm summer night, and of course I love the picnic food!

Why are the arts important to you?

The arts are an expression of our humanity: they are the barer of stories and cultures; a pathway for exploration and learning; and a way for us to express and communicate in a universal way.

What is your favorite thing about being involved with the arts?

Seeing the transformation that happens in people when they connect to the arts in meaningful ways – either as creators or participators.

About your organization: A brief history Mission, vision, and purpose, describe programs and services for the community and community involvement.

The mission of Turnaround Arts: Milwaukee is to use the arts to empower and inspire students and teachers to learn, grow, and engage in their community with purpose.

Turnaround Arts is a national program initiated by the Obama Administration and run by the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. It is a proven school transformation model that uses arts integration strategies to improve social and academic outcomes for students and make school a more joyful place to learn and work. Targeting schools whose performance falls within the lowest 5 percent in their state, Turnaround Arts has demonstrated impressive results in its 68 schools across the country: improved math scores (an average 23% increase in proficiency) and  reading scores (an average 13% increase in  proficiency), decreased suspensions (86% reduction across schools), and increased attendance rates (average of 92% attendance across schools)

Who works at your organization? Who is on your board?

Christina Ratatori is the Program Manager, Jacqueline Suskin and Valerie June are the two artists currently working with the schools.

The school board for MPS is considered to be the board for Turnaround Arts: Milwaukee. The MPS School Board includes Mark Sain, Wendell J. Harris, Sr., Annie Woodward, Larry Miller, Luis A. Báez, Ph.D., Paula Phillips, and Carol Voss.  More info here.

What partners do you work with?

  1. Turnaround Arts National at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts(national)
  2. First Stage Children’s Theater
  3. Milwaukee Repertory Theatre
  4. Still Waters Collective
  5. Milwaukee Art Museum
  6. Black Arts MKE
  7. Music Theater International (national)
  8. Flocabulary (national)
  9. New Age Narcissism
  10. Arts @ Large
  11. Skai Academy
  12. Wisconsin Conservatory of Music
  13. Express Yourself Milwaukee
  14. Wolf Trap (national)
  15. Upstream Arts (Minnesota)
  16. Signature Dance
  17. Jalikunda
  18. KoThi
  19. Milwaukee Bucks
  20. De La Buena
  21. Little Kids Rock (national)
  22. Soundtrap
  23. Art Start (New York)
  24. Ubuntu
  25. Artists Working in Education
  26. Marcus Center for the Performing Arts

Plans for the future?

We have one more year in the Turnaround Arts program but each school will carry on in the program at varying stages – some may opt for another year to help them establish stronger roots, some may just stay in the network and attend conferences, and some may serve as mentor schools for others in the program.

An interesting project/program/moment from the past year? – see the Portrait Project section of the impact report

Art Start Portrait Project: In partnership with Turnaround Arts and the Black and Latino Male Achievement department of Milwaukee Public Schools, Art Start collaborated with approximately 15 Milwaukee and New York City teens offering Black and Brown young men the opportunity to portray the complex narratives about their lives, asking the world to see them for how they choose to be seen. With support from world-class photographers, retouchers and stylists, and oral historians, these young men’s visions came to life through multimedia exhibitions in Milwaukee and New York City.

Why is Arts Wisconsin important to you, your organization, and your community?

Arts Wisconsin helps connect local groups to each other to learn from one another and to form a more unified voice for the arts statewide.

Greg Wright, Executive Director, CREATE Portage County, Stevens Point (interview July 2018)

About you: How have you been involved with the arts?

I am a writer and a creative placemaker.

What has been your favorite arts experience in your life so far?

I sang in a choir in college that toured Europe and the major halls in the U.S. Singing in Carnegie was pretty amazing. Activating the Levitt lawn at Pfiffner Park in Stevens Point has been pretty amazing too!

What’s your favorite arts activity in your community?

The Levitt AMP Stevens Point concert series is my favorite arts activity.

Why are the arts important to you?

Creativity is the most valuable resource of the 21st Century economy. The arts are the foundation of creative communities. Smart investments in the right kind of arts programs can transform communities.

What is your favorite thing about being involved with the arts?

Connecting people to what is possible.

About your organization: A brief history

CREATE was started in 2004 as the Arts Alliance of Portage County, an arts advocacy organization that worked with government and business leaders to foster more support for arts investments. Our work led us first to the creative economy and then creative placemaking, and we relaunched as CREATE Portage County in 2016 in hopes of supporting creativity more broadly. In addition to our advocacy and creative placemaking work, we also support entrepreneurs and innovators through the IDEA Center.

Mission, vision, and purpose

CREATE is a creative placemaking organization that invests in the cultures that make 21st Century small communities thrive. We use the arts as tools to foster those key cultures.

Describe programs and services for the community and community involvement.

We make three targeted investments:

We invest in public art to connect the community to its creative identity.

We invest in arts and culture experiences to create a vibrant entertainment scene and connect people to each other.

We invest in the IDEA Center, a new economy innovation center that supports creative ventures in the arts, business, and community impact.

Who works at your organization? Who is on your board?

We have a team of two:

  • Greg Wright – Executive Director
  • Angela Schenk – Director of Experiences

Our board is made up of community members including Bill Schierl (Team Schierl Companies), Paula Schlice (Business Consultants), Maggie Marquardt (UWSP Development), Karin Sieg (Recycling Connections), Monica Anderson (UWSP Music Dept), Anello Mollica (Central Waters Brewing), Caleb Guilliams (Better Wealth Solutions), Laura West (CAP Services), and Laura Gehrman-Rottier (UWSP Advancement).

What partners do you work with?

We have adopted “radical inclusivity” as our partnership model. When combining resources can elevate both organizations and our shared goals, we seek out partnerships. We often work with partners well outside of the usual arts sector.

Plans for the future?

We are refining our model and sharing it with other communities. We are engaging in strategic planning to identify best investments. We are growing the scale of our impact. An interesting project/program/moment from the past year?

We started working with the Land Art Generator Initiative on a public art project that will use bio-digesters to produce energy and address water quality.

Why is Arts Wisconsin important to you, your organization, and your community?

Arts Wisconsin is a network we use to connect to resources and inform our best practices. Anne Katz specifically is a key resource in our strategic planning process.