Learning from the Past for a Creative Future

Arts Wisconsin is proud to have presented national arts leader Maryo Gard Ewell at the Wisconsin Creative Summit, held December 6, 2016, at the Grand Theater in Wausau.  Here’s her keynote speech, looking at Wisconsin’s proud history and bright future in community arts engagement and involvement.  maryo12-6-16

Learning from the Past for a Creative Future
by Maryo Gard Ewell maryo@gard-sibley.org
presented at Arts Wisconsin’s Wisconsin Creative Summit, December 6, 2016, Wausau  

[Note: some of the quotes have been condensed for purposes of this talk, and to keep it legible I’ve sometimes not used “…” to signal that.]

A couple years back, I was chatting with George Tzougros of the Wisconsin Arts Board about the remarkable degree of participation in the arts in Wisconsin compared to many other states, and I remember him saying, “Yes, it’s in the water in Wisconsin.”

Statements like this always make me curious, so I set out to learn more. This took me to a place of obsession, really – finding out the role that the arts might have played in this elusive Wisconsin Idea. It’s really an incredible story, like that of no other state. You have well over 100 years of astonishing groundwork-laying as the University of Wisconsin worked with people statewide to help them uncover their talents. And then you have over 50 years to look back on after the National Endowment for the Arts got involved in the picture. The work you are all doing, and the vision of the Wisconsin Arts Board and Arts Wisconsin, all have a very solid historical foundation, and I believe that your history gives you the leg up on any of the other states. So I’d like to tell you a few stories but – it’s not just stories. I’ve chosen each one because it has interesting implications for your work today and tomorrow in building an increasingly creative state culture

It was about the turn of the last century. Robert LaFollette – Fighting Bob – was governor of Wisconsin, and his college friend Charles Van Hise was the president of the University (and by the way, the University of Wisconsin-Madison was then the University of Wisconsin, so that’s how I’ll be using the name).

LaFollette was a populist. He believed deeply that the ordinary folks of Wisconsin should participate in, and shape, the democracy that was and would be, Wisconsin. And he believed that, in exchange for their participation, the State should directly serve their communities. LaFollette and Van Hise hatched a grand vision called the Wisconsin Idea. It had two key parts:

First, that the newest ideas in agriculture, or engineering, or economics, or science, or the arts would directly serve Wisconsin communities and those who live there
And second, that the University of Wisconsin would serve all of the State’s individuals whether they could get to campus or not. In 1901, Governor LaFollette said:
“The State will not have fulfilled its duty to the University nor the University fulfilled its mission to the people until adequate means have been furnished to every young man and woman to acquire an education at home in every department of learning.”[1]

Van Hise stated it even more strongly:

“The greatest waste in our nation is not economic, but rather the waste of human talent.”[2]

Van Hise was a geologist, not especially known as an arts supporter, but still he said,

“I would have no mute, inglorious Milton in this state… I would have everybody who has a talent have an opportunity to find his way so far as his talent will carry him, and that is only possible through university extension supplementing the schools and colleges.”[3]

So you see WHA radio flourishing – designed to help deliver an education, the awareness of new ideas – useful ideas – to people in the state in places large and small. You see University Extension working in parallel with Cooperative Extension in delivering classes in person, or by correspondence, to rural places,on just about every imaginable topic.

It made sense for State government and the State’s publicly funded educational institution to be doing these things, because LaFollette and Van Hise wanted Wisconsin to be known as the place where democracy came into its own, at last – as the most democratic state in America – and they realized that just voting wasn’t enough. The electorate had to be critical thinkers, and had to be comfortable in the world of ideas and, by extension, the world of creative thinking.

The arts, therefore, had an important part to play. It wasn’t just about making art – though that happened – but it was about ideas and creativity within a democratic framework, to make democracy a reality.

You see the Wisconsin Dramatic Society founded in 1910 by Professor Thomas Dickinson, who encouraged plays written by Wisconsin people – Pulitzer prize winning Portage playwright Zona Gale emerged from this movement. Extension’s Community Theater department’s Ethel Rockwell directed a pageant in Sauk City in 1914, attended by thousands; the pageant was described by the reporter from Harpers, who came out from New York to see it, “as richly significant as the rifle shot at Concord or the signing of the Declaration of Independence.”[4] The script for this 1914 “A Social Center Pageant” said on the cover something that helped bring the Wisconsin Idea to life through drama:

“ [This pageant] signalizes the perception that government is no longer merely the selection of agents for repression, but is the all-inclusive and living fellowship of citizens in a creative process of self-education.”[5]

Production of locally-written plays was aided by the University’s Lyceum Bureau; the Bureau of Dramatic Activities loaned scripts and offered help in playwriting, acting, and producing plays. The Speech Department worked with the Extension Service to provide judges for theater produced at county fairs.

You see the formation of the Bureau of Community Music, later the Bureau of Community Music & Drama, in 1913. Its director, Professor Edgar “Pop” Gordon, crisscrossed Wisconsin by train to help form singing societies. The purpose was good music, yes, but Professor Gordon said,

“I see in community music and drama a means of combating juvenile delinquency and family degeneration”[6]

How contemporary is that! In communities where there was religious conflict, such as DePere at the time, he thought music could be useful to help a community move towards resolving conflict and create a setting for conversation; he helped form an ecumenical choral group that sang in a Presbyterian church under the direction of a Catholic priest. I’ll jump ahead and say that, much later, in 1957 in Madison, Robert Gard’s Wisconsin Idea Theater and the Women’s Club of Madison pulled 500 people of all 24 faith groups in Madison at the time together to create a pageant, “Man and his God,” explicitly designed to “help draw the people of a fragmented community together as they shared their idea of their Creator.”[7]

And remember, this was all tied to LaFollette’s idea of a democracy; in 1912, playwright Percy MacKaye had said,

“The Wisconsin Idea involves the full scope of popular self-government; and popular self-government without indigenous art forms is incapable of civilized expression.”[8]

The College of Agriculture was in a particularly fine position to serve rural Wisconsin. Chris Christensen was Dean of the College in the 1930’s and he believed that the Danish folk school movement – blending cultural learning for farmers with agricultural learning – dovetailed nicely with the Wisconsin Idea. Dean Chris explicitly felt that education in our agricultural colleges must be broad and must include good literature, art, music, history as well as the practical training for better farming. He said:

“In emphasizing the social or cultural values arising out of the improved economic conditions, it is well to keep clearly in mind that this will come about only if the economic process operates in some kind of cultural framework. The achievement of wealth itself contains no guarantee that it will become the means to more significant living…. As a matter of fact, wealth in careless hands may be a two edged sword wielding destruction to its owner and to society.”[9]

He hired John Barton into the Department of Rural Sociology and he and Barton conceived the notion to have a visual artist on the staff of the College of Agriculture. The artist would help enhance the broad economy of the state of Wisconsin while helping people understand their own culture. Barton said:

“It was a country tavern in Portage County which first gave public recognition to a young Polish painter for a series of native landscape murals, and the tavern keeper said it was good business. If it is good business for the tavern, it could also be good business for the local library, school, or community house.[10]

But, consistent with the beginnings of the Wisconsin Idea, the artist-in-residence idea was interlinked with American democracy. John Barton again:

“The rural art movement cannot properly be understood apart from the democratic movement…. It was inevitable that the democratic revolution – still in process through universal education and today, adult education – should call into being, among others, a rural people’s art.”[11]

This would be a revolutionary idea today – and this was 1936. A university’s first artist-in-residence, and not in an art department? And linked to the idea of democracy, not only to art history and theory? So where to get this extraordinary person who would be an excellent artist, who understood the rural scene, who could inspire ordinary people to paint the world as they personally saw it?

Christensen asked his friend Grant Wood, and who suggested that John Steuart Curry of Kansas would be just the person, given his rural background and own populist ideals. The Dean broached the idea to Curry. He would have no teaching responsibilities; just as researchers worked in their labs to advance knowledge, so would Curry work in and out of his studio to advance creativity.

Curry assisted the people of Wisconsin in finding their talents. The University president at the time, Glenn Frank, explicitly believed in this. Here are quotes from two of his talks in 1936:

“There is poetry as well as production on the farm. Art can help us to preserve the poetry of farming while we are battling with the economics of farming.” [12] “In launching this new educational venture, we are undertaking to give emphasis to regional art as a force for rural as well as urban culture in the Middle West.”[13]

Curry started travelling, and everywhere he went, he discovered farmers or wives or children who wanted to make art. He emphasized personal vision. As a result, paintings by farmers who worked with Curry are dramatic, breathtakingly alive.

He envisioned a statewide exhibit of art by farmers and their families, and the first exhibit was held in 1940 at the Memorial Union on the University campus with 30 artists from 17 counties participating; next, it included a junior show with 28 youth the first year. By 1946 there were 101 artists exhibiting! Curry offered a critique of each of the pieces. Local art clubs began to form (the Rural Rembrandts of Wautoma was the first), and their local shows ultimately connected with the state show. The independent Wisconsin Regional Artists Association was ultimately formed, working closely with, and complementing the University’s Art Program.

Meanwhile, James Schwalbach, whose title was initially Extension Specialist in Rural Art, had come into the picture. Many in this room will remember his voice, broadcasting “Let’s Draw” over the airwaves of WHA from 1936-1970 into the schools of Wisconsin.

I remember my teachers tuning in “Let’s Draw” in my elementary school. We’d listen to instruction for about 7 minutes, and then would begin painting or drawing, often to music. I remember being told to paint whatever Smetana’s orchestral “The Moldau” made me feel. (Indeed, he briefly tried out the new medium of television on WHA TV, rejecting it after just a few sessions because he was afraid that students would just copy what they saw on the screen – which was, he felt, the antithesis of investigating personal creativity; so he went back to radio).

Schwalbach had a sabbatical year and went to Scandinavia to study the Home Crafts movement there. He returned feeling that such a movement could be begun in Wisconsin. His colleague, Tom Echtner, recalls the formation of the Wisconsin Association of Crafts. They worked with County Extension agents on a bold program for improving the economic wellbeing of rural people as well as the beauty of American homes. They asked Extension agents to identify unemployed or underemployed people in their county who might be able to design things – from puzzles to draperies to salt and pepper shakers. Schwalbach was in contact with firms that manufactured these items, and marketplaces nationwide to sell them – so for a time they were helping rural craftspeople to make a living.

Schwalbach was a big thinker, like those who had gone before him. He believed that it was essential to eliminate the “archaic” distinction between the so-called fine and amateur arts, to resolve the “unnecessary breach between the amateur and the professional”, and to recognize multiple standards. This would not be trifling with standards of excellence, but would be building a new kind of artist with a new role in society. He said:

“The community needs the artist, but an artist who accepts some responsibility towards the community; an artist who can hold forth a vision of the future that is built on the past.”[14]

Now let’s back up for a moment, and go back to 1945. What was happening in the visual arts was so impressive that the University decided to do the same for writing and drama. Robert E. Gard was hired.

Who was Gard? Well, he was a Kansas kid, born on a dairy farm in 1910. He was proud of his skill at milking cows, and he liked writing poetry and stories in high school. Ultimately, he went to the University of Kansas, and one of his part-time jobs was as a stagehand in the university theater. He was hooked. He went to grad school at Cornell and studied with Alexander Drummond who was a curiously bifurcated character – one of the luminaries of the American theater at the time, but, since Cornell was a land grant university, he also believed that he had a direct responsibility to the folks of upstate New York. Drummond was disgusted with the plays considered “suitable for rural production” by Samuel French, seeing them as largely trivial, disrespectful and denigrating to the people, and felt that plays written by people about their own lives was the answer. Gard was intrigued and together they developed the New York State Plays project where farm family members were encouraged to conceive, write and produce their own plays, with the help of Cornell University. Gard brought these ideas to Wisconsin in 1945 with the support of the Rockefeller Foundation which believed that in a democracy, ordinary people have a responsibility to interpret and transmit their stories, weaving a cultural fabric for the nation. Gard began to articulate the notion that together, brilliant professional artists, skilled facilitator-teachers, and Everyman could make the promise of America real and meaningful to everyone.

“There must be plays that grow from all the countrysides of America, fabricated by the people themselves, born of their happiness and sorrow, born of toiling hands and free minds, born of music and love and reason.”[15]

One of Gard’s first jobs was to chair the activities to creatively celebrate the State’s centennial in 1948. He worked with local writers statewide to create their community’s centennial pageant, but he wanted more than that – he wanted a by-product of the Centennial to be a growing body of locally-based writers everywhere. He taught a workshop in writing for 4H leaders. He quotes one of the participants at the end of this 3-day workshop saying this:

“If the people of Wisconsin knew that someone would encourage them to express themselves in any way they chose…. if they knew that someone would back them and help them when they wanted help…there would be such a rising of creative expression as is yet unheard of in Wisconsin… for the whole expression would be of and about ourselves.”[16]

From this moment came his idea for the Wisconsin Rural (later Regional) Writers Association (which continues to this day as the Wisconsin Writers organization), and, like its visual counterpart, thousands of aspiring writers joined a local club right away. The local gatherings set the stage for an annual statewide gathering, and there were specialized gatherings, too, like a Native American Writers conference for the Upper Midwest. Like Curry, Gard offered help to anyone:

“I had a hunch that quite a few folks would respond to the Rural Writers idea. To the horror of my already overburdened small staff, over one thousand poems were sent in, in a few days’ time. There were short stories, too, and a few plays. The curious thing was that the material for the most part was quite above average.” [17]

Gard also began to see the arts as a way of channeling hard community conversations, morphing them from dysfunctional bickering to proactive community building as well as creating a new kind of art at the same time. We see a lot of this now, but in the 1950’s this kind of art-making was unheard of.

Here’s a bit of a story I really enjoy, along those lines. Gard had been invited to a farmer’s meeting in 1950. First on the agenda was the discussion of a law just passed, that the farmers hated, that required them to install concrete floors in their milkhouses. Gard would then talk about starting a community theater.

“This particular meeting turned into a hot one. The chair got into trouble trying to keep order, and the county agricultural agent was almost mobbed because some of the folks blamed him for their plight. This community had also summoned its state assemblyman to be present; he had voted for the milkhouse bill. They said violent things to him. They wrangled for a while and then decided to call it off. They turned the meeting over to me….

I was in an uncomfortable spot, faced by anticlimax and the probable futility of trying to stimulate interesting discussion in this particular atmosphere. I knew I simply could not talk about drama in ordinary terms. It suddenly occurred to me that the previous discussion had aspects of a drama: conflict, character, excellent dialogue. So I set about fabricating a comic situation and before we realized it a kind of group play was in progress, only now it seemed in terms of comedy, for I had attempted to exaggerate the purpose on both sides and to enlarge on the innocence of the county agent and to exaggerate the well-meaning, slightly self-pitying attitude of the legislator as well as the anger of several of the more outspoken opponents of the milkhouse bill. In the informally dramatized version of the affair that we made up, the farmer was getting his whacks at the legislator and the county agent was making his excuses, but now within the framework of a creative situation.” [18]

Gard later wrote,

“It became suddenly and completely apparent to me that we could no longer pretend that theater, to have its true vital meaning, could be fabricated and foisted upon the people as entertainment alone or as an art form practiced by the few, but that theater must grow spontaneously from the lives and the necessities of the people, so that the great dream might come true: the dream of an America accepting the idea of great popular art expression without question, as a thing inherently American.” [19]

Well. There was a lot of creative activity going on in Wisconsin! Ultimately, there were 28-artists in Arts Extension in all disciplines, helping people make dance, or music, or paintings, in their own communities. These artists were based in Green Bay, Shell Lake, Milwaukee, Madison. Indeed, Shell Lake had been slated to become the base for a national community arts leadership training program.

In 1965, the National Endowment for the Arts had been created. Gard – whose office was now called The Office of Community Arts Development in the College of Agriculture – figured that since the NEA was supported by the people’s tax dollars, it would surely respond to a proposal that would be arts of, by and for the people. He and his colleagues submitted a proposal that had several parts. They would choose 5 towns in Wisconsin, each with fewer than 10,000 people. They would provide access to fine professional arts experiences to people right there at home (remember, rural towns were terribly isolated then; there were no interstate highways, no HBO, no internet, and very few community arts centers.) Gard’s team would provide opportunities for people to experience and explore art forms for themselves, in classes and workshops. They would help people to form a local arts council that would continue this work after the 3 year grant period was up. What was significant is that the power would be in the hands of the people to decide what was right for their town. How democratic, yes?

Well, it wasn’t so easy. From a history of the NEA, author staff member Charles Christopher Mark observed that in its first year, the National Council’s focus had been “on the survival of national institutions such as American Ballet Theatre, Metropolitan Opera, and the resident theatres across the country.” The National Council included all the arts luminaries of the time – architect IM Pei, choreographer Agnes de Mille, Leonard Bernstein and otherse. They figured that the fledgling state arts councils would take care of rural America; so when the proposal from Wisconsin came before them, “the reaction was completely negative. Some of the Council members were amused that we should even propose to spend $58,000 a year for three years on such a project.” It was clear that the project would be voted down. The discussion was heated, and Chairman Roger Stevens called a lunch break. Leonard Bernstein was had missed the morning session, but arrived during the break. Said Charles Mark,

“When I told him the rural arts project had been tabled, he told me that that was one reason why he wanted to come to the meeting. I thought he was another negative vote, but he said he read the full proposal and he thought it important. When the session resumed, Bernstein listened to me debating with most of the Council and then raised his hand to speak. After a dramatic pause he said, ‘This project has … everything to do with why we are sitting here.’ … In short, this man who represented art in its highest form was an unexpected and effective ally of Bob Gard’s concept of developing the inherent need for a creative outlet in all people. When he finished, the attitude of the Council had been reversed and the project was passed unanimously.” [20]

So, thank you Leonard Bernstein, for enabling the NEA’s first “access” award. Anyone here from Spring Green, Waupun, Rhinelander, Adams-Friendship or Portage? Perhaps you can have a Leonard Bernstein day! Big things happened in those towns where nothing had really happened, in an organized way at least, before. In Waupun, a writers group was started in the prison, and a youth arts council was created, given funds, and empowered to create arts activities engaging kids outside of school hours. I think I remember it was also in Waupun that a community fabric design drop-in studio was created. In Rhinelander, a summer School of the Arts, with a mission of providing lifelong learning to people of all ages, flourished. In Spring Green, environmentalists who wished to preserve their pristine environment joined with artists and today’s slogan: “Spring Green: Where Art & Nature Meet” probably had its beginnings then. Also in Spring Green, the Milwaukee Repertory Theater did its entire summer season at the newly refurbished movie theater; and to help bridge the urban-rural divide, all cast and crew members lived with farm families. Oh yes and Mrs. Lyndon Baines Johnson, the First Lady, visited Spring Green to see for herself the creative achievements there. In Adams-Friendship, the county extension agent saw an arts council as one of three prongs in an economic development strategy – a waferboard plant, a ski area, and an arts council. In Portage, business people worked hard to create a big outdoor theater venue – like the one in North Carolina that has been producing the Lost Colony outdoor drama for nearly 75 years – to position Portage as a huge summer destination.

At the end of the 3 years, Gard and his colleagues wrote The Arts in the Small Community: A National Plan, drawing from what they had observed and learned in this grand experiment. 40,000 copies were printed. They were given away free to anyone who wanted them. Rural arts councils nationwide, using the plan, began to live alongside their urban counterparts.

Here are the ideas that I see bubbling in The Arts in the Small Community, whose 50th anniversary we are celebrating from 2016-2019.

First, that each person has a creative voice, and it must be nurtured, and that listening to one another’s voices is vital – not just for the arts, but for the well-being of a democracy:

“Let us believe in each other, remembering each has tasted bitter with sweet, sorrow with gladness, toil with rest. Let us believe in ourselves and our talents. Let us believe in the worth of the individual and seek to understand him, for from sympathy and understanding will our writings grow….[ And let us recognize ] that the democratic process of government is safest in the hands of a cultured, enlightened people. [21]

Second, It recognized that the more creatively fulfilled individuals were, the more they could contribute to meaningful public life.

“I happen to think the expression of creativity is the most precious thing in the world. That’s the reason I’m interested in it. I believe individuals who develop their creativity can make an impression upon society.”[22]

Another is that people have connections to their histories and to their cultures, and exploring the notion of home and aspiration can help bring people together. Understanding and interpreting the past, exploring and then sharing cultural expression, builds collective life.

“I have watched America’s more recent arrivals gathered in Milwaukee

Under high beams in a great hall,

Stricken into moving pools of color

By immense shafts of vibrating light.

No native son, I, a visitor,

But exposed early to a power of thought

That raced through time and left

A newer thrilling impress on America;

To give an insight to the soul of freedom

And the better life. Man restless,

And great minds fermenting expansive ideas

That had sources in progressive struggles

And star-aspiring ideals.” [23]

Another is that it recognized that through the simultaneous exploring of the arts and local needs, new and vibrant communities could emerge. What’s wrong with putting an arts council, a waferboard plant, and a ski area into the same wish list for a local economy? What’s wrong with suggesting that the arts can help address juvenile restlessness, or a more vibrant downtown, or create meaning in a time of uncertainty, or bridge cultural gaps, or create new ways for people to listen and learn from one another?

Another is that it acknowledged the extraordinary partnerships that could be relevant for meeting a community’s needs – arts working with health groups, or religious groups, or environmental groups, or economic development groups Today we say “arts and….” as though this thinking has been around forever; in fact, it was articulated in Wisconsin in 1969.

Another is that it was unabashedly optimistic and hopeful, seeing local arts development as part of something very big:

“And our dream must now be this: of so implanting the seed of a thrilling art movement that this seed will grow from ourselves. The dream must be one that will begin in the narrowness of American doorways and that will become as wide as an internationalized and peaceful and tolerant world.”[24]

Another: it suggests that from an exploration of the meaning of place can spring great ideas:

“I awoke one clear morning and said

I will certainly do something great today

I will move a mountain

Or at least cause a bell to chime

Celebrating some minor victory.

Instead, near Spring Green,

I crossed a star-flowered prairie,

Sat down in the middle of tall grass

And simply stared upward

At white clouds in a spring sky.

A Wisconsin meadow

In spring

With shooting stars

And sweet star grasses

Can make a fulfilled astronomer

Of any earthbound, astral

Day seeker.”[25]

Another has to do with excellence, for Gard was clear that arts development and community development went hand-in-hand, that mediocrity was no one’s birthright, and that excellence should not be subordinated to community development:

“There is a vast and noticeable difference between letting a thousand flowers bloom and permitting everything to come up in weeds. But if arts councils encourage and foster genuineness of expression among amateur artists and honor authenticity of product among professionals, they will set standards and refurbish the instinct for what is real.”[26]

Well, Arts Extension is gone. But the Wisconsin Arts Board and Arts Wisconsin are thriving. In communities everywhere in the state, groups are thriving and doing great work in their own communities. And I’m not just talking rural communities. The ideas put forth by Gard and others are 1000% applicable to any community, like an urban neighborhood, where the scale is small enough that people can be neighbors, can know one another as whole people.

I mentioned at the start that I don’t want to just tell you great stories and read juicy quotes. What is the point of knowing about the past, unless it helps us shape the future? In 2005, the Wisconsin Arts Board hired me and others to take a look at the Arts in the Small Community project and see what we could learn that would be helpful to contemporary arts developers. I’d participated in a big study in 1973 to see what the impact of the project had been (huge!) in terms of building a friendly attitude to the arts and arts participation. We replicated that study in 2006. Of course, just about everything in these communities and the ecosystem of small places was different – but the data nonetheless suggested that in these 5 communities, there was a friendlier receptivity to the arts than in similar communities.

So we learned that their work, your work, matters. Its impact lasts. You maybe can’t measure it, but it is there. Have faith.

We hired a grad student to see how many people from the original project she could locate, and then to interview them. From her interviews, from what we knew about these 5 communities today, and from the data project, a panel of people (Anne and LaMoine were on it!) elicited 50 tips or best practices that today’s community arts developers – you! – could use in their work.

I suggest you share this list with others in your organization. Maybe pick one or two to talk about at each board meeting. How does it affect your work? Does it help frame your thinking?

Maybe we could hold an Arts in the Community celebration in 2017 or 2018 in our communities? In any case, as we move forward, let’s put ourselves on the timeline of Wisconsin’s amazing arts development history and think about the role we play in it, as we think about what life is all about, as we participate creatively in Wisconsin’s democracy, Governor LaFollette and President Van Hise will be cheering.

This is powerful stuff. Your work is vital in building, not only your communities, but perhaps in building a healthy, vibrant state that will fulfill LaFollette’s and Van Hise’s dream for Wisconsin.

I’d like to close with the words of my dad’s, Robert E. Gard, who in 1969 ended The Arts in the Small Community with these words.

If you try, what may you expect?

First a community

Welded through art to a new consciousness of self:

A new being, perhaps a new appearance –

A people proud

Of achievements which lift them through the creative

Above the ordinary –

A new opportunity for children

To find exciting experiences in art

And to carry this excitement on

Throughout their lives –

A mixing of peoples and backgrounds

Through art; a new view

Of hope for mankind and an elevation

Of man – not degradation.

New values for individual and community

Life and a sense

That here, in our place

We are contributing to the maturity

Of a great nation.

If you try, you can indeed

Alter the face and the heart

Of America. [27]


[1] Quoted on UW-Madison webpage www.wisconsinidea.wisc.edu/timeline.html; downloaded 11/7/07

[2] Quoted by Gard in his 6-year plan to study the arts in community life, unpublished, 1952

[3] Howe, Frederick, Wisconsin: An Experiment in Democracy, New York, Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1912, p. 142

[4] Kapp, Jody, “It’s Time for Sauk Residents to Bring Forth New Ideas, “ http://www.wiscnews.com/saukprairieeagle/news/local/article_b9511c06-e755-11df-99fb-001cc4c002e0.html, downloaded 7/30/16. It references Creel, George, “America’s Foremost City,” Harper’s Weekly, November 21, 1914.

[5] Both quotes are from Kapp, Jody, “It’s Time for Sauk City Residents to Bring Forth New Ideas,” Sauk City Eagle, November 3, 2010, http://www.wiscnews.com/saukprairieeagle/news/local/article_b9511c06-e755-11df-99fb-001cc4c002e0.html downloaded 7/30/2010. The Harper’s Weekly article mentioned was published on November 21, 1914.

[6] Gard, Robert E., Grassroots Theater: A Search for Regional Arts in America, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1955, p. 91

[7] Women’s Club of Madison, scrapbook kept on “Man & His God,” 1957. Words are presumed to be Gard’s.

[8] Patten, Marjorie, The Arts Workshop of Rural America: A Study of the Rural Arts Program of the Agricultural Extension Service, New York, Columbia University Press, 1937, p. 25

[9] Christensen, Chris Foreword to “An Exhibition of Work by John Steuart Curry,” Seventh Anniversary of the Land Grant Colleges, November 1937, Washington, DC

[10] Barton, John Rector, Rural Artists of Wisconsin, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1948, p. 6

[11] Barton, John Rector, Rural Artists of Wisconsin, Madison, University of Wisconsin Press, 1948, p. 7

[12] Frank, Glenn, “Toward a People’s Theater in Wisconsin,” preface to the play “Goose Money,” special extension circular,

University of Wisconsin Madison, June 1928

[13] Gard, Grassroots Theater, p, 99

[14] Schwalbach, James, “Personal Involvement in the Arts” in The Arts in the Small Community, supplementary volume 1, Madison, University of Wisconsin Extension Division, p. 57.

[15] Gard, Grassroots Theater, p 32-33

[16] Gard, Grassroots Theater, p. 217

[17] Gard, Grassroots Theater, p 219

[18] Gard, Grassroots Theater, p. 130-132 (condensed)

[19] Gard, To Change… p. 14-15

[20] Charles Christopher Mark, Reluctant Bureaucrats: The Struggle to Establish the National Endowment for the Arts (Dubuque, IA: Kendall-Hunt, 1991), 119.

[21] Creed of WRWA, 1950

[22] Gard, To Change the Face & Heart of America, p. 89

[23] Bohrod, Aaron, Robert E. Gard, Wisconsin Sketches, unpaginated

[24] Gard, “A Search: Story of the Wisconsin Idea Theatre,” p. 8-10

[25] Gard, To Change the Face & Heart of America, p. 99

[26] Gard et al, The Arts in the Small Community, p. 93-7

[27] Gard, Robert E., Michael Warlum, Ralph Kohlhoff, Ken Friou, Pauline Temkin, The Arts in the Small Community: A National Plan, Madison, UW Extension Publishing, 1969, p. 98