It seems that the Fox Cities have drawn the glance of arts executives in Washington D.C. On Nov. 5, National Endowment for the Arts Chairman Jane Chu visited Appleton on a tour of several Wisconsin towns that were awarded grants in support of artistic excellence.
“The arts are thriving in Appleton. I wanted to see it firsthand,” says Chu. While in Appleton, she toured the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center and The Trout Museum of Art, and spoke with Fox Cities arts leaders about the role the arts play in the community.
“What I’m most impressed by is the collaborative nature of the arts organizations and civic leaders, and businesses in the community to create an environment for the arts that makes Appleton distinctive and brings vitality to the area,” says Chu.
The NEA works with arts organizations in every state to make sure funds are properly appropriated. Executive Director of the Wisconsin Arts Board George Tzougros, partners with Chu and the NEA at the state level. “Half of our resources we get from the NEA. We can then pass that money on to communities to fund projects and to build organizations,” says Tzougros. “There is ecology at work.”
Chu also appreciates the close ties with individual regions. “We love the partnership we have (with state organizations). We can work together. They know the nuances of the areas,” says Chu.
The grant was given specifically to support the Kennedy Center’s Classroom Connections program which integrates the arts into the classroom, and the Performing Arts Touch the Hearts of Students, P.A.T.H.S., program which seeks to engage at-risk students in the performing arts.
Tzougros finds these programs essential for student success. “Without the opportunity for expression, kids might be pulled into other areas with potential for destruction,” says Tzougros.
While Chu noted that every arts program should be celebrated, she was impressed with the personal touch of the Appleton programs. “Celebrating the arts provides layers of expression, which help us understand ourselves and better connect with each other. The P.A.T.H.S. program is representative of that power,” says Chu.
With this type of national notoriety, the arts in Appleton will only continue to grow and expand.
—By Jennifer Clausing