State Theatre: Spreading the arts into the Chippewa Valley

By: Megan Peterson Email
By: Megan Peterson Email

With tightening budgets and cuts being made throughout the area, the arts in schools are something that have taken a hit.

But, thanks to funding left behind from a community member, the State Theatre, part of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center, has been helping spread the arts throughout the Chippewa Valley.

"I'm making a puppet out of a paper bag. I made it look like a dog," one student said.

Students at Lakeshore Elementary let their creativity shine.

"You get to make whatever you want. Sometimes I make it for my teachers," Ariana said.

"He can almost blend in with anything because he can change the color of his skin," another student added.

They worked with local artist and volunteer Cyndee Kaiser, making whatever they could think up.

"It just popped up in my head. I just like all the pretty stuff that they put out to use," Cora said.

Cyndee started traveling to schools to do art projects after a woman named Bea Wagner left a large amount of money to the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center.

"We'll go in and do after school programs, weekend programs, some are just one or two days, some are a longer series of classes or workshops that are set up," Executive Director of the Eau Claire Regional Arts Center Ben Richgruber said.

"We target schools where the kids maybe don't have as many opportunities to do some after school creative things," Kaiser added.

Sometimes the kids bring their artwork home. Other times they take the arts out into the community.

"We've done things where kids would go into nursing homes and interview residents and then write a play or story based on their life. We've also done the banners that are hanging at the farmers market. That was all coordinated through classes set up with our Bea Wagner fund," Richgruber explained.

Richgruber says the arts keep the community strong. No matter what kind of art it is.

"We need to create a population that's able to think creatively so they can tackle any challenge that comes their way and the arts are the core of that. It starts at a very young age and I think we need to nurture that," Richgruber said.

Cyndee says that creativity can fade away, if programs like this aren't continued.

"The 8-year-olds, they're at like kind of their peak of creativity. What makes me kind of sad is as they go on through school that creativity is sometimes kind of lost and so to see really young enthusiastic kids is really fun," Kaiser said.

Money, time and dedication from the past and present are ensuring creativity continues to flow through the Chippewa Valley.

"I used google eyes, pastels, a button and glitter glue and stickers. I love art," one student said.

"I don't see it decreasing because they have cut back on the arts in the school so I just think this is a great opportunity for the theatre to help out in a place that's needed," Kaiser said.

Next Tuesday night, we continue our special State Theatre series as we look ahead to its 85th birthday. Find out how the theatre affects the Chippewa Valley economically.

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