Volunteers served community for 10 years
By Angie Landsverk
The Waupaca Community Arts Center will close its doors on its 10th anniversary.
Its final day of business will be Sunday, Nov. 19.
Two days later, those who were part of it will gather for a party to celebrate their mission of the past decade.
“This has been a complete gift of love to the community because it was completely volunteer. People do not have the time or the financial ability to do something like this. We feel we did an amazing job for 10 years,” said Barbara Fay Wiese.
Wiese is among the volunteers who currently staff the center at 200 N. Main St.
When the center’s board met for its regular monthly meeting in July, it decided to close the arts center this fall.
“This year was the first year we really had to ask for financial support,” said Jane Haasch, who has been involved in the center since it began.
Through the years, the center received support from Community First Credit Union, Farmers State Bank, First National Bank and Premier Bank, she said.
Haasch said it also took the support of small businesses operating within the center, classes, special events and the Waupaca Fine Arts Festival to operate this long.
The Waupaca Fine Arts Festival is the fiscal sponsor of the arts center.
The small businesses in the arts center never could have opened on their own, she said.
The rent those businesses paid helped cover the center’s own expenses.
The center’s volunteer staff tried to get others interested in helping out at the center – particularly younger artists.
They were unable to do so.
Those involved in the arts center wonder if people do not have time to volunteer, or if they are simply not interested in doing so.
Haasch estimates the center’s volunteers donated at least 16,900 hours in the last 10 years.
“We would gladly share our financial information, how we did it,” she said.
Dianne Veeser has also been involved in the center since it began and said those preparing to retire or who are already retired have more time to volunteer.
However, when first Veeser and then Wiese announced their plans to move outside the area, that was the “corker,” Haasch said of their ability to keep the center open.
“The arts is something you need a place for, but the culture today is not into physical ‘places,’” Wiese said.
Instead many use social media to communicate and to check out what is happening in their communities, she said.
When the center opened on Nov. 21, 2007, it did so as an arts co-op.
At the time, Haasch and Veeser were both members of the Waupaca Community Arts Board, which had just sponsored its first Arts on the Square.
The idea of having a community arts center in Waupaca came up among some of the board members.
From the start, the center was a place to hold classes, have gallery space and also have an area for mini-storefronts.
Paula and Dan Minkebige and Victoria Widi were two of the first mini-shop participants.
The late Edith DeHamer was a supporter of the center, and Bonnie Beck worked in partnership with Veeser and Anita Golke for years and was a volunteer clerk in the gallery.
Selene Bloedorn-Saeed and Pam Knutson have also been involved in the center. David Blank put together the center’s first website.
Haasch said in the last 10 years, 94 different artists exhibited their work at the center.
Through the years, the center also served as a clearinghouse for information about the arts and events taking place throughout the area.
“A lot of people who have become involved in the arts in town in other ways came here first,” Wiese said.
People visited the center to learn who painted a particular piece or to get help repairing jewelry.
“It was a place for people to gather, share ideas,” said Veeser.
When Gladys Karth moved to Waupaca several years ago, she found companionship at the arts center by attending the weekly knitting group.
“I was lonesome and wanted something to do,” she said. “I did knit and when I got there, I learned a whole lot more. It was a great experience.”
Karth, who has since moved to Illinois, took jewelry and ceramics classes at the center and brought her homemade bread and cookies there to share with others.
The arts center also held “Meet the Artists” nights every three months, giving the public the opportunity to meet those exhibiting their work there.
Waupaca High School students planning to continue studying the arts were also featured in one of those nights.
“We wanted to provide an experience where they had to learn how to look at their art as a professional,” Haasch said.
The students worked with their art teacher to choose what to show at the center. Their work was framed and hung at the center.
A reception took place for the students, giving them the opportunity to talk about their work and also sell some of it if they wished.
This year, the center’s volunteers decided to offer two sessions of art classes this summer as a way to raise funds for the center.
Out of all the classes offered for the second session, just one is being held, Haasch said.
The arts center will have one last Soup in Art Bowls event on Saturday, Oct. 7, at the Waupaca Train Depot.
Community First Credit Union will give the center a matching contribution so it can hold the event, Haasch said.
Some artists featured in the center agreed to discount their work during the art center’s final months.
That includes the work of Audrey Bunchkowski, the late David DeBolt, Robert Lardinois, Tom Nieling and Carolyn Rosenberger.
This month, their artwork is 30 percent off. It will be 40 percent off in September, 50 percent off in October and 60 percent off in November.
Haasch said the center also has assets, such as furniture and display cases, that will be for sale.
The arts center’s final days of operation will be from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 16 through Sunday, Nov. 19.
“We would have preferred to have it taken over and continue. It was a wonderful 10 years,” Golke said.
Veeser said, “The most important word in all of this was ‘community.’”