WI Arts & Creativity Newsletter

Vol I, Issue 6 - May 2023

April was GREAT and May will be even BETTER!

Don't you just love this time of year? Seeing nature rebound from the cold winter is always uplifting as is seeing the AMAZING work being done in and outside of our schools. April saw me put a few more miles on the State's Ford Focus! Many thanks to the following schools for allowing me to visit and/or do workshops with them:

  • Janesville Parker Arts Academy -Jan Knutson Coordinator (and team)
  • Black River Falls High School - Jennifer Dahl, Art Educator
  • Eau Claire South Middle School - Scott Hensiak, Music Educator
  • Chippewa Falls High School - Jennifer Handrick, Art Educator
  • UWEC - Laura Dunbar, Professor of Music Education
  • Erika Svanoe & Erik Evensen - Composer, Artist, Creators
  • Glenwood City Schools - Matt Lamb, Music Educator
  • UWRF - Paul Budde & Kris Tjonehoj - Prof. Music Education & Bands
  • St. Croix Falls High School - Shawn Gudmunsen, Music Educator
  • CESA 11 - Arts & Curriculum Workshop
  • CESA 12 - Arts & Curriculum Workshop
  • Viroqua High School - Alex Mazur, Music Educator
  • UWM - Visioneers Design Challenge
  • UWEC - John Stewart & Phil Ostrander, Centennial Band Celebration

May, as you know, will be even busier with more opportunities to connect, celebrate, and uplift the arts and creativity! Below you will find information regarding upcoming projects and opportunities. My hope is that this newsletter continues to serve as a useful tool for you. As always, let me know if there is anything I can do to support you.

Bring on May!



State Superintendent Editorial Stresses Need for Supporting Teachers, Students Through Budget Provisions

State Superintendent Dr. Jill Underly today published an editorial, “Appreciation is not enough: Action is required,” highlighting the importance of supporting Wisconsin teachers, students, and schools through provisions in Gov. Tony Evers’ 2023-25 biennial budget.

In the editorial, Dr. Underly writes about an experience she had in April at Mount Horeb High School, where she fielded questions and feedback from students in a “Student Finance Committee” hearing. Students emphasized their needs, the challenges they face, and how provisions in the budget could address directly them. The editorial comes in anticipation of Teacher Appreciation Week, May 8-13, 2023.

Excerpt: “Our Wisconsin teachers do us an incredible public service by caring for and educating our children. We owe them more than appreciation. We owe them investment. We owe them opportunities like Grow Your Own programs, stipends for internships and mentorships, and funding for programs that will support the needs of the students in their classrooms, like school nutrition and mental health services. We owe our staff working in schools the opportunity to earn a salary that will allow them to own a home in the community where they teach, or not have to rely on food assistance programs or additional jobs to support their families.

“And today, we owe them action – action to change the challenges standing in the way of them providing the level of care and education they want to provide, and this state requires. Some of the K-12 provisions were cut by the actual Joint Finance Committee. I can’t help but wonder what the Student Finance Committee would have done instead.”

Two Wisconsin Middle Schools To Host Composers For World Premiere Performances

In the month of May two new works for middle school band written by world renowned composers will be premiered in Wisconsin by area middle schools. Unlike most commissions, the students were placed at the center of the creative process. Students were asked to explore their creativity and curiosity, ask questions, and make decisions.

This past year, the non-profit called Beyond The Notes Music Festival expanded the project to commission two works for middle school. The organization sought input from students across Wisconsin to provide ideas to inspire the new music. Participating ensembles in the festival also had the opportunity to apply to host the composer for the world premiere performance of the music.

This year's project features two composers, Kelijah Dunton, and Viet Cuong. Kelijah Dunton just finished the work for middle school band and choir called "Master Of My Fate," honoring the life and work of Nelson Mandela.

As the composer states,

"The title' Master of My Fate' is taken directly out of Mandela's favorite quote from a poem titled 'Invictus' by William Earnest Henley. The entire quote that aided in keeping Nelson Mandela going strong while in prison reads, "I am the master of my fate; the captain of my soul." In my mind, this piece begins with a yearning for freedom. He must have called out to God when all hope seemed lost. He must have begged the heavens and the stars to help him lead South Africa out of the dark times.

By the end of the piece, it sounds as if he's received his answer from God. He is set free, at peace, and his nation of South Africa rejoices!"

The Glacier Creek Middle School Band and Choir under the direction of music educator, Anne Vanderbloemen, will perform the world premiere of this work with the composer in attendance on May 30 at 7:00 PM in the Middleton High School Performing Arts Center.

Viet Cuong's composition, Inland Oceans, was also recently completed. At the beginning of the school year, students from the middle school concert bands attending this year's Beyond

The Notes Music Festival had the opportunity to submit suggestions to Mr. Cuong for a new work. Many wonderful ideas were submitted.

Ultimately, composer Cuong decided on an idea proposed by Charlie Bittner from Kettle Moraine Middle School that described an underwater coral reef. Composer Cuong used this concept by also found inspiration from his new location. He writes in the score:

I recently moved to Las Vegas to teach at the University of Nevada, and I've been struck by the natural beauty of the city's surroundings, which are often overshadowed by the Strip. About an hour outside of Vegas is the Valley of Fire, a state park with magnificent cliffs and bright red sandstone structures. It's a humbling sight, and there are even petroglyphs on the rocks dating back 2,000 years! And what's even more fascinating is that the whole area was once underwater. It's hard to believe that this area in the middle of the Mojave Desert—the driest region in America— used to be an inland ocean. Over hundreds of millions of years, the sea subsided as the land rose, resulting in the spectacular sight we see there today. Inland Ocean is inspired by this imagery, and I strove to musically capture the swirling of water, wind, and sand that patiently formed this region.

The world premiere performance of Inland Oceans by the Chequamegon Middle School Band and their teacher Kristen Kirch will take place on May 10, 2023 at 7:00 PM in Chequamegon High School Auditorium.

The 2024 ComMission Possible Project will again expand to include a choral composer, Alysia Lee, band composer, Brian Balmages, and orchestra composer, Jessica Meyer. A total of three new works will be created using the creativity of students this time from across the nation as inspiration. Interested school ensembles have until August 1, 2023 to join the project. Registration can be done on the Beyond The Notes Music Festival website.

First Annual "Wisconsin Creativity Summit"

Monday, Aug. 21st, 1pm

This is an online event.

On August 2020 we lost an important leader, spokesperson, and advocate for the arts and creativity. His name was Sir Ken Robinson. On August 21, 2023 the Department of Public Instruction will host the first annual "Wisconsin Creativity Summit" online at 1:00 pm. The goal of the event will be to inspire educators, administrators, policy makers, business leaders, and community members to consider the role of creativity in our schools. Dr. Peter Gamwell, author of "The Wonder Wall" and close friend of Sir Ken's will start the event off with a chat about creativity and the urgent need for us to cultivate it in our children. The event will also include time for discussion and dialogue by participants.

Mark your calendars and keep an eye out for more information in the near future!

Thank A Dance Teacher Day - May 4

#ThankADanceTeacherDay is a global movement to shine the spotlight on dance education and the teachers who make it possible. It was started in 2014 by the National Dance Education Organization (NDEO) to raise awareness of the benefits of dance education through social media. A quality dance education can have a life-changing impact on students, providing physical, social, emotional, cognitive, and psychological benefits.


Re/sound: Songs of Wisconsin Project Expanded

PBS Wisconsin Education and Wisconsin School Music Association (WSMA) have expanded their Re/sound: Songs of Wisconsin classroom media collection to include Indian classical musician Lavanyaa Surendar and bluegrass/Americana band Black River Revue.

Re/sound: Songs of Wisconsin is a multimedia resource designed to help general music educators and learners in grades 4-8 explore the connections between music, culture and emotion. The collection features culture-bearers of music from Wisconsin, as they share a composition and discuss their musicianship, culture and identity. It includes video interviews and performances; audio tracks; and educator engagement guides featuring learning outcomes, strategies, assessments and aligned standards.

New additions to the collection in February 2023 include Carnatic musician Lavanyaa Surendar and bluegrass and Americana group, Black River Revue. Surendar, of Brookfield, performs Carnatic music, a form of Indian classical music that tells ancient stories from Indian mythology.

Black River Revue, a four-piece freshwater bluegrass and Americana band, creates music that references places they grew up, like the Black River, for which their band is named. It is made up of Adam Stariha (guitar/vocals/harmonica), Ian Kvale (bass/vocals), Nate Hynum (mandolin/vocals) and Tim Leutgeb (banjo) from the twin ports of Duluth, Minnesota, and Superior, Wisconsin.

“We were hearing from music educators and school administrators about the need for an installment on Carnatic music, and having Lavanyaa Surendar as a musician who is a culture bearer of Indian music is a phenomenal resource,” said Laurie Fellenz, executive director of WSMA, Wisconsin Music Educators Association and Wisconsin Foundation for School Music. “It is exciting to feature Black River Revue from an area of Wisconsin that doesn’t get as much attention musically in terms of their stories and for the teachers in the northern part of the state.”

Re/sound: Songs of Wisconsin features several culture-bearers of music, including Latinx musicians Richard Hildner Armacanqui and Juan Tomás Martínez of Madison; First-Nations musician Wade Fernandez from Keshena on the Menominee Reservation; Hmong singer Maa Vue of Wausau; and the Black American string duo, SistaStrings – Chauntee Ross and Monique Ross from Milwaukee.

Re/sound: Songs of Wisconsin is available for free online access at pbswisconsineducation.org/resound.

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What’s New to ArtScan in 2023?

"This two-page overview of state arts education policies across the country has expanded over the last two cycles, adding both new policy areas and new territories. In the spirit of keeping this document user friendly and truly “at a glance,” we have opted to remove two policy areas from this year’s update: arts as a core academic subject, and arts ed requirements for state accreditation."

Read More Here

Rural Arts and Creativity Forum 2023

Wednesday, June 28, 2023, 10 am - 4 pm
At the Shell Lake Arts Center, 802 1st Street, Shell Lake, WI
Click here for more information and to register

Everyone involved in the arts, creativity and community - which means everyone who cares about Wisconsin’s future - is invited to join colleagues and friends in northwestern Wisconsin, to discuss and celebrate new beginnings at the 2023 Rural Arts and Creativity Forum. This year’s Forum will take place at the Shell Lake Arts Center in Shell Lake, WI, a renowned summer music program where students further their artistry and skills with master musicians/teachers. The Forum is hosted by Create Wisconsin, Wisconsin Arts Board, and the Shell Lake Arts Center.

The Forum has a 30+ year history bringing together leaders involved in the arts, business, economic development, education, government, and politics, to share stories, issues, and ideas on how to grow the region creatively and help creative people, businesses and communities flourish. Now, as the post-pandemic world takes shape, the work is even more important, to discuss and deliberate transformation and opportunities ahead.

Wisconsin Science Festival: Curiosity Unleashed. Be Part Of The Festival!

From the food we eat to the ways we communicate, travel and more, science is a big part of our lives. And the events of the past few years have made the importance of science and technology more apparent than ever.

We’ve been inspired by the public’s heightened dialog on the role of science in society, the value of curiosity and the importance of diversity among those who participate. It is in that spirit of inspiration that we are excited to celebrate the Wisconsin Science Festival again this year by showcasing events (both in-person and virtual) that seek to make an impact on Wisconsinites!

Join hundreds of organizers who hold events of every shape and size around Wisconsin to connect people of all ages with science, technology, engineering, art and math. In 2022, more than 39,000 people participated in events throughout 48+ counties in Wisconsin. To learn more, connect with Sam Mulrooney at 608-316-4390 or smulrooney@warf.org. (And don’t forget to check out the 2022 annual report!)

Read More Here


Visioneer Design Challenge 2023 Huge Success

The Visioneer Design Challenge was created to bring design professionals and what they do, to our students. It was developed in 2007 as a state-wide design program open to all, with regional and state levels of competition. It continues to be a program that challenges participants to create innovative solutions to real-world design problems.

The challenges typically focus on a specific theme, such as sustainability, accessibility and inclusivity. The Visioneer Design Challenge aims to foster innovation, creativity, and collaboration among participants and to promote creativity, entrepreneurship, and problem-solving skills. It provides opportunities for individuals to develop their skills, network with other innovators, and gain exposure to potential careers and maybe future employers!

Students worked with designers to learn about the world of design careers and new challenges within these careers. Without the partnerships of these designers, we would not have a successful, meaningful, engaging, and relevant program for our students. The professional designers volunteer to develop a challenge related to their own field of design for our students to solve. These design challenges are then presented to our students.

Guided by their art teachers, students researched their chosen challenge and worked creatively to develop solutions for it. Students worked as individuals or as teams. Students completed their research either in class or after school. Some students spent extra time outside of school, at home to work out their ideas.

After their best ideas were fully developed and their design challenge solved, students brought their projects to UW-Milwaukee – Peck School of the Arts. Students then met with the design professional who created their challenge and presented their solutions. There are between 10 – 15 different design areas to choose from. Students spoke about the process and the choices they made to develop their solutions and showed their work. The professional designers then provided feedback about their work based on a set of criteria such as feasibility, creativity, quality of work, completeness, clarity of presentation and impact. Students were given either a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place award.

Students then stopped for lunch and returned for an afternoon filled full of spontaneous thinking and interacting. The professional designers gave students an onsite challenge. This means students had no prior planning or prior time to develop a solution. They could again work as individuals or as teams. Students had to “think on their feet” quicky to come up with a creative, well-developed solution for their onsite or short-term challenge within just a few hours. Students were provided with feedback and were given either a 1st, 2nd, or 3rd place award for their onsite or short-term challenge as well.

It’s always a great day of high engagement, collaboration, competitiveness, innovation, and learning! Students find their commonalities and make new friends and connections from all across the state! It is a wonderful experience! To learn more and to get involved next year go to WAEA website: https://www.wiarted.org/visioneer-design-challenge.html

Los Angeles rock guitarist shows students how music can take you to Mars

A rockstar from Los Angeles is providing kids in Milwaukee a different perspective on how a career in music can lead you to unexpected places — like working in space.

With a flick of his wrist, Jason Achilles can command a crowd. His audience inside a Milwaukee middle school isn't old enough to buy a ticket to one of his rock shows, but they got a front-row seat to some out-of-this-world advice. "I want them to feel like something like rocket science isn't impossible," the guitarist said.


Watch Video Here

UW-Eau Claire celebrates 100 years of the band program

UW-Eau Claire is celebrating 100 years of the band program. In the early 1920s, a group of students at UW-Eau Claire started the band program.

“There were about 20 students that got together and it was a student organization doing what all bands do during the 1920s,” John Stewart, UW-Eau Claire Director of Concert Bands said. “So, there was no special, specific concert band, jazz band or marching band. It was just band and they kind of did everything.”

Now, 100 years later, the band program is acknowledging its past and how far it has come.

Read More Here and Here

Local high school art students compete in the 3rd Congressional District Art Competition

Students came from Holmen, La Farge, La Crosse Central and West Salem to partake in the competition with UWL's Art Department Faculty acting as judges.

Channel 8000 – La Crosse

Read More Here

Over 1,000 local students dance the day away in annual dance competition

Over 1,000 fourth, fifth, and sixth-grade Milwaukee and Racine students packed the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena for the 17th annual Danceworks Mad Hot Rhythm Competition Monday morning. Those students, from more than 30 different schools, competed in different dance styles as part of the Danceworks program.

TMJ4 - Milwaukee

Read More Here

Longtime WYSO Percussion Ensemble director strikes inspirational tone

Vicki Peterson Jenks woke at 4:15 a.m. Saturday to hit the road by 5 a.m. for her commute to direct the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras Percussion Ensemble. Once at the rehearsal site at McFarland High School, Peterson Jenks helped set up equipment on the stage, then after the musicians warmed up with their instruments at 7 a.m., she was leading members of the ensemble in tai chi. It precedes every rehearsal to provide focused silence, Peterson Jenks said.

“I am pretty energetic considering how early it is,” said Pete Navratil, a Middleton High School sophomore who gets up at 6 a.m. to carpool to practice.

PAMELA COTANT For the State Journal

Read More Here

Best high school jazz band players to come together for UW-Green Bay's Jazz Fest

For the first time ever, the best high school jazz band players from the Green Bay area are joining forces.“I really like the idea of getting musicians who are really serious about what they do and trying to make something with one rehearsal and one performance,” said Hannah Beals-Romero, a senior at Notre Dame Academy who plans to attend St. Norbert College for music education.

FOX 11 – Green Bay

Read More Here

Mequon student's art hits museums

A Mequon student was hesitant but took a risk entering an art contest. But after winning, one of Julia Gaskin's pieces was on display at the Milwaukee Art Museum.

"I was honestly really surprised," Gaskin, a Homestead High School senior, says. "Even when I won at the regional level, I was like wow -- I won that?"

Gaskin submitted pieces to the Scholastic Art Competition; won a gold and silver medal regionally, and then she won a national silver medal for "Airplane Sketches." She says her creativity took off while on a flight to Florida.

CBS 58 - Milwaukee

Read More Here

Students, staff and community express support for band program

The vast majority of members of the public present spoke about what the band program has meant to them, their children and their family. All called upon the board to maintain the band teacher position at the school as full-time, and not to cut the position to part-time. "Beylen Tinoco spoke, and was at times in tears, telling the board how much participating in the band program has meant to her. She said she has been playing in band since the fifth grade, and that the kids in band are a ‘tight knit’ group. She says that if the band program is reduced, she is afraid that some students will leave the school."


Read More Here


2024 Accelerator Awards - Deadline June 2

Application Open: March 24 - June 2, 2023 at 5pm PST


Accelerator Awards are open to Creative Youth Development (CYD) music organizations seeking to influence youth-serving systems so all young people have access to learning, creating, and performing experiences that reflect their culture and identity.

Multi-year awards of $500,000 each will be awarded in January 2024. By applying for the Accelerator Awards, organizations are also eligible for funding ranging from $15,000 to $75,000.

Read More Here

NEA Grant Opportunities

Grant guidelines and application materials are now available for Research Grants, Challenge America, and Grants for Arts Projects (GAP). These grants to organizations support specific projects in any part of the nation’s 50 states, the District of Columbia, and U.S. jurisdictions.

Creative Writing Fellowships in Prose enable the recipients to set aside time for writing, research, travel, and general career advancement.

The NEA will continue to hold webinars and question-and-answer sessions in March for prospective applicants. See the list below in the Upcoming Deadlines and Events section of this newsletter for the current webinars and sessions, and check at arts.gov/news/events for updates.

[NOTE: the archived webinars are linked to from their respective grant guideline Applicant Resources pages. We now have GAP and Research Awards archived.]



Pinkcast 4.33. This is how to flip your language to create psychological safety.

In this video, Dan Pink talks to rocket scientist turned law professor turned author whos latest book is called "Awaken Your Genius". The two give advice on how to ask better questions. It is 201 seconds long and worth your time! WATCH IT HERE

STEAM Resource Guide

AEP defines STEAM education as an approach to teaching and learning in which students demonstrate critical thinking and creative problem-solving at the intersection of science, technology, engineering, arts and math.

STEAM instruction shares attributes of arts education, arts integration and STEM education. STEAM learning occurs at the intersection of all three instructional practices.

Read More Here


Using a Curriculum Rich in Arts, History, and Science Led to Big Reading Improvements

"More school districts are interested in using reading programs designed to build students’ broad knowledge about the world by focusing their reading and writing on specific topics in social studies, science, and the arts. Now, a new study of one of these approaches has shown strongly positive results for students’ reading comprehension."

Education Week

Read More Here

How Can Local Partnerships Restore Arts Programs?

K-12 Dive spoke with arts educators, including AEP Director Jamie Kasper, about how local partnerships can help restore arts programs lost to budget cuts. When schools have limited resources, the arts are often at the top of the list to get cut.

"When schools with limited resources — both in terms of money and educators — have to trim arts programming from their curriculum, it can affect students unequally along socioeconomic and racial divides. But local partnerships can offer robust alternatives, restoring the arts instruction and student learning that advocates say are needed in the school day."

Read More Here

More Arts = More Benefits for Kids

​​​​A recent study brings good news about arts education: it can boost students’ writing skills, build social and emotional skills, and increase school engagement. But the same study warns that arts learning has been deprioritized in K-12 education since the 1980s, as schools have shifted tight budgets to align instruction with standardized testing. Additionally, few studies exist that demonstrate that the arts in schools are a beneficial investment. This study is the first large-scale, randomized controlled trial of a city’s collective efforts to restore arts education in schools through community partnerships and investments.

Wallace Blog

Read More Here



Alliance for Wisconsin Theatre Education Conference – UW-Green Bay, September 22, 2023

Wisconsin Dance Council Conference – Madison, October 21, 2023

Wisconsin Art Education Association Conference – WI Rapids, October 26-27, 2023

Wisconsin State Music Conference – Madison, October 25-28, 2023


The Midwest Clinic (Band & Orchestra) Dec 20-22, 2023 Chicago, IL

National Dance Education Organization Conference Sept 29-Oct 1, 2023 Denver, CO

National Theatre Education Conference Sept 28-30, 2023 St. Pete Beach, FL

National Art Educators Association Conference April 4-6, 2024 Minneapolis, MN

Society for Music Teacher Education Symposium Oct 12-14, Salt Lake City, UT

CMA Foundation PD Series: M.E. Mentor Program

The CMA Foundation, the philanthropic arm of the Country Music Association, has announced the return of its Mentor M.E. program. This year’s program is comprised of a webinar series aimed to equip music educators early in their careers with professional development resources, tools, and tips necessary to be successful in the field. The CMA Foundation has extended this professional development series to music educators from all states

The upcoming webinars include:



  • September 12: KEEP ON GOING: ENJOY TEACHING NO MATTER WHAT, hosted by Mickey Smith Jr.


To learn more and to register for the individual sessions, click here.

Applications Open for Luna's Summer Institute

Are you a seasoned classroom practitioner ready to infuse dance into your curriculum? Or a dance teaching artist poised to take your curriculum to the next level of creativity? Apply to Luna's Summer Institute, a year-long professional development experience that includes a week of intensive workshops, virtual and in-person sessions, mentorship & coaching and collegial support, all focused on the art of teaching dance.

Read More Here

Afrocentric Social and Emotional Learning Through the Arts

The Black Teaching Artist Lab and Ingenuity teamed up to create Afrocentric Social Emotional Learning Through the Arts. This guide will provide Black teaching artists and all educators with the knowledge and tools needed to explore their own cultural identities through art, to reach, connect with and equip Black learners to become confident stakeholders in their own lives, communities and the world at large.

Play, Make, Learn Conference July 20-21, 2023 Madison

The deadline to submit a proposal at the 2023 Play Make Learn Conference (PML) is quickly approaching! PML is a gathering of researchers, game designers, makers, artists, and educators. The conference is a place for collaboration and discovery in the design, research and practice of playful learning, games for learning and positive social impact, making and makerspaces, STEAM education, and arts integration in education.

PML creates an inspirational space for PreK-12 students, educators, designers, developers, innovators, librarians, museum professionals, makers, and researchers to tinker together, share knowledge, and celebrate one another’s work.

Interested in attending, but not presenting? Save the date for registration opening in April!


Creative Healing

"When addressing my depression, watercolor was the medium of choice. My emotions were given room to breathe with this method. Thoroughly wetting watercolor paper allowed the paint to cascade freely. As I named each color with an emotion, I was able to let my emotions bleed across the paper. With repeated use of this technique, I was able to clear many emotional strongholds. The strongholds of resentment and disappointment; forgiveness came later." - Gerri Kirby

Read the full blog post here.


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Chris Gleason

Arts & Creativity Education Consultant

Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction

This publication and previous issues are available from: Division of Academic Excellence> Teaching and Learning Team> Arts and Creativity. https://dpi.wi.gov/fine-arts/newsletter

The Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction does not discriminate on the basis of sex, race, color, religion, creed, age, national origin, ancestry, pregnancy, marital status or parental status, sexual orientation, or ability.