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Hardy Gallery’s ETC Program Introduces Creative Pursuits, Future Careers

Justina Zukauskaite holds her finished willow structure.

Over the past five years of the Hardy Gallery’s Exposure to Creativity (ETC) Program, many things have changed, though, these goals have always remained in the forefront – to provide the participating Gibraltar High School (GHS) students with the opportunity to expand their personal horizons, strengthen their academic success, and increase their potential career directions.

This year’s 29 ETC workshops, which impacted over 150 GHS students in February, brought together artists, musicians, writers, actors, and other creative professionals from the vibrant Door County arts community. The workshops focused on more varied forms of art and creative pursuits than ever before. Students didn’t just have one ceramic class – they had a choice of hand-building, wheel-throwing, or Raku-fired pottery. If music was an interest, they had a chance to learn how to write songs or learn how to record them. Budding photographers had the chance to learn about the composition of photographs (both digital and black and white), the practices necessary to edit and enhance them digitally, or learn how a combination of a mat and a frame can make all the difference.

Over the course of the last five years, the organization has established relationships with many GHS students, most of whom have been participating in the program since their freshman year. Several of these students have been impacted by the program to the point that they plan to make art a viable career. One of these students is GHS senior Susan Fochs, who was so taken with the world of glass art that she has participated in a one-on-one mentorship with Door County glass artists Stephanie Trenchard and Jeremy Popelka since her sophomore year of high school. Jeremy and Stephanie operate Popelka Trenchard Glass in Sturgeon Bay, their gallery and studio dedicated to the creation and showcase of their artwork. Fochs now plans to continue her study of glass art in college next fall, and says she owes her new found passion to the ETC workshops.

“Working one-on-one with the Popelka’s has been an amazing experience – one I never would have thought about without the ETC program,” Fochs says. “After that first mentorship was over, I became a little obsessed – always looking at different glass pieces and artists – so when junior year rolled around, I asked if they’d mentor me again in a more advanced format. Now I’m a senior, and I can’t wait to work with them a third year.”

Gibraltar High School students attempt their own wheel-thrown pottery at a ceramics workshop taught by Renee’ Schwaller.

Although Gibraltar High School senior Peter Burress doesn’t plan on pursuing the arts as a major in college, he says that the ETC workshops were a great experience and helped him appreciate an integral part of Door County living. “It’s the different types of art, music, and theater that make our county such a great tourist destination,” he says. “The workshops exposed us to all of these art forms that otherwise would have gone unknown or unappreciated by students.”

Door County writer Phil Hansotia, who led a Creative Writing workshop for this year’s ETC program, remarked that his class and its students were both stimulating and rewarding. “They were an excellent set of young minds – their poems on their last assignment were my rewards.” He says that programs such as Exposure to Creativity “makes education in Door County the renaissance it should be.”

Similar to previous years of the ETC program, free mentoring opportunities with local artists are offered at the conclusion of the Gibraltar High School workshops. Eight students will continue with individual mentorships, providing even more direct, hands-on experiences in the arts with area arts professionals. The ETC program is made possible with a partnership between Friends of Gibraltar (FOG) and Gibraltar High School. Financial support has been provided by the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts, the Women’s Fund of Door County and many private donors.

For more information about the ETC program or other Hardy Gallery programs, call 920.854.2210 or visit http://www.thehardy.org.