Young Artists Unite: Midwest Artist Academy Will Offer Place for Teens to Be Creative Together
B.J. Hollars remembers when he was a high school student and he sat on the sidelines writing poetry while a group of his friends played a game of pick-up basketball. Though he didn’t exactly feel left out, he longed for a similar experience that could bring artistic people together to do the things they love.
“As an artist, you always had to be a bit of a secret artist,” Hollars recalled.
Fast forward to last summer when Hollars – prolific writer, founder of the Chippewa Valley Writers Guild, and associate professor of creative writing at UW-Eau Claire – taught creative writing classes in Dublin, Ireland. There, he and fellow creative writing instructor Maggie Pahos joked about making an integrative creative experience for high school students a reality. And so, Hollars did – creating the new Midwest Artist Academy, which is slated to be held in July 2021.
“My primary motivation for founding the Midwest Artist Academy was to create a safe space where young artists in a variety of genres could come together to listen, learn, collaborate, and create alongside established artists,” Hollars said. “This experience strives to reinforce for students that art is no indulgence, but a necessary component of daily life. Art can be activism. Art can be empathy. And best of all, art can amplify.”
“My primary motivation for founding the Midwest Artist Academy was to create a safe space where young artists in a variety of genres could come together to listen, learn, collaborate, and create alongside established artists. This experience strives to reinforce for students that art is no indulgence, but a necessary component of daily life. Art can be activism. Art can be empathy. And best of all, art can amplify.” –B.J. Hollars, founder, Midwest Artist Academy
This integrative academy is an exciting new pre-college experience for up to 50 creative young adults that provides “high-impact, inclusive, and transformative, arts-themed educational opportunities for gifted, talented, and diverse pre-college artists throughout the Midwest and beyond,” according to the academy’s website.
“The academy is not only committed to individual artistic growth,” the website continues, “but the growth of the collective.”
Artists will spend their mornings working with experienced instructors Maggie Pahos (creative writing), Arthur Grothe (theater), Kathryn Ann Key (dance), Dr. Chiayu Hsu (music and composition), and Jo Ellen Burke (visual art) in courses with a maximum of 10 students. Following, students spend their afternoons in “mini-lessons” taught by a slew of local artists and creatives. Evenings include live concerts, films, campfires, talent shows, ice cream socials, and more. The academy concludes with a Saturday night performance at the Pablo Center at the Confluence.
“You have so many opportunities within this city to be creative,” said Sarah Jayne Johnson, the community coordinator and Hollars’ right-hand lady. “We see a lot of Eau Claire wanting to keep the people who fell in love with the city here.”
Each year, the academy will highlight a specific theme centering artistic practices; for the first year, the theme will be “e[art]th” – or the convergence of art and earth. Artists are asked to consider questions such as “How does art enhance our world? And how might it save it?”
The academy will cost $650, which covers seven nights of lodging on-campus at UW-Eau Claire, meals, extracurricular activities, art supplies, course work, and instruction. Applications open in October 2020, with scholarships available for students who may need financial assistance, enabling all interested students to apply.
For more about the Midwest Artist Academy, including registration information, visit midwestartistacademy.org.
Academy Instructors on the Importance of the Arts:
“Perhaps art’s greatest quality is that it can create empathy and a path to connection between people who would have no other way to connect. Anyone who has ever made art has felt empathy before. Anyone who has been moved by art has felt empathy. It brings out the best parts of us and asks us to be bigger than we realized we could be. Almost nothing else on the planet has that power.” –Maggie Pahos, creative writing instructor
“It seems that the healthiest, strongest, and most thriving cultures are those which embrace the arts. The arts are the heart and soul of a community. We learn about each other, about differences and similarities, about struggles and human nature.” –Jo Ellen Burke, visual arts instructor
“Art, whether on stage, in the dance studio, on the canvas, played in the concert hall, or written on the page, is an expression of the invisible made visible. It is a search to express critical ideas, emotions, or insights that connect us as human beings.” –Dr. Arthur Groethe, theatre instructor
I believe art brings joy.” –Dr. Chiayu Hsu, music composition instructor
“How can art not make the world a better place? Art, in any form, is beautiful. Art for me is going into the studio and turning on the music and becoming one with the space and the song. It invokes thoughts and questions. It can engage people across a generational gap and people from different backgrounds. Art is the language of the world. It is not specific to one heritage or one religion. Art is everyone’s and no ones. Art is peaceful and it is restless.” –Kathryn Ann Key, dance instructor