Ann Sessions is a woman of many hats. She’s on the Board of Directors for Downtown Eau Claire Inc. (DECI), Board of Directors for West Grand Avenue bid District, on the Local Arts Advocacy Committee for Pablo Center at the Confluence, and most notably is executive director of the Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild.
“When people come to the theater, it’s just a great place to learn and experience things together and to discover that we have way more in common than we have different,” Sessions said. “People come here to be able to express themselves. They come in here so that they can be themselves and sometimes they’re being themselves while they’re actually being somebody else on stage. Art, I feel like, is this kind of great uniter and it’s so exciting when you see people involved in theater right there because they form this community, they form this sort of family and their excitement about doing something together.”
The Chippewa Valley Theatre Guild has held countless shows in the 40 years that they’ve been active in the community. Ever since taking the executive director position in 2001, Ann has been passionate about involving anyone she can in the local theater scene and creating spaces for people to try it out.
Working with the Boys and Girls Club of the Greater Chippewa Valley and the Eau Claire Area School District, Ann helped build the Summer Youth Drama Camp and Shakespeare workshop for teens that the guild hosts in order to give kids in the community a chance to perform on stage — and learn some valuable lessons along the way.
“We have hundreds of kids here during the summer and just hearing their voices is so uplifting and so hopeful,” Sessions said. “I mean, these are our future leaders of the world and letting them grow and be themselves and improve their skills and talents, is a joy and that’s why I spend so much time here working on it.”
“Kids involved in theater just become better communicators,” she added. “They work better with other people. They’re more likely to be involved in their community and they just have more empathy for other people.”
“When people come to the theater, it’s just a great place to learn and experience things together and to discover that we have way more in common than we have different.”
Even through the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent shut down of all businesses, Ann worked on virtual projects — including “Much Ado About Nothing” and “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” — in order to keep the theater scene thriving in the area.
“I think we learned a lot and I feel like we’re more resilient than we knew we were,” Sessions said. “I think we worked better together and I think people really figured out what was important because you’re missing the things that you didn’t have and one of those things was art. Being together and being able to experience something together was important, and we’re grateful that it’s back.”
The Eau Claire community is incredibly important to Ann, which is why she works so hard and with so many different groups to make the area more well-rounded, allowing opportunities for everyone.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility to just be a good citizen and be involved in taking this city to another level,” Sessions said. “You know, it’s important to me. I love the people here, I loved raising a family here. So being involved is important and sometimes it’s just important that you step up and make things happen.”