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Creative in the Community: Birder Studio and their "ARTreach" Initiative

CHICAGO at the Broadway Theatre in De Pere, presented by Birder Studio, Jan. 30, 2020 (WCWF/ Beni Petersen)

DE PERE (WCWF) -- We're learning about the impact and growth of non-profits in Northeast Wisconsin. Birder Studio Performing Arts located in east De Pere, provides arts education for the youth in the community, as well as adults. Their mission is to educate, inspire, create and achieve. Executive Director Alicia Birder shared some insight on the studio.

"We teach dance, acting, singing, piano stage management and we do full production of musical theatre."

Alicia describes how performing arts in the area has progressed in the past 38 years Birder Studio has been active.

"You know one time we were the only entity, and I have to say we are a community of the arts. And there is so much happening in fine art and performance art, and so many opportunities for patrons to attend performances. It has grown incredibly and it’s so exciting."

A more recent upgrade to the studio's performing space is the Broadway Theatre, previously known as The Majestic Theatre, located in downtown east De Pere.

Alicia says, "We began Broadway theatre as our own space to put our dollars back into our mission. When you’re renting space, those are dollars you don’t see anymore. And so to be able to take the dollars and put them back into what you are doing- is so exciting."

The space is used for Birder Art students to debut their skills on stage- as well as the adult troop, the Birder Players. Birder Players is a group of volunteer community actors, stage crew and backstage hands; who come together to share Birder’s mission.

"I mean, it’s really my talent. I can’t do what I do without the amazing community artists. What’s happened at Broadway Theatre is tremendous because of the talent in our area. There is so much talent and they’ve all come out and shared this with us."

Alicia says they are so proud of what they do, and that show after show has grown.

“Definitely have raised the bar in the area, and to have year-round musical theatre in our little black box theatre right down town.”

Alicia shares how wonderful the local performing arts is for the city, economy and for all of the community members to be proud of something that’s theirs.

"There are certain things that cities have that draw people to them. Museums, the library, things we don’t want to go without... and the theatre is one of those things. And I think it really adds to the attraction of what our community is and what it has to offer.”

Working in the community, they try to get as many involved as they can. One way they do so is by offering scholarship opportunities to their students, with funds provided by donors and supporters.

Alicia says, "We have been able to provide many dollars to about 20% of our student body each year."

Another way students can receive funding is through a program called, "Adopt a Student."

"A donor will actually select a student that they would like to sponsor, and they watch that child graduate from year-to-year, and see how they improve and all the skills they obtain, and what wonderful youth they become through the process of learning confidence- I think the greatest gift they learn is the gift of confidence."

Looking to grow arts in the community, the "ARTreach Initiative" was started three seasons ago to provide arts education to under-served youth in the community.

Alicia says, “Our hope is to reach these students who would never have this opportunity."

ARTreach director and vocal teacher Pamela Westphal shares what the program offers, beyond performing.

“It teaches them teamwork, they gain confidence... there’s so much that we can provide for them and we’re excited to get out and do that."

Pamela describes the impact the ARTreach initiative can have.

"It just opens the door for them, gives them a little insight, hopefully ignites a passion or an interest, appreciation, to maybe where it’s a thing they would like to pursue as they continue in their schooling or at the very least, learn to appreciate and enjoy the arts a little more."

Pamela shares her experience working with the students in the program.

"It’s so fun to see the kids kind of start out coming in, little nervous, not sure what they’re getting in to. And through the six week program they just grow in confidence you can see they start to get excited about it- they learn to work together. And then in the end, they have this wonderful performance they put together. Their so proud of it and you see an interest spark in them."

The program has provided at 14 area schools in the past year alongside partnerships with the Green Bay Public Schools and the YMCA After-school Program. And still, the initiative continues to grow.

" I’m hoping that we just continue to get more and more into the schools, hopefully get more teachers on our end, so we can provide as much as we possibly can," says Pamela.

For more information on Birder Studio of Performing Arts mission, head to their website

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