Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts receives $50,000 grant

July 29, 2014

It's been an exciting summer so far for the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts.

This month, Executive Director Jonathan Winkle and the rest of the center's staff learned they had received a $50,000 grant courtesy of the National Endowment for the Arts.

"This is the first large-scale grant that we've received," Winkle said. "We were ecstatic."

The grant will be used to fund the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center's plans for its Arts Park project, which will see an extension of sculptural work in Mitchell Park.

Winkle was especially pleased with receiving the grant because such an award can bring credibility and prestige to an organization, which can provide aid in continuing to be selected for grants.

"Once you receive one of these, it can make it a little bit easier to get another large scale grant from the NEA," Winkle said. "It's a credibility issue. NEA grants (this) size are not easy to get."

Notification of the grant came on the heels of the center finalizing plans for a brand new series it will host this year — a Family Series.

"We identified that we were not serving young families within our market, and we thought that we should start some programs specifically oriented toward that group," Winkle said.

Winkle cited financial logic as the primary reason for the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center not having a Family Series previously.

"There's a focus that arts organizations have on adults that are say 45 or 50 and older, and that's because of two things: time and money," Winkle said. "For people who haven't had kids or who now have kids who have moved out, suddenly time and money is more plentiful, and so you see a lot of audience and donors coming from that age demographic."

But Winkle and his staff felt it was time for their center to take the next step. Winkle noted multiple benefits to broadening the Wilson Center's offerings, including getting children involved and interested in the arts at younger ages.

"We want to make sure that we're offering opportunities that work with other peoples' lifestyles," he said. "We want to broaden our demographics."

The center got its feet wet with the family demographic last season with smaller productions called "Tales by the Fire."

This year, the Family Series will feature two major performances and two productions of "Tales by the Fire."

The first major component of the Family Series will be "Spencers' Theatre of Illusion," on Nov. 8. Winners of more than 20 national awards, Kevin and Cindy Spencer have performed their magic act for millions in 19 different countries. The show blends the elements of a Broadway production with a rock concert.

"Kevin is a fantastic illusionist and magician and just a fantastic person," Winkle said.

The second staple of the season will bring an internationally revered company all the way from Switzerland to Brookfield for the evening of March 21.

"Mummenschanz has been around for 40 years, but I don't think they've been in the Milwaukee area for about 20 years," Winkle said. "I really saw that as an opportunity to bring in a world-class experience."

Winkle noted that Mummenschanz is a different kind of theatrical performance than most audiences have likely experienced.

"It's mime theater, so it's essentially silent," Winkle said.

Mummenschanz depends on its witty and weird characters, dressed in elaborate costumes and large puppets to captivate audiences without scenery, music or sound.

Theater-goers who subscribe to the entirety of the Family Series will receive complimentary tickets to the Wilson Center's pair of "Tales by the Fire."

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