Three will be recognized for contributions to the arts in Rock County
IF YOU GO
Who: United Arts Alliance of Rock County.
What: 8th Annual Arts Hall of Fame Brunch
Featured speaker: Anne Katz, Arts Wisconsin executive director.
When: Sunday, March 8. Doors open at 12:30 p.m., brunch starts at 1 p.m., and the awards ceremony is at 2 p.m.
Where: Janesville Performing Arts Center, 408 S. Main St.
Tickets: $15 and available at the JPAC Box Office or by phone with credit card by calling (608) 758-0297. Reservations are due Tuesday, March 3.
BELOIT When Loren Sass directed a more modern rendition of his final production of "Joseph!" at Beloit Memorial High School, the standing-room-only audience went wild.
“I just thought to myself during the standing ovation: ‘Amazing ... he did it again,’” said James Fitzpatrick, superintendent of the Fort Atkinson School District
Fitzpatrick was among more than a half dozen who nominated Sass for the United Arts Alliance 2008 Arts Hall of Fame.
Sass along with Susan Blumer of Milton and Laurel Canan, formerly of Janesville and now a resident of Ohio, will be inducted March 8 into the UAA Hall of Fame for their contributions to the growth and well-being of the arts in Rock County.
"I cannot imagine a more worthy candidate for the induction into the Arts Hall of Fame,'' wrote Fitzpatrick, who was principal of Beloit Memorial High School from 1986-97 when he witnessed the genius of Sass.
Sass, 62, of Beloit, directed and produced more than 50 theater and musical productions during his 34-year career. He said he is flattered people have thought he’s special.
“I’ve just gone through life doing what I like and certainly have no aspiration for fame,’’ he said.
Mary Mowers, who submitted Sass’ nomination on behalf of the Beloit Civic Theatre board of directors, referred to Sass as “an icon” in theater in the greater Beloit area.
"He has spent his entire life working in some capacity on, behind or around a stage. He has devoted endless energy to his vocation and avocation as director, actor, fund raiser, set designer, tour leader, educator, carpenter, painter, writer, mentor, dance partner, costume designer, theater patron, promoter, editor, lighting designer, stage manager. He has done it all,'' she wrote in her nomination letter.
As founding member and treasurer of Parent Advocates for the Performing Arts in Our Schools, Sass played a key role in securing an endowment of almost $1 million for the organization that advocates for the arts and funds projects not included in the school budget. He is actively involved in the theater renovation going on now at Beloit Memorial High School.
Upon his 2002 retirement from the Beloit School District, Sass joined the board of directors of the Beloit Civic Theatre, a group in which he has always participated as director and actor. In addition to being vice president, he has led the group’s season-membership drive, writes its newsletters, proofreads programs, takes reservations and manages tickets sales. He helps design every show set, is instrumental in set construction and sometimes performs on stage.
Sass’ passion for theater has been passed on to many of his former students, who have gone on to pursue successful careers in theater. While working at the Beloit International Film Festival, Sass saw a film that featured one of those students.
“He was the producer and the actor,’’ Sass said of this young man, who now lives and makes films in Los Angles.
“It makes me feel great,’’ he said.
Since retiring, Sass has directed a production for Beloit’s New Court Theatre and a concert for the Beloit Janesville Symphony. He volunteers as a Friend of the Beloit Janesville Symphony, and he and his wife Diane opened their home for the Symphony House Walk fundraiser.
For 45 years, musicians of all ages, both amateur and professional, have worked with Blumer.
Former student Robert Harrison give her credit for his success—as a performer and now a professor of voice at Indiana University's Jacobs School of Music.
"Ms. Blumer remains a meaningful individual who played a momentous role in the early years of my musical development at Milton College. After a few lessons with this master teacher of voice, I found myself lured into the art of music. Whether in her voice studio, her performances at the organ console or in the choir loft, Prof. Blumer taught each and every one of us that 'art offers no crown for mediocrity,''' he wrote in his nomination letter.
Nominator Chris Stried of Janesville, agreed: "As a lifetime musician, Sue has worked selflessly to improve the standard of quality of vocal and choral music in the Rock County community."
Her achievements include conducting The Women of Note, a community women's chorus she founded; teaching vocal music education majors at Milton College, and providing excellence in vocal and organ music at Cargill United Methodist Church, St. Mary's Catholic Church and Trinity Episcopal Church, all in Janesville, as well as other church congregations.
"Susan Blumer is a tireless, compassionate and humble person. Her enthusiasm for her work is contagious. Her personal career as a soprano soloist and performer is memorable and she has touched the lives of so many people, both young and old, who are privileged to call her friend," wrote Shary Hahn, Janesville.
Karl Westlund, Milton, summed up Blumer’s nomination this way: "Her dedication to teaching, performing and conducting has had a significant impact on the musical life of Rock County and she richly deserves to receive the 2008 Award for the Arts Hall of Fame.''
Canan, who was the first executive director of the Janesville Performing Arts Center in Janesville, invented the motto, "Bringing the Arts to Main Street."
That also describes her passion for celebrating all the arts in people's lives everyday, said Peggy Vechinsky, Janesville.
While leading JPAC from 2004-08, Canan designed and implemented the Friends of JPAC annual giving campaign and started and trained a large volunteer corps that supports JPAC through hundreds of hours of donated time as ushers and box-office staff.
Canan organized a users group of representatives of many organizations who perform at JPAC.
"She generously volunteered her time with some of the arts groups who have no paid staff, sharing her experience and expertise in arts management and organization," Vechinsky wrote in her nomination.
Canan began and managed a visual arts gallery program at JPAC through the Janesville Art League, which maintains a rotating exhibit of artwork by local artists.
Before becoming executive director at JPAC, Canan was its campaign administrator. In addition to being responsible for all aspects of capital campaign management for the auditorium restoration project, she raised more than $3.3 million through public and private donations that made the dream of a community performing arts center a reality for Janesville.
Before becoming involved with JPAC, Canan was associated with the Janesville Concert Association, now known as Janesville Presents.
"Laurel is widely respected as a savvy and compassionate leader who believes in, and acts upon, the power of the arts to transform communities. There are few people who are more deserving of inclusion in the Hall of Fame than Laurel,'' Katz wrote in her nomination.