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UW-Eau Claire to host arts camp for teens in 2021: The Midwest Artist Academy

| Denise Olson (story); Glen Mabie (video)

UW-Eau Claire is happy to announce the launch of a new pre-college camp to be hosted on campus in July 2021.

BJ Hollars

B.J. Hollars, associate professor of English and founder of the Midwest Artist Academy

The Midwest Artist Academy, founded by B.J. Hollars, associate professor of English, will invite aspiring teen artists to take part in a unique weeklong resident camp-style experience. Applications will open this fall for up to 50 students across the artistic genres of creative writing, visual art, music and composition, theater and dance.

According to their mission statement, the Midwest Artist Academy "strives to provide high-impact, inclusive and transformative, arts-themed educational opportunities for gifted, talented and diverse pre-college artists throughout the Midwest and beyond." The academy is not only committed to individual artistic growth, but the growth of the collective, capping off the week of study and creativity with a collaborative performance to be held at Pablo Center at the Confluence.

At a time when many community and educational arts endeavors are suffering budgetary cuts in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the launch of this academy shows not only a commitment to youth outreach but to the power of art.

"Now more than ever, we need to find ways to connect with one another," Hollars says. "Art can serve as the perfect bridge to help us build a better and safer world. In recognizing that many family budgets are also impacted by the pandemic, we're pleased to have secured 20 partial scholarships over the last several weeks.  I'm committed to removing as many financial barriers as possible to ensure that this program can be accessible to all. We want to welcome everyone, and that begins by creating the conditions to ensure that everyone feels welcome."

Hollars hopes to instill in a new generation the notion that the arts should not be seen as an "extra" in a high school curriculum, but rather a much needed part of life in any thriving community.

“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." 

As our campus, community and nation face not only a global pandemic but also a groundswell of support for social and criminal justice reform, organizers of the Midwest Artist Academy again point to the need for bringing young artists together in this fashion, emphasizing the power of the arts in finding common ground across demographics.

Arthur Grothe

Arthur Grothe, associate professor of theatre arts and theatre instructor for the academy

“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," says Arthur Grothe, associate professor of theatre arts at UW-Eau Claire and theatre instructor for the academy.   

As with several other arts-based community partnerships, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation is providing essential support to the Midwest Artist Academy, and Foundation executive director Kimera Way is pleased to announced this unique opportunity to bring youth talent to campus next summer.

"The UW-Eau Claire Foundation is thrilled to be a partner with the Midwest Artist Academy. Any time we can welcome creative and inspired young minds to campus to encourage them in their artistic pursuits is a tremendous growth opportunity for them and a chance for the university to show these artists that they could have a future here. This is going to be a wonderful partnership," Way says.

What campers and families can expect

As we announce this future camp amid a pandemic, families and community members can be assured that when young artists arrive on campus for the Midwest Artist Academy, they will be greeted and cared for with all necessary precautions as relates to the COVID-19 virus. This includes a health screening upon arrival; use of any personal protective equipment as may still be deemed appropriate by health officials; space for physical distancing as needed; and monitoring of any visiting students or staff for the presentation of symptoms while on campus.

The Midwest Artist Academy will provide young artists the opportunity to learn and practice alongside knowledgeable, generous and professional artists. The five genres taught will be:

  • Creative writing with Maggie Pahos, a writer and teacher living in Portland, Oregon.
  • Theatre with Arthur Grothe, artistic director and associate professor of theatre arts at UW-Eau Claire.
  • Dance with Kathryn Ann Kelly, international, award-winning professional dancer and choreographer.
  • Music and composition with Dr. Chiayu Hsu, associate professor of music and composition at UW-Eau Claire.
  • Visual art with Jo Ellen Burke, an area educator and artist, holding degrees in art, elementary education and a master's degree in teaching.

Each summer, the academy experience will be based on a shared theme across all the genres. The 2021 theme will be "e[ART]h," an exploration of the convergence of art and earth.

Each day of the week will be different, but in general the schedules will include a morning instructional session, afternoon field trips, visits with area artists, free practice time and collaboration sessions, evening outdoor music and film events, an evening debrief chat and, of course, three meals provided by Blugold Dining. 

For specific details about the July 2021 session, see the full daily schedule.

Give or apply

The Midwest Artist Academy is a program of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire and the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire Foundation, and will rely on a combination of grants, donations and tuition fees. For information about how you or your business might help to support this program, visit the UW-Eau Claire Foundation site.

Applications for the July 2021 academy session will open in October 2020.  

For more information, email