The Rita: “It’s home.”
Host Greg Berg may have given the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities the highest compliment it would get during an evening filled with accolades. Commenting on the feeling the university's--and the community's--new educational and cultural showplace creates, Berg said simply: "It's home."
Berg, a music professor at Carthage College and host of WGTD-FM's "Morning Show," said although he works for two other educational institutions," I have never felt like an outsider at UW-Parkside."
The University of Wisconsin-Parkside opened "The Rita" to invited guests and the public during a dedication ceremony Saturday afternoon and a grand opening event the same evening. More than 800 people turned out for the grand opening, packing the Frances Bedford Concert Hall, the Fine Arts Gallery, the Black Box Theatre, and other venues for concerts, theatre and art demonstrations, participation in discussions, and opportunities to speak with faculty and artists.
During the dedication ceremony in the Main Stage Theatre, University of Wisconsin System President Kevin Reilly said he would fight a temptation to give in to his New York City-roots and call it "The Riter" and praised those who made the building and expansion project a reality.
"This beautiful facility is the culmination and product of many people sharing a vision and then working very, very hard to make it real," Reilly stated.
He added: "May 'The Rita' be a beacon of cultural and artistic enrichment for years to come."
UW-Parkside Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences Dean Yohnk later thanked the Lead Campus Construction Team for its perseverance through 99--("Yes, 99!")--weekly meetings during the past two years. He also honored the 2012 Year of the Arts and Humanities Planning Committee thanking them for creating Saturday's dedication and grand opening and for planning the other 300-plus events scheduled for this year.
Yohnk also introduced artist Steve Feren and recounted the story behind his sculpture "The Life Expressive" that graces the entrance to "The Rita." Yohnk talked about French postman Ferdinand Cheval whose chance encounter with a stone in his path led him to build "Le Palais Ideal"--the Ideal Palace" in France--a place the inner and outer worlds meet.
"Please come back to The Rita often to join us in the ongoing celebration of the life expressive," Yohnk told his audience. "Come back to discover, understand, and be inspired."
UW-Parkside Chancellor Debbie Ford took the opportunity during her remarks to thank the state of Wisconsin and its legislators for their "investment in the education,
creative economy, and enjoyment of arts and humanities in southeastern Wisconsin," Ford said.
Ford noted the new vendor partnerships between the university and Family Piano and Hailun Piano; she thanked the UW-Parkside Foundation for naming one of The Rita's art galleries; she acknowledged the generosity of the Chuck and Kathryn Heide for naming The Rita's main entrance and lobby the Brookwood Entrance; she thanked the Klopcic family, especially Betty and her late husband Dick Klopcic, who founded the Fireside Theatre and named the Theatre Arts Department's Fireside Theatre Scenic Studios
The Chancellor thanked UW-Parkside Emerita Professor of Music Frances Bedford for helping the "--students and faculty at the University of Wisconsin-Parkside and members of our communities to experience world-class musical performances" in the Frances Bedford Concert Hall.
Ford closed by thanking Kathleen Picken for naming the building after her stepmother and, "fellow adventurer," the late Rita Tallent Picken.
"She worked to elevate learning opportunities for students of all ages through the UW Kenosha Center and then the University of Wisconsin-Parkside," Ford said of Rita Tallent Picken. "That's why it is so fitting that this building, an arts and humanities center that will connect the communities and learners of southeastern Wisconsin, is named the Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities...The Rita!"
She then addressed Kitty by saying, "Thank you for sharing your passion for education, arts, and humanities with UW-Parkside."The dedication ceremony was followed by the grand opening Saturday from 7 to 9 p.m., bringing hundreds of area residents to campus to see first-hand what the new building looks like and how it performs. On Saturday, it performed magnificently.