Exploring “Rita’s” campus/community connection
"The artists are the ones who 'get it' first."
Silagh White believes when it comes to rediscovering a city's or a region's potential, artists are usually the first people to see it. White returned to Kenosha Friday and Saturday from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where she is helping to lead the rebirth of that former steel town as the director of ArtsLehigh.
ArtsLehigh is a program created by Lehigh University that encourages the arts as part of campus and community redevelopment plans. As she told an audience of community leaders meeting on campus Saturday, April 28, Kenosha can accomplish a rebirth similar to Bethlehem's and UW-Parkside can serve as the catalyst.
"It's going to take Kenosha a while to claim a new identity. It's going to be a long road and it's going to go in a lot of different directions," White said. "The University of Wisconsin-Parkside can be a leader and a facilitator of that conversion with all the expertise that's here."
White, who is a native of Kenosha, was brought back to the city by the university to, in the words of UW-Parkside's Dean Yohnk, provide an outside perspective on the cultural and economic revitalization of southeastern Wisconsin. White met Friday with Kenosha officials and was on campus Saturday in the Galbraith Room of Wyllie Hall.
Yohnk sees the newly completed Rita Tallent Picken Regional Center for Arts and Humanities as an important part of that revitalization effort.
"We gave the building a vision, a mission, and a goal statement--the building has one--and now that the building is done, it's our goal to bring people back together from the campus and community, because it's all about connecting the campus and community/the community and the campus and how we can use the arts and humanities to do that," Yohnk stated.
He went on to say Bethlehem and Kenosha are alike in many ways and that White's visit helped people in our region see what is possible.
"It makes sense to bring her here to share some examples of what other places are doing and get us thinking," he said. "Sometimes you do need somebody from the outside to make you aware of what you have in terms of potential."
White sees connecting campuses and communities as being, in her words, "the future for higher education."White attended Kenosha's St. Joseph High School. After college, she worked with the Toledo Performing Arts Council before joining Lehigh in 2005 to lead ArtsLehigh.