Category Archives: Arts and Entertainment

Fine Art and Music, Theatre, Etc.

Graceful Envelope Contest

In this era of email, tweets and emojis, seeing a hand-addressed envelope in your mailbox can make any day special.
The Graceful Envelope Contest, celebrates the significance of writing, sending, and receiving letters.

Created originally in 1995 by the Smithsonian Institution’s National Postal Museum, and now administered by the National Association of Letter Carriers and the Washington Calligraphers Guild, the Contest promotes the art of calligraphy, and celebrates the role of letters in binding people together.

Graceful Envelope Best in Show 2017 by Christy Robb

The “art” of correspondence…

This is a fantastic opportunity for all educators  and art enthusiasts. Some schools use the contest to introduce young people to the lettering arts.

The Graceful Envelope Contest is open to all skill levels and ages – around the world, with three divisions for students grades 1 through 12, and a division for adults. There is no entry fee.

One of Eight Student Winners 2010 Junior Division (Grades 7-12)




 images of 2017 winning entries by High school students for inspiration.


Every year, the call goes out in the Fall with a new theme to challenge entrants to create an envelope that promotes the exchange of letters. Deadline for entries is in March. Winners are chosen based on hand lettering, creative interpretation of the theme and effective use of color and design, including incorporation of postage stamp(s). All contestants are notified in June as to the final status of their entry.

Find new ways to use graphic design, hand lettering and postage stamps to enhance a single envelope. It may be a small canvas, but you are capable of big ideas.

Graceful Envelope 2015 Best in Show by Hannah C. Holder

Graceful Envelope 2015 Best in Show by Hannah C. Holder

Rules and How to Enter
Each entry is done on a stamped envelope, addressed on the front in calligraphy or hand-drawn artistic lettering so as to be delivered through the U.S. Postal Service.  The envelope, which can be handmade or manufactured, will not be opened. The size may not exceed 7 x 9 inches. The 
front of the envelope will be judged; the name and address of the entrant will be listed on the back where it will not be visible to the jurors. Students must indicate their GRADE and may use their teacher’s email and school address.

Entries are judged by interpretation of the contest theme to transform an ordinary envelope into a work of art using calligraphy or artistic lettering to address the envelope. Computer-generated/enhanced lettering, stickers or manufactured rubber stamps, are not permitted.

Although no prizes will be awarded, winners will receive certificates and possible media publicity.

Winners will be exhibited online at and Adult winning envelopes will be exhibited.

See Rules and How to Enter for details.

“The Graceful Envelope Contest expanded in 2005 to include student entries — at the same time that countless school systems were dropping art from the curriculum. Many elementary schools have also discontinued teaching cursive. And, in this era of electronic mail and text messages, rare is the young person who knows how to address an envelope. Perhaps art educators can use the contest to introduce students to addressing an envelope and considering suggested themes in different, creative ways.” – Lorraine Swerdloff Contest Coordinator for the Washington Calligraphers Guild


Shakespeare in the Park. Wisconsin Style!

Shakespeare in the Park. Wisconsin Style!

America’s only traveling Shakespeare in the State Parks troupe, the Summit Players are on the road for the third season with their main man Will and “The Comedy of Errors.”

From mid-June through July, the Summit Players bring Shakespeare out in the open, with free performances as well as free theater workshops at state parks and forests throughout Wisconsin.

All the words in their shows belong to Shakespeare. There are just less of them.

Founded in 2014 by a group of Marquette University theater arts majors, the Summit Players is a seven-member, nonprofit organization whose goal is to eliminate the “Shakespeare is boring” mentality by bringing exciting, unique theatre to people all over Wisconsin.

Their short, “new cuttings” of Shakespeare’s scripts become 75 minutes of mayhem, character switches, and hilarity.

The productions are appropriate for all ages, and their 45 minute workshops, held prior to each show, are aimed at kids and “fun adults” to create a fun and educational “Shakesperience” for all!

Shakespeare out of a trunk”

The focus is on the actors and the words – just like in Shakespeare’s day. Summit Players use minimal costumes and props in their productions, which in the setting of a state park brings out the use of nature in Shakespeare’s plays.

The workshops explore the natural world through the lens of Shakespeare’s words and are designed to alleviate “iambic pentajitters” with games and working with some text. The goal is to use theatre as a learning medium and introduce children to a love of language, communicating, and constructive play, while providing adults with an enjoyable family experience.

No advance registration is needed for either the workshop or the performance.
Just show up at the designated times and enjoy!

COST: Both the performance and the workshop are free. A vehicle admission sticker is required for all vehicles entering the park and can be purchased on site.


Symphony or Orchestra – What’s the Difference? LSO Symphony for Youth Concert March 2017 – Register Now

You want your children to have an appreciation for classical music…
But you don’t know the difference between a cantata and a sonata; and the only culture your kiddoes are getting lately is from a little cup of yogurt in the fridge?

Here’s your opportunity for a culture fix!

The La Crosse Symphony Orchestra offers a unique experience through the annual Symphony for Youth concert program. Each year, over 2,500 students from around the area attend this concert which is designed to inspire a love of orchestral music through the professional performance of a musical masterpiece.
Symphony or Orchestra – What’s the Difference?

The LSO Symphony for Youth concert performance is not just an orlso-symphony-for-youth-concert-2016-1dinary concert  — it’s a complete musical learning experience!  Not only do you get Ronald McDonald dressed for the occasion in a tuxedo, but you get the combined experience of the musicians led by conductor, Alexander Platt, as they introduce the instruments of the orchestra and make the music come alive.

Students experience the excitement and joy of attending a live symphony orchestra in a real concert hall and will become familiar with individual instruments, the different sections of the orchestra, different movements of the piece of music being presented; leaving with a better understanding of how all of it works together to become a symphony.


To register for the LSO Symphony for Youth Program,
send an email with your contact information:
Kelly Zimmerman, Symphony for Youth Project Manager
La Crosse Symphony Orchestra
You will get a packet of information and a registration form.

Registration Deadline: November 14, 2016
Cost: $4 per person (student or teacher)
Concert Date: March 16th, 2017
Performance Times: 11:00 am, 12:15 am, and 1:30 am.

The program is geared toward students in 3rd through 5th grades
and is held at Viterbo University Fine Arts Center in La Crosse.
More info here:

2017 LSO Symphony for Youth Concert will feature pieces composed by Sergei Prokofiev: Finale from “The Classical Symphony” and Peter and the Wolf.

Sergey Prokofiev (1891-1953)
Symphony No. 1 in D major, Op. 25, Classical

Prokofiev was a composer caught between two cultures. Born into an affluent musical family, he left the Soviet Union in the summer of 1918, shortly after the 1917 Revolution. For the next 17 years he lived in Paris and toured the United States, returning to his native country in the mid-1930s never to leave again.

Royal Ballet School,1995. Choreography by Matthew Hart. Narrator: Anthony Dowell. Music by Sergei Prokofiev

The year 1917 was a traumatic one for Russia. The February Revolution had deposed the Tsar, and the October Revolution brought the Bolsheviks to power. Meanwhile, on the international front, Russia was losing disastrously in its war against the central powers, Germany and Austria. In the spring and summer of that year Prokofiev retired to a village not far from Petrograd (now and formerly St. Petersburg) and, as if oblivious to the earth-shattering turmoil around him, composed at a furious pace. Among the creations of that period was his sunny Symphony No. 1, which he subtitled “The Classical.”

The Symphony was an experiment. An accomplished pianist, Prokofiev routinely composed at the piano, although he noticed: “…thematic material composed without the piano was often better in quality…I was intrigued with the idea of writing an entire symphonic piece without the piano…So this was how the project of writing a symphony in the style of Haydn came about…it seemed it would be easier to dive into the deep waters of writing without the piano if I worked in a familiar setting.” This delicate, nostalgic Symphony premiered in Petrograd in April 1918 amidst civil war and social upheaval with the composer on the podium.

Even with the Russian Revolution raging in the background, the Symphony No. 1, was Prokofiev’s result – a wonderfully light-hearted symphony, full of humor and whimsy and a certain amount of impertinence for the Classical form. And for great romping fun, the Finale is a kind of finale to end all finales – rollickingly fast and breathless — it plays like a brief virtuoso concerto for each section of the orchestra.  The whole effect of the Classical Symphony is of smiles and delight, and makes it a classic in its own right.

Prokofiev, started composing this piece in 1916, and finished it in 1917. It is written in loose imitation of the style of Haydn (and to a lesser extent, Mozart), and is widely known as the Classical Symphony, a name given to it by the composer. It premiered on April 21, 1918, conducted by Prokofiev himself and has become one of his most popular and beloved works.

Peter and the Wolf [Sergei Prokofiev] by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe and the Spitting Image Workshop.

To impress your friends and maybe get a little music education into your kids, here’s some things you can dazzle them with before you get seated.

  • Symphony comes from the Greek for harmonious
  • Orchestra refers the chorus that was used in ancient Greek theatre to comment on the action of the play, as well as the area of the stage in which the chorus was situated.
  • A ‘symphony’ is an extended piece of classical music, usually in four movements, written for orchestras with full percussion sections, piano, harp, bassoons, oboes, an organ, a special guy to play the triangle, etc.
  • Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, which contains the famous “Ode to Joy” calls for: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, French horn, trumpet, timpani, violin I and violin II, viola, cello, bass viol, and a full chorus with solo soprano, alto, tenor, and bass vocalists.
  • Orchestra is used to describe a musical group that includes a wind, percussion, and string section—specifically violins, violas, cellos, and basses. If there are no strings, it’s a band with a fancy name, like wind symphony or concert band or Coldplay).
  • All symphonies are orchestras, but only the big orchestras are symphonies.
  • An orchestra becomes a symphony orchestra, or just symphony, for short. Symphony orchestras have four sections of instruments: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion.
  • A full-sized modern orchestra consists of more than one hundred musicians usually playing anywhere from eighteen to twenty-five different kinds of instruments.
  • Within these sections there are groups of instruments that are also called “sections”: the viola section is part of the string section, for example, and the trumpet section is part of the brass section. Other instruments, such as the saxophone and the guitar, are added if they’re needed.
  • Among the regular members of an orchestra, not everybody plays all the time: for any one piece, the kinds and (especially in the case of the woodwinds and brass) numbers of instruments on stage depend on what the composer has specifically called for in the music.

Sergei Prokofiev’s “Peter and the Wolf.” Conducted by Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic.

Here’s Peter and the Wolf in Japanese:

“Music is the universal language of mankind.”
― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow


La Crosse Symphony Orchestra
201 Main Street, Suite 230
La Crosse, WI 54601
Phone: 608-783-2121


Artips – Free Art History Resource

Here’s a great little resource to learn art history.

Artips is a free art history newsletter sent out three times a week.

Artips is short and sweet.

Whether you’re an expert or an amateur, Artips brings more art into your life.

Their stories are free, fast and fun. Each takes only a minute to read and is accessible on any device (phone, tablet or computer) at any time.

More than 200 specialists hunt non-stop to uncover secrets about the great masters and eye-opening details about works of art from Antiquity to modern times. Every Artip is validated by their resident Art History specialist before it arrives in your inbox to enlighten your day!

Want to see what Artips looks like? Check out these examples.
American Gothic

Grant Wood’s “American Gothic” with it’s pitchfork and no smiles incensed the locals of the day. Read more by clicking the image.

Édouard Manet

Manet, Monet, and Renoir battled it out on beautiful summer day in 1874. Read more by clicking the image.

It’s a nice little freebie for your brain.


Tri-State Homeschool Drama, The Wizard of Oz, in Platteville

Tri-State Homeschool Drama Troupe’s
production of
“The Wizard of Oz”

Oct 27, 28, 29, and Nov 4 at 7:00 pm
Oct 29 and Nov 5 at 1:00 pm

City Municipal building, 75 N. Bronson St., Platteville WI

General admission at the door:
$10 / Adults,   $5 / Students

The Tri-State Homeschool Drama Troupe under the direction of Susan Cramer is proud to present the musical “The Wizard of Oz” based on the beloved classic film of the same name. The cast of more than 70 Tri-state area students consisting of homeschoolers 4th grade to 2016 high school graduates will appear on-stage at the Platteville Municipal Auditorium for six performances during the last weekend of October and first weekend of November. Concessions will be sold before the shows and at intermission. Come and support live theater!

Andrew Arevalo (from left), Seth Enz, Shannon Doan and Peter Humphries, of the Tri-State Homeschool Drama Troupe, will present “The Wizard of Oz.” (Contributed Photo)

A message from Director Susan Cramer:

“We have been having a wonderful time working in Oz this fall! There are 64 area homeschoolers, over 180 costumes, and hundreds and hundreds of hours of work in this production. The kids look great!”


Gloria Homeschool Choir 2016 Auditions and Concert Schedule


The Gloria Home-School Choir is an organization of home-schooled singers ranging in age from 12 years and up. Their purpose is to glorify God through skillful and artistic music presentations while teaching students the art of proper singing and musicianship. The director is Dennis Baldridge; accompanist, Jane Baldridge.

Learn more about the Gloria Choir.

Gloria Choir is now accepting new applications for the 2016 Christmas concert season!

Invite your friends to audition for the choir! Share this post!

Below you will find a link to the application, a tentative schedule with potential dates to save for the rehearsals and performances.

The typical age is 12 and up, but younger students with exceptional music abilities will be considered on a case by case basis.

It is expected that choir members will be able to sing on pitch.

Dues will be the same for 2016 ($15/student, $40 maximum per family).

What to expect at your audition:

  1. Sing the melody of a well-known hymn (your choice) with piano accompaniment.
  2. You will be asked to vocalize on “la” from low to high to verify your singing range.
  3. You will be asked to sing back several short melodic phrases to test your vocal matching and tonal memory.

(Yes, you may practice before you come!)

Tentative Choir Schedule:

Rehearsals – Thursday evenings, 6:30 pm – 8:30 pm, starting October 13th through Dec. 8th


December 9, 2016 Friday Gloria Choir Concert Location TBA 7 pm & 9:00 am ? (WRCO)

December 10, 2016 Saturday Gloria Choir Concert Location TBA 6:30 pm

December 13, 2016 Friday Gloria Choir Concert Location TBA 7 pm

December 15, 2016 Friday Gloria Choir Concert Location TBA 6 pm

Please let Dennis and Jane Baldridge know by September 8th, 2016 if you are planning to participate.

Applications are available at this link:

All potential new members will be contacted to schedule their audition before rehearsals begin so mail/e-mail your application soon.

Dennis and Jane Baldridge

Invite your friends to audition for the Gloria Choir – Share this post!

Dance Concert brings Words from Seuss to Gatsby to Life

Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts Dance Repertory Company (DRC) has delighted the Winona community with quality dance productions, featuring local dancers in classical and contemporary works for more than four decades.

The DRC is the pre-professional performance group of the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts (MCA). Company members participate in rehearsals, technique classes, and stage performances.

For the annual spring concert this year, the Minnesota Conservatory for the Arts Dance Repertory Company presents a production inspired by literature, entitled Words in Motion.  Inspiration for this year’s program includes:

  • Dr. Seuss’s Oh, the Places You’ll Go, The Butter Battle, and The Sneetches
  • A quote by Ludwig van Beethoven
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby
  • Minnesota author Peg Meier’s book Wishing for a Snow Day

Words in Motion, 
will feature pieces from numerous genres of dance including hip hop, modern, jazz, tap, contemporary ballet and pointe. 

The concert promises delightful choreography performed by an equally delightful company of student dancers.

As a special treat for audience members, Winona’s independent bookseller, The Bookshelf will have a variety of books related to the dance concert available for purchase.

A portion of book purchase proceeds will be donated to MCA to support the dancers and production costs.

Words in Motion will be held 7:30 p.m. Friday, April 15, and 3 p.m. Saturday, April 16, in Saint Mary’s University’s Page Theatre.

Read on to learn more about the pieces and what their choreographer has to say about their inspiration and creative process.

Continue reading

5 Ways Homeschoolers Can Learn from Star Wars

star wars episode 7 the force awakensUnless you’re living in a black hole, you‘ve heard about the new Star Wars film, The Force Awakens.

With brand new characters, a larger storyline, and ginormous space things, the sense of surprise and adventure in the brand new movie will be pulling people into theaters for some outrageous fun entertainment this month.

{Bonus: Scroll down for a few fun links and free Star Wars themed resources for your homeschool.}


I’m Luke Skywalker. I’m here to rescue you.”

Star Wars
is a classic coming of age story of an idealistic young adventurer, a reluctant hero, a plucky damsel in distress, and the fight between the forces of good and evil. It has achieved the familiarity of the timeless stories of King Arthur, Beowulf, and The Odyssey.

Star Wars was groundbreaking for it’s

The world before Star War was so different than it is now — no cell phones, the space program was over, there were no personal computers and the internet was years away. Even home video had not caught on. We had economic inflation, rising oil prices, political cynicism. Movies themselves were dark and violent.

So, besides light sabers, droids, Jedi knights, the Millennium Falcon, and Yoda …

What can homeschoolers learn from the Star Wars saga?  

obi wanYou’ve taken your first step into a larger world.” ~ Obi Wan Kenobi

Learning is all around you. Let the world be your classroom. You never know when teaching moments may come. Preparing a meal together or running errands are still valid times for learning.

“Traveling through hyperspace ain’t like dusting crops, farm boy.” ~ Han Solo

The rules are yours. Feel free to break out of the box of the traditional education model to make the environment that works best for your family.
You don’t have to restrict schooling to sitting at a desk between certain daytime hours.oct410

“Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi, you’re my only hope.” ~ Princess Leia

Learn from others who have gone before you in this learning adventure.  Here are few you can trust:  The Old SchoolhouseLee Binz / The HomeScholarJanice Campbell / Everyday Education, Diane Lockman / The Classical Scholar, Felice Gerwitz / Ultimate Homeschool Radio Network


“Laugh it up, Fuzz ball.” ~ Han Solo

Your school day may not go according to your school plan. You can’t schedule sick days, but you can work around them. There will be good days and bad days. Homeschooling is a bit like a roller coaster: Enjoy the ride.

Remember…the force will be with you always.” ~ Obi Wan Kenobi

There is no single right way to homeschool. In the same way that each child (even in your own family) learns differently, your homeschool will look different than others. Have the courage to let go of a curriculum or a schedule when it’s not working. Love is the powerful force that brought you to homeschooling and will follow you through if you just stay the course.

In the end, homeschooling may seem like a series of complicated maneuvers, but in time it’ll come easier than bullseyeing womprats in your T-16.light sabrs


And because I always like to give you a little bit more….

Free Star Wars Homeschool Resources Page


Star Wars Empire of Dreams The documentary of the original Star Wars Movie Trilogy
Get ready for the biggest movie of the decade with this outstanding documentary made back in 2004. This 2 Hrs. 30 Min. documentary covers in chronological order the making of the original Star Wars trilogy: Star Wars (1977), The Empire Strikes Back (1980), and Return of the Jedi (1983). Starting with George Lucas’s promising beginnings as a film student and following through his creative journey to make his vision a reality, this inspiring documentary features interviews with Lucas and his many collaborators who helped make Star Wars a blockbuster movie franchise and a cultural phenomenon. Feel the force and gear up for a journey to a galaxy far, far away with this documentary available on YouTube.


How to Make Your Own Lightsaber –Science Friday looked into one DIY approach, and got some best practice tips from its designer. The project is a quick lesson in building electronics, and provides the opportunity to be creative with your end product.

Might as well make the most of it — Fortuigence give your family’s Star Wars fans the opportunity to play the movie critic by using the film to develop critical thinking and practice writing!

Just for fun — Star Wars Snowflakes templates and video tutorials can be found here.

Cello Wars (Star Wars Parody) Lightsaber Duel – ThePianoGuys

May the Force of Homeschooling Be with You!

Meet & Listen to Gloria Home School Choir Recorded Live on WRCO

By now, many of you have heard the Gloria Home School Choir, which is an organization of home-schooled singers ranging in age from 12 years and up.

Since beginning in 2012, the Choir presents concerts in the winter and the spring, singing traditional and classic pieces representative of the Christmas and Easter season.

They connect as one voice to create a joyful noise to glorify God.

It’s a local tradition to feature the Gloria Home School Choir on the WRCO Morning Show. The most recent show was live on Dec. 4th, 2015.

If you are not in the Richland Center listening area, or missed the show, you have a chance to get a taste of the Choir  through the recorded presentation for a limited time.

The recording will be up for one week so you can listen to it now or download the 42 minute interview for later…

Here’s a sample from the show:

gloria christmas concerts

Enjoy a little Christmas spirit and embrace the talents of local community homeschoolers during one of their scheduled Christmas performances:

  • December 11, 2015 7pm Faith Independence Baptist Church, Ontario, WI
  • December 12, 2015 7pm First Baptist Church, Richland Center, WI
  • December 15, 2015 2:30pm, VA Hospital, Tomah, WI
  • December 15, 2015 7pm, United Methodist church, Tomah, WI
  • December 17, 2015 6:30 pm, Hillsboro Library

The concerts are free; however free will offerings will help the choir purchase sheet music.  The director is Dennis Baldridge; accompanist, Jane Baldridge.

Embrace beautiful music, extra joy for the season, and talents of young people.

The Gloria Home School Choir is out to make a powerful sound for Christ.

Online Animation and Drawing Classes Taught by a Homeschool Dad

animation class
Chad Stewart, former Disney animator and homeschool Dad is offering online animation and drawing classes.

Chad has been a professional animator for the past 26 years, working in the traditional hand-drawn style to animate Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove and Fantasia 2000, and animating on the computer for Polar Express, Open Season and Surf’s Up.

Now he teaches students online, offering a 12 week online animation course for 11-18 year olds and an online drawing class for multiple ages.

Sessions start in the Spring, Summer, and Fall with each session running 12 weeks.

Weekly classes are one hour long and the cost is $300 for the full 12 weeks.

Each class meets live for one hour a week in an Adobe Connect virtual classroom where the students interact directly with the teacher. For each assignment there is a You Tube video to walk you through the drawing process. Homework can range from 2-6 hours depending on the complexity of your animation projects. Students get a custom critique on projects with technical pointers and encouragement.

Through the 4 levels in the course, your student will learn the 12 principals of animation, dive into physical locomotion and acting, learn storyboarding and make a movie!

The next session starts January 25, 2016.

Enrollment is limited to 20 students per class, so they tend to fill up very quickly, but you can hold your child’s spot with a non-refundable $50 registration fee.

No special software is needed for the weekly classes.

Students will need an animation program for assignments in The Animation Course.  Students can use one of the suggested software programs (2 are free and the other is a professional level program which you can buy at a  50% discount) or another one.

No software is needed for the assignments with the Drawing Course.

Animation LEVEL 1 Covers:

  • The Principles of Animation
  • Traditional Hand Drawn Animation
  • Computer Generated Animation
  • Joint Critiques of Student Work
  • Animation History
  • “How did they do that?” – Explanation of Visual Effects

Drawing LEVEL 1 Covers:

  • Perspective & How to “See”
  • Texture & Line and Shape
  • Design
  • Light, Shadow & Silhouette
  • introduction to “Creating a Character”
  • and much more


Chad animation class small logoand Kayla Stewart