Oct. 10, Maryo Gard-Ewell

Maryo Gard-Ewell – “No Mute Inglorious Milton: The Arts and the Wisconsin Idea”

Photo of Maryo Gard-Ewell
Maryo Gard Ewell

Maryo Gard Ewell worked for more than 20 years in arts administration, in Connecticut, Illinois and Colorado; her special field during most of that time was the symbiotic relationship between arts programs and community development.
Since her retirement in 2003 from the Colorado Council on the Arts, she has worked as a consultant, conference organizer and speaker in community-and-arts development, in Idaho, South Dakota, Georgia, Ohio, Arkansas and her birth-state of Wisconsin, as well as in Colorado.

Click here to view actual lecture from October 10th.

4 thoughts on “Oct. 10, Maryo Gard-Ewell”

  1. What a delightful change-up, and so appropriate, to have Maryo Gard-Ewell forgo the usual PowerPoint format and instead incorporate Reader’s Theater to bring the quotes and views in her presentation to life. It just fit the topic of “The Arts & the Wisconsin Idea” so well; having performers bring the personas to life added dimension and interest to her presentation.

    And what a perfect time for her to give the presentation right in the middle of Fermentation Fest – a celebration of Arts of all types taking place in the nearby Reedsburg Area running October 6-8 and Oct. 13-15, over the weekends before and after her talk. A perfect and most timely illustration of how vibrant rural arts of all types are in Wisconsin.
    “Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence is an annual celebration of live culture in all its forms, from dance to yogurt, poetry to sauerkraut. Presented by Reedsburg, WI-based Wormfarm Institute, Fermentation Fest brings together farmers, chefs, artists, poets and performers in the beautiful working lands of Sauk County, WI for tastings, demonstrations, cooking classes, art events, performances, food carts and more.” https://fermentationfest.com/

    The important idea of this talk, I think, is that no matter how great and important an idea may be – be it the Wisconsin Idea or any idea – the communication of that idea in as many different forms is crucial to disseminating and expanding it. It is important that the idea be broadcast in as many different forms as possible: not just the spoken word, but song, dance, graphic arts, tactile, aural, even kinesthetic. The heart of communication is reaching people in the various ways they perceive and think. And the translation from one form to another helps refine – sift & winnow – the communication.

    The anecdote about “Let’s Draw” actually being less effect on TV, because the visual was actually stifled the creative drawing process, is an excellent example of how the translation from spoken to graphic adds creative dimensions, and that going straight from visual to visual does not allow for those mental enrichment processes.

    The idea of teaching using various arts also turns back on itself in Bertolt Brecht’s concept of theater:
    “A theatre which would fuse entertainment and instruction. This theatre would offer models of life that would help the audience to understand social environment.”
    But maybe it’s not so surprising that Brecht and the Wisconsin Idea share some core ideas, since they were both produced in the same political epoch and environment. To teach is to entertain, and to entertain is also to teach.

    1. Thank you for addressing the role that communication played in the success of the arts that Maryo shared. Did we see another example of this with the Debate Society? I believe it was mentioned that after the debate was completed verbally, the resources used during the debate were kept in book form. This helped to preserve information from around the country (or, perhaps the world) after the debates finished.

      I enjoyed hearing Maryo speak about “Let’s Draw” and the success that this program had over the radio. As a future occupational therapist, I’ve had the opportunity to learn about the benefits of incorporating many senses into tasks. Do you think there are any programs similar to “Let’s Draw” left in existence? I remember in my earlier years, my art classes consisted mostly of me attempting to copy the teacher’s example. How enriching it would have been to form my own images! Thank you for sharing.

  2. Maryo Gard-Ewell told the story of how the University of Wisconsin’s art programs are “shining examples” of the Wisconsin Idea. I will preface this post by saying that I had trouble catching the many names mentioned in her talk. I will be sharing the stories of individuals who I feel she stressed clearly in her talk. The first major individual introduced in her talk was “Pop” Gordon, who believed that the arts could induce men to forget their differences. Eventually, Pop ran a weekly broadcast on WHA that shared music. However, his broadcast was unique in that he encouraged listeners to stand up and sing the songs he shared – “America the Beautiful” in particular. Later, Pop taught children’s choir over the radio, reaching a peak of 70,000 children. The use of radio in this way was revolutionary. WHA later would sponsor festivals for children to come together and sing, in the hopes of combatting juvenile delinquency and family degeneration.
    Maryo later shifted focus to the visual arts, sharing a quote from Russell that stated “governments don’t build up civilizations, that is done by citizens.” He contributed to incorporating the visual arts into agriculture to help recognize native talent. Curry also contributed to this mission, and believed that art was able to preserve the culture of farming. He traveled the state and discovered farmers and families who wanted to make art. His focus on personal vision over technique allowed for truly unique art forms that were showcased in a 1940 art exhibit in Memorial Union. Finally, Maryo speaks of her father, Gard, who encouraged farmers and their families to create their own plays. The Wisconsin Idea Theater was created to capture Wisconsin stories from a variety of perspectives (women, Native Americans, and immigrants). He created the Wisconsin Rural Writer’s Association, which offered help to anyone who wanted feedback on their writing. Within a few days, he had one thousand poems sent to him – and they were above average! Maryo finishes her talk by sharing creativity can lead to democracy, and that art can create new values for individual and community life which will ultimately contribute to a maturity of our nation.
    Phew, that was a long summarization. I think the variety of stories Maryo shared were important to explain before beginning my analysis. First, Maryo’s talk was truly captivating. She shared a narrative filled with direct quotes from individuals which made me better able to understand the topics. How did you enjoy the format of her talk? When she shifted her focus to the work of her dad, Gard, I could hear her passion. Her personal involvement in the Wisconsin Idea Theater seemed to touch her and motivate her to later serve communities in Wisconsin as well. I believe Maryo’s definition of the Wisconsin Idea is something along the lines of “making direct connections with individuals across our state and nation, carrying an excitement to learn the stories of as many people as possible.” Does the definition that I’ve posed relate to your interpretation of her definition of the Wisconsin Idea? I am excited to hear your thoughts!

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