Artist's rendering of street concert.
A year-long expansion and renovation project is nearly complete for Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts (THELMA). When THELMA opens its doors in September, it will be with a new vision and an exciting future for Fond du Lac and the region.
The cornerstone of the Arts and Entertainment District in Downtown Fond du Lac, THELMA is poised to be a regional venue for high-profile concerts such as Montgomery Gentry and Wisconsin Area Music Industry winners Hugh Bob and The Hustle, along with exhibits by prominent artists such as renowned sculptor Novie Trump and the Guggenheim's Hap Tivey, and independent films screened at Sundance Film Festival. THELMA is also Fond du Lac's premier destination for weddings, and social and corporate gatherings.
"The business and community support we have received for this project has been overwhelming," said Kevin Miller, THELMA executive director. "This is an amenity needed in the Fond du Lac area. What people have been asking for is a place to go for experiences typically only found in larger metropolitan areas. We have that at THELMA."
The expansion and renovation project was possible because of the generosity of the Sadoff Family Foundation. The Foundation chose to honor Thelma Sadoff because like her and the warm and comfortable home she provided for her family, THELMA is a distinctive yet comfortable place for the community.
C.D. Smith is the general contractor, with Justin Smith as project manager, and Tom Meiklejohn was the architect on the project. J.F. Ahern and Shea Electric were also instrumental in the construction, as well as numerous subcontractors.
The community will be able to experience all that THELMA offers during the grand opening Sept. 10-14, designated "THELMA Week." The annual Windy Dinner has been redesigned THELMA STYLE and will be the inaugural event at THELMA Tuesday, Sept. 10. Registration is required for this formal event. In lieu of a dinner, guests will tour the new spaces, and enjoy signature wine and artfully arranged dinner stations before a more formal program begins at 7 p.m. The doors open at 5 p.m. for Windy Dinner THELMA STYLE guests.
Every year, the Arts Center has honored one of its patrons at the Windy Dinner. This year's Windy Award winner is Jim Hubbard. Hubbard and his wife, Sharon, will make their return to Fond du Lac to receive the award after having moved to Indiana this summer. Hubbard will be honored for his longtime support of the Arts Center, including his tenure as board president during the economic downturn. It was under his leadership that the expansion and renovation of the Arts Center became a reality.
The evening also includes a live auction to benefit Thelma Sadoff Center for the Arts. Following the auction, there will be an "Afterglow with ArtBoy" (also known as Kevin Miller), which includes dessert and music by renowned blues band, The Jimmys.
The Contemporary Wing
The new, two-level Contemporary Wing will open with a free reception Thursday, Sept. 12 during "THELMA Week," with exhibits from two world-class artists, an indication of what future exhibits can be expected at THELMA. During that time, tours will also be given of the newly redesigned arts center. The evening also includes hors d'oeuvres and cash bars. "We hope that by bringing in prominent national and international artists to THELMA, we can draw people from the region and beyond to come to Fond du Lac. Not only will this help the local economy but local artists can gain a larger audience," Miller shared.
At the opening, guests will experience light and space with Sodium Exchange THELMA. Hap Tivey, whose work can be found in New York, France and Spain, will re-create one of his pieces for THELMA that is part of the permanent collection at the Guggenheim. Tivey's exhibit will be at THELMA until Nov. 10.
Guests will also see the porcelain installations of renowned sculptor Novie Trump. Trump, who has a degree in classical archaeology, is influenced by ancient cultures as she is a master of creating weather-worn sculptures. She will be sharing her technique in a two-day, hands-on workshop, The Art of the Reliquary Master Workshop, at THELMA Sept. 12-13. The workshop is $225 (THELMA members receive 20 percent off). Registration is required. Trump's exhibit, "The Weight of Air," will be at THELMA until Dec. 29.
Beginning Sept. 15, the Contemporary Wing will be open daily from 10:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. except Thursdays when it will remain open until 8 p.m. The galleries are free for THELMA members and children 12 and under. Non-members must pay $5. However, the first Thursday of the month will be free to all.
Concerts and films at THELMA
Concerts and films offered at THELMA give the community choices for entertainment they did not have previously. No longer, will it be necessary to drive to larger cities for high-profile performers because they will be at THELMA. Revenue generated from these events will allow THELMA to host over 100 free events every year, Miller said.
Guests will experience the stunning Great Hall with a screening of The Great Gatsby, Friday, Sept. 13 during "THELMA Week." An updated sound system, bistro tables, comfortable seating, a full-service bar and intermission are part of the THELMA film experience. The bar opens at 7 p.m. and the film starts at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are available at thelmaarts.org, by calling 921-5410, and at the door.
The award-winning country duo Montgomery Gentry will close "THELMA Week" with a party in the street Saturday, Sept. 14. Wisconsin's own The Mantz Brothers, will open for Montgomery Gentry, taking the stage at 6 p.m. Montgomery Gentry will perform at 7:30 p.m. The bars open at 5 p.m. Tickets are available at thelmaarts.org, or 921-5410.
THELMA is Fond du Lac's premier destination for weddings, social gatherings, and corporate events. Under the guidance of interior designers Eppstein Uhen and the brand development of Street Cance, an interior design committee created and capitalized on the unique elements of the Masonic Temple built in 1906. The historic portions have been blended beautifully with the modern amenities necessary for today's standards making the spaces marketable and assisting THELMA in being sustainable. The Contemporary Wing, with its natural light and clean look offers another setting unparalleled in the area.
THELMA has three unique community programs it assists in various ways. Fond du Lac Visual Arts, Children's Chorale and Foot of the Lake Poetry each provide a distinct asset to the community. Updates for these programs are available at thelmaarts.org
THELMA is a membership-driven organization, recently reaching a precedent-setting 1,000 members. The previous high was 600 members. Members enjoy free access to the Contemporary Wing, they are first to learn of upcoming events and receive 20 percent off of tickets.
Other ways to support THELMA and its mission of providing access to the arts is through donations, and sponsorships of concerts and films, Miller said. THELMA is funded through philanthropic sources only so the generosity of others becomes imperative to the sustainability of THELMA, he added.
Impeccable interior design, expanded art classrooms, improved guest amenities and professional service will set THELMA apart in the region, Miller said. Whether it's watching a film on the spacious outdoor Plaza, listening to an intimate concert in the Great Hall or a major concert in the street, or viewing exhibits otherwise not available in this area, there is something for everyone. Click thelmaarts.org to purchase tickets, become a member, donate, or check out what's happening next. There will always be more to see, more to do at THELMA.