While many schools continue to provide arts programming in the face of budget restrictions, it has become an increasingly important part of the area’s not-for-profit community to provide outreach to schools which may be lacking. Some organizations focus all their efforts on providing artistic outlets and recognition for the youth of our city. FAME, the Foundation for Art and Music in Education, is decidedly one of those organizations.
Now in her seventh year as FAME’s Executive Director, Teresa “T” Irmscher (she has almost never been called Teresa) has brought a background in media to her position and continues to strive to enrich the opportunities for Fort Wayne’s young artists to shine.
A graduate of Concordia High School, Irmscher attended college in Missouri, majoring in broadcast communications. That led to a job at NBC33, one which lasted six years. When the station’s ownership change led to a merger with WPTA, many, including Irmscher, lost their jobs. But before that happened, her work in promotions – which led to a large network of contacts in the not-for-profit world – helped lead to her next position with the American Cancer Society. It was there she learned a thing or two about organizing large events.
“I think my favorite thing about my job at the American Cancer Society was the Making Strides Against Breast Cancer walk every October. Having so many people gather at the park, being so happy and excited to walk, was really great.”
FAME had already become important to her before this career shift, thanks to a stint on its board of directors. She was no longer on the board when the directorship opened, but she had remained close to those who were still serving on it. She had moved back to Missouri for a time when a friend said, “Hey ‘T,’ did you know FAME is hiring a director?”
“I decided to go for it, though the title ‘executive director’ is a little overwhelming. But I decided to try for it anyway. I’ve always loved the arts. Visual arts especially, but all the arts – dance, music – I love it all. And I believe in serving the community.”
FAME, founded in 1987, was the vision of Dorothy Kittaka, who saw the erosion of arts funding in public schools and hoped to fill that void. Under her leadership for more than 20 years, FAME grew tremendously, and its annual festival has become a major event since its first outing in 1988, becoming the largest single event each year at the Grand Wayne Center. Irmscher says taking over the position after such stellar leadership put her in a good position to move the organization forward.
“Dorothy was here for years and years and then Beth Peter served as part-time director, and they left it in good shape, so I walked into something that was already going strong. My job is to keep it that way.”
In addition to the annual festival, FAME also runs children’s arts classes and summer camps. Irmscher says the goal is to “keep the arts strong and bring out the artist in every child.”
The festival earlier this year provided a merging of arts, math and science, providing a partnership with Science Central to combine artistic expression with the study of space. The Star Lab planetarium was particularly popular, and Mark Phenicie’s Steampunk Spaceship provided a perfect example of cross-disciplines. The next festival, March 19-20, has been designated as an official event of Indiana’s bicentennial celebration.
“We just got the word that we’re an official event for bicentennial, so our theme in March will be Artfully Celebrating Indiana. We’re bringing in a storytelling mime, and I’m really looking forward to seeing what that’s like. We’ll have the Miami Indians coming in also to demonstrate bead work, and the Hearthstone Ensemble will be performing. All of the art projects in the Imaginarium will be Indiana based, and we’ll have 200 singers perform a song specifically created for the FAME Festival and the Indiana Bicentennial.”
One of the most significant changes during her tenure as director has been FAME’s move from their offices at IPFW to the Auer Center for Arts & Culture where they joined Fort Wayne Ballet, Artlink and Arts United as tenants.
“We were at IPFW for three or four years, and we were very appreciative of them for having us. But in the end, we couldn’t turn down the opportunity to be downtown and be part of the arts campus down here. It’s been a godsend for us since it’s easier to collaborate with other organizations down here. It’s been a nice move for us.”
Irmscher is the sole employee of FAME (with the exception of a part-time accountant who sees to the books), which sounds like an overwhelming task. But in the end, she says, FAME is as collaborative within the organization as it is with other organizations. And she credits the board on which she once served with making the work she and FAME do possible.
“Our board works very well together. No one can get to every single event, but our board is there to support us at everything we do,” she says. “They all work very hard, and I think we are very good together. I’m very lucky to have the board that I have.”
Thursday, April 27
Click on the headings below for full calendars
Click header for complete Things To Do calendar
Community Unity — Community dinner, games and prizes, and neighborhood safety forum, 6-8 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Jennings Recreation Center, Fort Wayne, free, 427-6028
Issues and Ales — Panel of experts discuss important issues in the community with audience Q&A , 7-9 p.m. Wednesday, April 26, Calhoun Street Soups, Salads and Spirits, Fort Wayne, free, 456-7005
Click header for complete On the Road calendar
Click header for complete Music & Comedy calendar
Chris Worth — Variety at Nick's Martini & Wine Bar, Fort Wayne, 7:30 p.m., no cover, 482-6425
Fort Wayne Comedy Connection — Comedy at Latch String Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., no cover, 483-5526
Hubie Ashcraft — Acoustic at River View Tavern, Decatur, 7-10 p.m., no cover, 724-3500
Open Mic — Hosted by Mike Mowry at Pedal City, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-12 a.m., no cover, 415-6167
Click header for complete Karaoke & DJs calendar
Classic City Karaoke w/Bryan Lee — Karaoke at Pine Valley Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 8:30 p.m., no cover, 490-9464
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Brian — Variety at AJ's Bar and Grill, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 434-1980
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/Josh — Karaoke at Columbia Street West, Fort Wayne, 9:30 p.m., no cover, 422-5055
Fort Wayne Karaoke w/TJ — Variety at Chevvy's, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m., ,
Karaoke w/Bucca — Variety at Wrigley Field Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 10 p.m., no cover, 485-1038
Karaoke with Rooster — Variety at By: Belle Haven, South Whitley, 8 p.m., no cover, 866-716-9243
Shooting Star Prod. w/Stu — Variety at Office Tavern, Fort Wayne, 8 p.m., no cover, 478-5827
Shut Up and Sing — Karaoke at Duesy's Sports Bar, Fort Wayne, 7-11 p.m., no cover, 483-5681
Three Rivers Karaoke — at Dupont Bar & Grill, Fort Wayne, 9 p.m.-1 a.m., no cover, 483-1311
Click header for complete Stage & Dance calendar
Little Shop of Horrors — IPFW Department of Theatre performance of Alan Menken-Howard Ashman musical comedy, 8 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, April 26-29, Williams Theatre, IPFW, Fort Wayne, $5-$18, 481-6555
Click header for complete Movie times
Click header for complete Art calendar
37th National Print Exhibition — Juried exhibition featuring contemporary printmakers from around the nation, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
41st SOCA Student Exhibition — Works from students currently enrolled at USF’s School of Creative Arts, daily thru April 30, Weatherhead Gallery, USF Rolland Art Center, University of Saint Francis, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Echolilia — Works from Timothy Archibald and his autistic son, Eli, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Diane Allen Groenert — Exhibition of local artist’s Downtown Series and new works, Monday-Saturday thru June 24, West Central Microcreamery & Cafe, Fort Wayne, 415-9293
Expressions of Existence — An exhibition of works by artists through history, including Jackson Pollock, Andy Warhol, Francisco Goya and others whose works have been influenced by disabilities, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
Fort Wayne Artist Guild Exhibitions — Works by Alice Siefert at Aldersgate United Methodist Church, Jennifer Caudel at Allen County Retinal Surgeons, Anita Trick, Citizens Square (2nd and 3rd floors), Darlene Selzer Miller at The Einhaus Group for Women’s Health, Patricia Weiss at Heritage of Fort Wayne, Emily Jane Butler at Ophthalmology Consultants (Southwest), Linda Binek at Ophthalmology Consultants (North), Carolyn Stachera at Rehabilitation Hospital of Fort Wayne, John Kelty at ResCare Inc. Adult Day Service, Wiletta Blevins at Town House Retirement, Karen Bixler at Visiting Nurse Hospice and Barb Yoder and Karen Harvey at Will Jewelers, thru April 30, fortwayneartistguild.org.
Fort Wayne Photographers Club — Exhibition featuring local photographers, Tuesday-Sunday thru April 30, Foellinger-Freimann Botanical Conservatory, Fort Wayne, $3-$5 (2 and under, free), 427-6440
Glass: A Medium in Art and Automobiles — Dale Chihuly blown glass and fiberglass auto, daily thru Sept. 8, Auburn Cord Duesenberg Museum, Auburn, $7.50-$12.50, 925-1444
Jan Krist-Finkbeiner — Exhibition of ceramic reliefs, Tuesday-Sunday thru May 5, Artlink Contemporary Art Gallery, Fort Wayne, 424-7195
Kathy Funderburg & Diane Schafer-King — Acrylic paintings (Funderburg) and works in marbled paper and fabric (Schaefer-King), Monday-Saturday thru April 29, Orchard Gallery of Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 436-0927
Outdoor Sculpture Invitational — Fifteen outdoor sculptures from regional artists, daily thru April 30, School of Creative Arts campus, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Rhoda Gerig: The Hope of Eagles — Photographic images of eagles, daily thru June 4, Clark Gallery, Honeywell Center, Wabash, 563-1102
Sharon — An exhibition of Leon Borensztein photographs chronicling the struggles he faced raising his severely disabled daughter, Tuesday-Sunday thru June 11, Fort Wayne Museum of Art, $6-$8 (members, free), 422-6467
SOCA Graduate Program: Student Highlights — Juried exhibition of works by students enrolled in USF’s School of Creative Arts graduate program, Monday-Friday thru April 30, Lupke Gallery, University of Saint Francis North Campus, Fort Wayne, 399-7999
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Exhibition of works by IPFW graduation seniors, daily thru May 3 , Jeffrey R. Krull Gallery, Main Library, Allen County Public Library, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring 2017 BFA Exhibition — Senior thesis projects from Bachelor of Fine Arts candidates Brenda Drayer (sculpture), Derek Hibbs (printmaking), Ellen Mensch (painting), Nathaniel Morris (sculpture) and Kyle Snodgrass (sculpture), daily thru May 7, Visual Arts Gallery, IPFW, Fort Wayne, 481-6709
Spring Palette — New original works by more than 50 nationally recognized artists, Tuesday-Saturday and by appointment thru April 30, Castle Gallery Fine Art, Fort Wayne, 426-6568