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Wharton Center and MSUFCU create an artistic crescendo

with the MSUFCU Institute for Arts & Creativity

As but one example, the MSUFCU Institute produces curriculum-based performances using MSU Theater students.  Theory of the Mind, a play for middle and high school students about autism, was supported by two community groups.

The MSU Federal Credit Union endowment brings the enriching power of the performing arts to thousands.

Educators learned how to integrate dance with literacy.

Lansing children at risk had their first exposure to Broadway on the stage and through extended learning back in their classrooms.

Osteopathic residents at MSU explored the doctor-patient relationship using the arts as a catalyst.

Audience members for more than 20 performances this season will have the opportunity to attend a free half-hour preview lecture presented by an academic expert.

And promising young thespians were immersed in six days of training with performers from the internationally renowned Stratford Shakespeare Festival of Canada.

All this and more is being offered by MSU’s Wharton Center for Performing Arts thanks to a gift from the MSU Federal Credit Union. Back in 2008, the board of directors of the MSUFCU made a transformational gift to Wharton Center.

Their $2.25 million gift funded an endowment and created the MSU Federal Credit Union Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center. Now in its third year, the institute’s educational programming—including children’s theatre for schools and families, a playwriting festival and a professional development series—has experienced tremendous growth, furthering its mission to be a statewide resource for arts education.

Thanks to the vision of the MSUFCU, Wharton Center offers enrichment opportunities above and beyond anything presented previously. In the 2010-11 season alone, the institute’s programming reached more than 29,000 learners. Among them were MSU students in disciplines as seemingly disparate as labor relations and poetry, and community members of all ages.

“The MSUFCU board of directors and management are extremely pleased with how many students’ lives have been positively impacted by their involvement and study with the institute,” says Patrick McPharlin, MSUFCU president. “Each year the number of programs grows and the institute is able to reach more students, both locally and statewide, to inspire them and create life-changing moments through music, dance and theatre.”

Wharton Center has a long history of presenting quality programs. For almost 30 years, the center has generated national prominence for its success with touring Broadway megahits and sold-out sensations, making producers, performers and patrons turn their attention toward mid-Michigan.

However, at its core, Wharton Center is more than a space to entertain; it is a place to educate, engage and inspire.

With funding from the MSUFCU’s endowment, performing artists are now invited for multi-day visits, to share expertise and insights on creativity during close interaction with youth and lifelong learners. In September this artist-in-residence program partnered with the College of Music to welcome music icon Wynton Marsalis, music director and trumpet player for the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra.

The MSUFCU Institute for Arts & Creativity has enabled Wharton Center to greatly expand collaborative partnerships with MSU colleges and departments, community organizations around the state and with national entities like the Broadway League and Kennedy Center for Performing Arts.

These partnerships have a dual advantage of fostering arts and creativity in communities as well as within the academic life of MSU.

“The MSUFCU Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center provides a crucial link between the university and local communities,” says Bob Groves, vice president for University Advancement. “The MSUFCU’s foresight and generosity is enabling people from all over Michigan to benefit from MSU’s vast resources in performing arts, while also greatly expanding the experiences of our students.”

This link can easily be seen in how the institute enables Wharton Center to produce curriculum based performances for school children using MSU Theatre students. Last season, students traveled to 15 communities to perform the Jack Sprat Low-Fat World Tour, a children’s musical about nutrition and healthy bodies.

Back at Wharton Center, others performed Theory of Mind, a unique play that addressed autism in a very tangible way for area middle and high school students.

Programming is being offered throughout Michigan, but particularly in areas not already served by other performing arts facilities including in the Mid- Michigan, West Michigan and Traverse Bay regions.

Many of these programs, whether at Wharton Center or in community venues, target economically challenged schools where the arts have been eliminated. For many of these students, the institute provides their first experience of the arts.

Through the MSUFCU endowment and additional private support, free scholarship tickets are available for many performances as well as a subsidy for busing.

“The MSU Federal Credit Union endowment ensures that arts and creativity will always have a home on the MSU campus,” says Michael Brand,

Wharton Center’s executive director, “and Wharton Center will continue fulfilling its mission to enrich the lives of Michigan residents and strengthen the value of arts in everyday life.”

To learn more about the education programs of the MSUFCU Institute for Arts & Creativity at Wharton Center, go to For more information on making a gift to support education programs at Wharton Center, contact Director of Development Doug Miller at (517) 884-3112.