The Marie W. Heider Center has become a cultural and artistic landmark in the Coulee area. Located inside West Salem High School, the center features a 650-seat theater as well as ample gallery space to deliver high-quality arts events and educational programs.
The center showcases various styles of artistic expression and offers many opportunities for social, educational and cultural growth. Its educational programming allows school-aged children to attend as part of their school day and aligns with academic goals for specific grade levels. Local artists, dancers and teachers also use the art gallery for public exhibitions and the meeting rooms and dance studio for lessons.
Terri Lenselink is a board member of the Heider Center.
What is the biggest challenge you have had to face in your position at the Heider Center?
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The start of the pandemic has become a very uncertain time for all of us. We had two shows left in our season and we were optimistic that we could reschedule them soon enough. That obviously didn’t happen, and the challenge was how to keep Heider Center viable with the very real possibility of no 2020-21 season.
We were fortunate to have many loyal supporters who continued to donate to us despite the absence of a season. We have also been fortunate to receive grants specifically designed to help non-profit arts organizations like us, including from the La Crosse Community Foundation. Without these resources, I am convinced that the Heider Center would have been forced to close.
We also had a very dedicated director who agreed to have his hours greatly reduced. He did the minimum work necessary to keep us in business. In addition to the financial challenges the pandemic brought, we also had the challenge of continuing to get our message out to people about what the Heider Center is all about, even though we were not actively offering programming.
What is the most rewarding part of your job at the Heider Center?
There are many wonderful aspects to my work with the Heider Center. I am able to work with an outstanding Board of Directors who all have a passion and commitment to the fine arts in general and the Heider Center in particular. We all play an active role in the success of our mission.
In addition to the Board of Directors, I am fortunate to work with two dedicated and talented employees. Our theater manager is Dan Heerts and our business manager is Renee Jandt. Both are part-time employees who devote many hours and talents to ensure the success of the Heider Center.
Another very rewarding part of the job is meeting so many people from all walks of life who come into our theater or art gallery. I appreciate that we put smiles on so many faces and see the wonder on the faces of the children the first time they walk into the theatre. It is a very rewarding feeling to know the good we are doing for our community and the economic prosperity that comes from having a fully functioning arts space in our community.
What is your ideal day off?
Even though I haven’t had a full-time job for several years, I find myself with busy days most of the time. So I always enjoy a real “day off”. My ideal day off includes a nice cup of coffee and a pastry from Linda’s Bakery. I enjoy reading, travel shows (especially the last two years we haven’t been able to travel) and baking. I’m happiest when I have free time in my craft room. I love paper crafts and scrapbooking. Getting lost in the process for hours on end is truly a delight and definitely my “happy place”.