Dr. Theresa Kenney advocates for the arts

by Megan Stingle

Dr. Theresa Anne Kenney wants to bring vibrancy back to Milwaukee’s culture.

As a Concordia University Wisconsin professor, Kenney advises graphic design students, maintains art labs, is the liaison for the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, and is the university’s art gallery director. She also participates in nonprofit organizations and is the president of the Milwaukee Public Theater.

Kenney said the arts are important for Milwaukee’s culture, and the university’s students are appropriate candidates to contribute to that culture.

“The students that I work with, many come from rural areas or small Lutheran schools. There is not a lot of art in these schools. So, they come in and they’re like ‘Well, I didn’t have that class…’ and they’re very innocent and a little bit naive, but they have talent. And it’s tough to tell their parents that they’re going to go to school for art, and they have to be courageous. They put it all on the line. Once you get them up to speed, and they can see how good they really are and they have the tools to show it, it’s like magic,” Kenney said.

For Kenney, the most important aspect of her university role is to provide students with individual attention. She said she nurtures students so they are ready to function at a high level in the real world.

However, Kenney’s long-term goal for the university’s art department is to gain more recognition.

“We have a nice department, but I don’t think it’s valued and put out there in terms of marketing. Our students have an excellent employment rate. More so than a lot of other schools. To the point that close to 95% of our students actually work in the arts. That’s huge. And it’s because we take so much time to make sure that they are prepared. I think a lot of students could benefit from what we’re doing, if they just knew about us,” Kenny said.

Despite lack of advertising, Kenney continues to push the art department and promote its programs.

“It’s difficult for the arts. But, is that saying that we shouldn’t have Christian artists out there? Of course we should. This is what life is all about,” Kenney said.

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