My name is Wendy Harless, I am the new Executive Director, and very excited to be joining the team here at the Partnership for the Arts & Humanities. There are so many wonderful projects currently underway, and I’m ready to jump in with both feet! But first, I thought I should introduce myself to everyone.
I have been a resident of Plymouth Township for a half a century. I am proud to say that I am a product of the Plymouth-Canton school system. I definitely benefited from growing up in this amazing, diverse community. After I graduated from Plymouth Salem, I went on to earn my Bachelor of Fine Arts from the Massachusetts College of Art and Design in Boston, where my major was Illustration. I have been drawing and painting ever since I could hold a pencil. The arts have always been a large part of my life. The arts are the very soul of humanity, allowing us to connect on so many levels. They aren’t just the “icing on the cake”. The arts are a vital component of civilization, helping us to communicate, grow and expand our relationships within our world.
In my formative years, I grew up in a home that was considered “outdated”. Most of my childhood friends lived in the brand-new homes of the suburbs that were springing up around Plymouth-Canton in the 1970s. By contrast, my home was already many decades old with peeling wallpaper and wavy glass windows. I marveled at the rich wood patina, the hidden cupboards under the window seat in the dining room, doors with skeleton keys and glass knobs. I loved “this old house” before there was a television show of that name.
I attempted to learn everything I could about the families who had loved my house before I was born. Who was the family who had chosen this colorful wallpaper with roses? Were they the same people who had planted the perfumed Peonies in the back garden? Were they business owners? Did they enjoy Sundays in Kellogg Park? Did they plant a big vegetable garden to feed their family during the Great Depression? What was our community like before I arrived in the world? When I was younger, I didn’t understand what it was about old buildings that compelled me, not just about the history of my own house, but all of the amazing historic structures that stood in our community.
In the early part of this new century, I was dismayed by the rate at which we were losing our historic structures. So, in 2006 I gathered my friends and convinced them to join me in creating a non-profit to advocate for historic preservation, The Plymouth Preservation Network. Today, when people ask me why I have spent the last 14 years advocating for historic preservation, I realize that the historic structures that make up our region are a part of shared history for all of us. They symbolize the people who came before us. Our historic structures embody the living legacy of the people who built our community into the vibrant, thriving region that we all enjoy living and working in today. Our historic buildings are assets to be protected and enjoyed by all. I look forward to joining you as a steward of the Veterans Dormitory and the Henry Ford Factory that was his last of his Village Industries endeavor.
The Partnership for the Arts and Humanities brings together many of my passions, as I am sure it does for you as well, which is why you are reading this newsletter. I look forward to working with you to continue moving the mission of the partnership forward, to develop a culture of the arts and humanities in Western Wayne and Eastern Washtenaw counties. If you are in the Village Arts Factory, please stop in and say “Hello”. I will be in Studio 10, the new office for the Partnership.
There are so many opportunities to get involved here at the Partnership. We have two openings on our board. Please give me a call or send me an email if you are interested in becoming a board member. Governor Whitmer recently lifted some restrictions for public spaces, so we have added tickets for our children’s Halloween event coming up later this month. Please check out https://villageartsfactory.com/halloween/ for dates, times and ticket information. If you have not had the opportunity, I invite you to come check out all of the creative, talented artists in the newly opened Village Arts Factory. Don’t forget to wear your mask and remain 6 feet apart. It’s our goal to keep everyone safe as we explore the arts together.
Thank you for welcoming me into your amazing organization. I look forward to meeting everyone. Let’s get to work!