Donna Murray-Tiedge likes to tell people that creating art or design is the process of making dreams come true. “It’s a process of trial and error,” said Murray-Tiedge, executive director of The Warehouse Arts Center in Eagle River. “We have to be willing to admit it’s a process. You don’t just wake up one morning and your dream is there. You have to work through it. It’s a process of accepting failure as a means of moving forward.”
Murray-Tiedge, who has a Master in Fine Arts and a Ph.D. in Aesthetic Education, began her 25-year career as a professional industrial designer before morphing into teaching art and design. She joined The Warehouse Arts Center in Eagle River a few years ago, bringing her varied background to the non-profit, ready to help it grow and achieve success. “It was a serendipitous journey that led me here, but I truly believe it’s right where I’m supposed to be.”
The Warehouse mission states that regardless of economic status, skill level, or age, everybody deserves an opportunity to be creative. The non-profit has a devoted group of volunteers and supporters who help make that dream come true.
“We’ll try a class and if nobody shows up, well, we’re learning and succeeding and failing at the same time, because we’re trying to move programming to be something that Eagle River wants. And in the early part of 2020, we were just having a phenomenal start to the year. Then COVID-19 hit. It was a surreal moment when we were required to close the doors.”
Murray-Tiedge and her team developed an online connection to provide activities for people to participate in during the shutdown. It was their effort of trial and error to get through the pandemic and still serve their customers. After hearing about the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program offered, Murray-Tiedge spoke to board president Julie Winter-Paez. “Julie said you need to ‘call Peoples State Bank because they’ve always been a great supporter of The Warehouse in all of our fundraisers and objectives.’ Val Dreger in the Eagle River location had served on our board of directors. It was a natural fit. We already had a connection, so making a call to work with Peoples made sense.”
Peoples’ commercial banker Denise Jantzen worked with Murray-Tiedge to get the PPP loan processed. “It was very impressive, as the government kept changing things on what seemed like a daily basis. You know, ‘the plane was being built as it was being flown.’ I’d call Denise on her cell phone and she would answer right away or get back to me as quickly as possible with changes to the program.”
“It was a lot of uncertainty during that time for a lot of businesses, both non-profits and for-profit businesses,” said Jantzen. “The Warehouse is an asset to Eagle River and the surrounding Northwoods communities, offering a variety of arts to the region. As a community bank, reinvesting in our community is important, so helping The Warehouse with the PPP loan was important to us.”
Murray-Tiedge used the PPP funds to pay salaries, mortgage, and utilities. It helped keep employees on the job, the mortgage paid, and the heat on during those chilly late spring days. It gave her and her team confidence to look for other ways to reach out to their supporters.
“Every morning, we posted a new activity. Sometimes it was a virtual tour of a famous museum somewhere around the world, or sometimes we live-streamed our music nights. We had musicians playing in their own homes and used that to send to our fans.”
“I think the big picture lesson in the pandemic is that we all have our own magic fairy dust. We all have something to contribute. Denise and Peoples were there for us, and man, Denise knows her stuff. We celebrate the connections we have with people and businesses who support us. And that’s what Peoples has done. They’ve supported us throughout the years. They’ve helped make available in the Eagle River area this community arts center. It’s refreshing to know we have a hometown bank that is really in our corner and willing to walk with us, whatever we have to walk through.”
The PPP loans Peoples’ commercial team processed helped small- and mid-size businesses, such as The Warehouse, keep nearly 12,000 employees on the payroll at those companies.