100 Years of Vision in Arts Education

Join the Celebration in '22!

After 54 years of committed service, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp’s Founder and President Emeritus Fritz Stansell fully retired in June of 2020. The Blue Lake Board of Trustees dedicates the 2022 Season to Fritz Stansell and his life’s work. View the special tribute and share your Blue Lake memories with us!

100 Years of Vision in Arts Education

In the early part of the 20th century, a young immigrant from Germany had an idea about how he could improve outcomes for his music students by motivating them to make rapid progress in a brief span of time. Ludolph Arens, originally from Mainz and then Professor of Piano at the Lawrence Conservatory in Wisconsin, decided that if he created an artistic haven isolated from the pressures of the outside world, his students could concentrate their energies exclusively in the art of piano performance. An idea was born that was to become a family journey for generations to come.

Arens Art Colony entrance, circa 1922
Arens Art Colony entrance, circa 1922

In 1922, Professor Arens founded what may have been America’s first summer camp dedicated to the study of music as he launched the Arens Art Colony in Door County, Wisconsin. Each summer, his piano students spent eight weeks immersed in private lessons, individual practice, music literature and theory, keyboard ensemble, and performance techniques. Students received a daily private lesson and were held accountable to practice a minimum of four hours every day. Evening time was spent with recitals, outdoor activities, and fellowship. So motivated by high expectations for musical growth and newfound camaraderie with like-minded friends, the students’ progress was rapid. As years went by, Arens, who was also an orchestra conductor and composer, enhanced program offerings to include strings, chamber music, drama, and other disciplines. The Arens Art Colony grew to become a diverse community of arts education.

Arens with students in studio
Arens with students in studio

Ludolph Arens was the maternal grandfather of Fritz Stansell, Founder and President Emeritus of Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. Some of Stansell’s earliest memories were of beautiful, warm summers spent with his grandfather and mother in the 30s and 40s at the Arens Art Colony. There, as a young boy, he helped care for his little brother, was charged with carrying pitchers of ice-cold water from the pump house to the dining room for campers, and sometimes washed pots and pans for Mrs. Roegner, the German cook. Occasionally he snuck away to play slot machines at the nearby Pines Resort, but managed to stay out of trouble. He also reluctantly took piano lessons but didn’t learn to play the piano, a disappointment to both his mother and grandfather. He missed his father during these summers, who was a musician in the Army Air Corps stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, where he performed in live radio broadcasts for thousands of uniformed G.I.s. Nevertheless, the enchanting environment of the Colony provided an idyllic and secluded refuge from the ongoing battles and dreadful news of World War II, which included the destruction of the Arens ancestral home back in Mainz. After twenty-five summers of leading the Art Colony, Ludolph Arens died in 1947. The Colony continued for one season before a natural disaster damaged major facilities and forced it to close in late 1948. 

Fritz & Gretchen Stansell, circa 1967
Fritz & Gretchen Stansell, circa 1967

In the years following the Colony’s closing, the dream of reopening the Arens Art Colony was kept alive by the Stansell family, particularly with Fritz and his parents, Gilbert and Marguerite (Arens) Stansell. After completing graduate studies in Music Education and teaching for a number of years, Stansell and a growing number of supporters began to seriously entertain the idea of reopening a fine arts haven for young students in the Midwest. In 1963, Stansell took the first formative steps, and by July of 1966, the first students arrived for the inaugural session at the newly incorporated Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp. It was the second time within three generations that ingenuity, creativity, and motivation collided with personal determination to forge a new path for youth in arts education.

Stansell rehearsing an early Blue Lake band
Stansell rehearsing an early Blue Lake band

Since the early years, Blue Lake’s program and campus has grown considerably in scale and scope, serving more than 6,000 participants a season within three divisions, seventeen programs and majors, spanning 1,600 acres and hundreds of arts-centric facilities. Spanning fifty-six years of operation, Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp, Inc. has grown to achieve what Ludolph Arens first envisioned 100 years ago. The spirit of the Arens Art Colony continues at Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp through mission and compass: Creative and concentrated study in a beautiful, isolated, natural setting lives on in all that we do. As we look to our future, we acknowledge our heritage as a valuable guide and testament for what is possible to achieve.

Ars Longa Vita Brevis  /  Life is Short, Art Eternal

Motto of Arens Art Colony and Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp

100 Years of Vision in Arts Education

1922 – 2022

From humble beginnings of the Arens Art Colony to Blue Lake’s present operation, we celebrate 100 years of vision in Arts Education within the Arens/Stansell family, bridging generations of young artists throughout the world. Learn more about the history and inspiration for Blue Lake Fine Arts Camp here.

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