Ron Stokes in 2009
Ron Stokes (1932-2018) was deeply influential in the arts and cultural landscape of Manitowoc for over half a century. This website accompanies the Ron Stokes: Retrospective exhibit which attempts to present his work along with anecdotes about Ron and what he meant to people in our community. It includes a few memories of Ron from his scrapbooks and the invitation for you to contribute your own memory.
The Stokes Family in 1964
The Stokes Family in 2009
Video: The Arts Reflected in Music
In 1976 while teaching at Lincoln High School in Manitowoc, Ron Stokes worked on a project with students in collaboration with the radio station WGN-Chicago. One of the purposes of the assignment was to get across “the value of radio, TV, and newspapers as vehicles for learning about the arts.”
Students at Lincoln High School compiled a list of art-related songs that they submitted to Roy Leonard of WGN. The radio show was piped through the school for two hours and outside listeners could listen in their homes. These are some of the songs featured, including Ron’s favorite song, “I Can See Clearly Now.”
Ron started Gallery East on Buffalo Street in Manitowoc in 1980 to create a space to feature his art and the art of others. In August 1996 the Gallery East moved to 930 S. Seventh Street location.
Ron liked that it was light and spacious, as well as its proximity to the Capitol Civic Center, the Manitowoc County courthouse and several popular taverns. He said in 1996 that “It gives the emerging artist a chance to display their wares and to know what it’s like to have a show.”
In His Own Words
These are Ron’s notes from a speech he gave in 2009 when he received the Wesley Teply Community Service Award in the Arts by the University of Wisconsin-Manitowoc Lakeshore Wind Ensemble Association.
Wow – I never talked to a class this big before – I hope I don’t have to take attendance. We’d be here til midnight. This is really great, a captive audience, no discipline problems, and the Lakeshore Wind Ensemble for background music – Can’t beat that!
Thank you Professor Arendt and the Lakeshore Win Ensemble Board for the Wesley Tepley Community Service in the Arts Award! What an honor it is to join the other recipients of the Tepley Award.
A week ago I read my horoscope which said, “Don’t think you are not capable of achievement without some input from others. You are, but things will be far easier if you gain support from helpful allies.” How true it is.
When we first came to Manitowoc in the sixties, my wife Dolly and our three kids have always been there to help. We were involved with the Little Gallery and started the Courthouse Square Art Fair. Which by the way started Mrs. West on her interest in the arts since she bought her first watercolor there. Professor Mike Kazar and I used to debate if it was his watercolor or mine that hooked Mrs. West on the arts. The Art Fair lasted about 15 years with the help of Nancy Hansen of Two Rivers.
Dolly and I played a modest role in the early years of Heart-A-Rama with Pat and Mike Chermak, all of the Dramm family, and architect and Masquer Fred Brandt. By the way Dolly, my alderman of 18 years, still paints the act curtain for Heart-A-Rama. I still am the popcorn man one night.
I worked for many years with Ron Kaminski on the Jazz Arts Festival on Buffalo Street and played a minor part in the renovation of the Capitol Civic Center years ago and served on the board for one term. As a matter of fact we set up the seating and usher training program there.
Working with the Manitowoc School District and Superintendents Charlie Jones and Dr. Vernon Childs opened the doors to many innovative programs such as Youth Art Month and a class call The Arts in the 70s which finally expired in the 90s. The students met the Jean Wolfmeyer Dancers, sculptor Rudy Rotter, Musician Fritz Schuler, and architects, writers, photographers, and anyone else involved n the arts. We even had a sever arts club that worked all year to pay for a weekend in Chicago to view all of the arts in action.
The highlight of the class, one year, and I still don’t know how we did it was to contact Radio Station WGN in Chicago and they broadcast Lincoln High School in Manitowoc and the Arts. Roy Leonard was the host. Our job was to come up with songs and interviews that dealt with the arts, Mona Lisa by Nat King Cole, Kodachrome by Simon and Garfunkel, and Carol King’s Tapestry along with Starry, Starry Night were some of the tunes played throughout the Midwest. The program was on the school speaker for two hours.
Working with the teachers in the school district was a joy – especially the art teachers.
Finally, working with such wonderful directors of the Rahr-West Art Museum including Riko Lozar, Joe Hutchison, Rich Quick, Gary Whitbeck, Jan Smith, and not the dynamic ball of fire Barb Bundy Jost has been very rewarding for me as an artist and a big kudos to all of them. Working with the museum will continue as usual.
To conclude, thank you once again for this honor and I will assure you it will always be a fond memory to recall and be a custodian of the award. Thank you and Good Night Chet -
Ron’s High School Yearbook
Dolly Stokes recalls Ron’s High School experience:
Ron was a mediocre student in high school – he enjoyed a good time! His art teacher, Mr. Ed Boerner, took a special interest in Ron, and recognized and encouraged his artistic talent. Ron and Ed Boerner remained friends throughout Ed’s life and Ron always credited Ed with inspiring him to accomplish all he did in his professional life.
Ron graduated Rufus King High School in 1950 where he was a member of the gymnastic team. He was quite a hit with the girls. Indeed, his yearbook, the “King’s Crown,” contains a variety of lipstick imprints. The grandchildren love looking through his yearbooks!