UPAF in the Community
Milwaukee's reputation as a city for the arts continues to grow. Much of that is thanks to one local organization, the United Performing Arts Fund, or UPAF for short.
We interviewed two local artists whose lives have been shaped by UPAF and its work with young aspiring students.
Andrew Raciti started playing the violin as a child. But when he broke his wrist, he was forced to find a new instrument. He discovered the double bass, and it's what he plays today as a member of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra.
"It's such a wonderful thing to have in your city," he says of the orchestra. Money from UPAF helps make the orchestra a full-time job for Raciti.
"What UPAF did is that it made it possible for me to have as a goal to play in my hometown orchestra as a living, not as a hobby," he said.
UPAF actually helps fund more than 30 local arts groups. From the symphony to the ballet to other arts groups like "First Stage Children's Theater."
Jeremy Tardy, an 18-year-old actor who goes to school at Wauwatosa West, is a longtime member of First Stage. In fact, that's where he got his start.
"Every year I went to go see a First Stage show," he recalled. "I'd run home and pester my mom every day about auditioning for a First Stage show."
He landed one role... Then another.
Now he's going to one of the most prestigious performing arts schools in the world, Julliard Performing Arts School in Manhattan. Jeremy thanks UPAF for helping him get started... and honing his craft.
"This money is going to help people who can't afford it, people like me who couldn't pay for the classes and needed a little extra help and with that you can go far," he told us.
The Miller Lite Ride for the Arts is UPAF's major fundraiser every year. Thousands bike along the lakeshore to raise money for the organization.
Mike Jones, who is on UPAF's board and works at MillerCoors, told us how important UPAF is to the community. "It's vital to the quality of life in this community, whether it's theater or music or dance that appeals to you, we have something in this community, 36 groups," he remarked.
"Without that, I know I wouldn't be where I am," Jeremy Tardy reflected.
UPAF is something to help these young artists follow their dreams, and something for the rest of us to enjoy all year long.