For Alicia Birder, executive and artistic director of Birder Studio of Performing Arts in De Pere, moving from a for-profit to nonprofit business meant that she could impact more lives.

Birder ran her business, The Performers Workshop, for more than 20 years before deciding in 2016 that the formation of a nonprofit would provide a greater impact. "I am basically doing what I did, but now I’m able to give back in a greater way," she said. "With the nonprofit, I am able to reach more people and youth."

She also has been able to hire a staff that includes a marketing director, production manager and dance director. The business model continues to expand with the mission being, "To educate, inspire, create, achieve!"

"We are committed to providing a secure foundation in the arts for both children and adults," the website states ( "We also seek to make arts education accessible and affordable to all children in the Green Bay area."

That goal led to the formation of the Community Artreach Initiative. Its goal is to expand arts education, and it has done so since 2016 by forming partnerships with the Greater Green Bay YMCA after-school program, Green Bay public schools and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Northeast Wisconsin. Six-week sessions are given at area school sites for students in kindergarten through sixth grade, many of whom are underprivileged youth.

As a self-described "creative child," Birder said she understands the benefits of art.

"I was that child who needed channeling in the arts," she said. "That was always in the back of my head — providing that outlet where a child could find others like him or her."

Artistic endeavors have been a large part of her life. Her father, Dudley Birder, founded and for 34 years directed the St. Norbert College Chamber Singers and the Swinging Knights. She and her brother worked at the college, and she gained national experience as an actress and choreographer.

These experiences have allowed a broad vision for programs, and the Birder Studio includes a theater venue, Broadway Theatre, located in downtown De Pere. The space is used for musical productions, cabarets, concerts and community events. With a multitude of events held each year, the use of the space means additional funds that can be used for art education.

A studio space was recently added on Heritage Road in De Pere to provide a space for dance instruction including ballet, tap, Irish, jazz, lyrical and ballroom.

"The Birder Academy of Dance is just launching," Birder said. "We have the owners of Simply Ballroom working with us — they are terrific ballroom and dance instructors."

Along with the dance programs, innovative wedding packages have been added. The packages range from basic dance instruction to those that include musicians as wedding performers.

Birder says that her approach to the programming has been cautious.

"I tiptoe, and never make grand decisions without a lot of research. As a team, we have a clear vision and set goals. You have to have goals to find success," she said.

A board of directors helps provide direction, but Birder works long hours "managing everyone and everything." She plans the curriculum and seasons, and does the fundraising, something she says is easy for her.

"I feel passionate about what we do and I am excited to share that with our partners," she said. "I love to welcome supporters on board to share that with us."

And Birder continues to share her love of the arts with the community. She believes that participating in a live performance gives children a gift of confidence. The programs offer a safe place for children to gain skills, and provide entertainment. The result is a celebration of the arts as people of all ages have a place to learn skills in voice, piano, theater and dance.

"Through this, the community gains so much," Birder said. "What do I get from all of this? When I see what we do to change a child’s life, that is my reward. There is something very gratifying in sharing artistic passion, and art will take them places they wouldn’t otherwise go. I have students living all over the country that tell me they wouldn’t be where they are except from what the programs gave them."

Tina Dettman-Bielefeldt is co-owner of DB Commercial Real Estate in Green Bay and past district director for SCORE, Wisconsin.


Green Bay Press-Gazette

Alicia Birder