We've Created A Legacy...

In 1967, high school band director Darrell Aderman recognized the need for a regional educational arts center in his hometown of Shell Lake, WI. He believed that all students deserved to learn from master teachers and bringing them together in the small northwest Wisconsin community of Shell Lake was sure to result in some magic. He utilized the classrooms and cafeteria at the Shell Lake High School and rallied the community to support the building of dormitories. Upon completion in 1968, what is now known as the Shell Lake Arts Center was born. 

55 years later, the Shell Lake Arts Center continues on, offering some of the best arts education in the country. The Shell Lake Arts Center prides itself on providing students the chance to work with world-renowned instructors for an affordable cost, all while being located in the beautiful Wisconsin Northwoods. All of our programs are non-auditioned, meaning that students of all ages and ability levels are encouraged to attend. 

We have been able to impact the lives of over 43,000 students since our doors first opened, some of whom have gone on to be Grammy winning, internationally acclaimed musicians such as Lyle Mays, Bill Evans, Justin Vernon, and Geoffrey Keezer. But, regardless of where our alumni end up, the arts have played a profound impact on each of their lives.


Mission Element 1

IGNITE LEARNING with relevant and meaningful courses of study for youth and adult students of all ages.

The importance of art in society can’t be overstated.  We know that music and the arts are key to student development and research shows us that involvement in the arts is associated with gains in math, reading, cognitive ability, critical thinking, and verbal skills.  Our goal is to create an environment where adult and school age students have meaningful connections, find their voices, create art, and grow and reach their full potential.

Mission Element 2

STRENGTHEN COMMUNITY CONNECTIONS by offering diverse and creative opportunities that bring us together.

The Arts bring people together. We gather to enjoy music with our friends, be moved by a community theater play, or marvel at the uniqueness of a piece of pottery or metalwork.  Art inspires engagement and a feeling of belonging to a community.

Mission Element 3

CHAMPION TEACHING by promoting and providing opportunities for personal and professional growth that builds strong music and arts education programs.

Years of research show that arts education is closely linked to almost everything that we as a nation say we want for our children and demand from our schools: academic achievement, social and emotional development, civic engagement, and equitable opportunity.

A Critical Need

Master Teachers. Magic Setting.

The strength of the faculty is second to none. The unique ability of our “Master Teachers” to stay at the forefront of their craft, use the latest teaching methods, meet the diverse needs of the students, and perform on the international stage is as true in 2023 as it was in 1968.  

The beauty and peacefulness of Northwest Wisconsin has never been more important to the Shell Lake Arts Center experience than it is today.  The opportunity to hike the trails or take that short walk to town, to enjoy the amazing lake and feel safe when out and about in this serene community provides a magic to the setting.

Regrettably, our antiquated facilities have overshadowed those things that have made the Center experience so unique.   Our master teachers are hampered in their ability to teach at the high level they have been accustomed to.  The residential accommodations and the condition of the teaching areas have become the predominant focus of the setting.  

The end result is that our facilities jeopardize our ability to meet the needs of our students, educators and community today and in the future.

… now we are building on it

Major renovations and enhancements would provide building improvements necessary for the creative and critically important work conducted by our ‘master teachers’ in this 'magic setting’.

The renovations to the performance spaces, gathering areas, classrooms, and the kitchen and dining room will provide opportunities for the community to come together and experience all that art has to offer.  These spaces will also provide venues for the community and region to use for corporate, business and family events.

We are presenting the preliminary design concepts and strategies, as recommended by River Valley Architects, for the following:

Areas of Focus

Accessibility, Wayfinding, & Entry Points

Equity & Inclusion

Functional Space Needs

Systems & Fire Protection

Aesthetic Presentation

The Best is Yet to Come!

To learn more about the project or becoming a donor, please contact:

715.468.2414 x 3

Donor List

We would like to acknowledge and give our sincerest thanks to all those who have given and continue to give to the Arts Center- this generosity allows us to continue on our mission of providing experiences in the arts that can make an impact of a lifetime.

If you, or someone you know, is a donor and not listed, please know that this is unintentional and encourage you to contact the office if you wish to be included on our alumni lists.