Daily News

Enchanted Circle Theater Director Priscilla Kane Hellweg Steps Down After 40 Years

HOLYOKE — Enchanted Circle Theater’s executive and artistic director, Priscilla Kane Hellweg, has stepped down after 40 years of service, having grown Enchanted Circle from a small touring educational theater company into a nationally recognized leader in the field of arts integration.

In her final letter to the company, she wrote, “I am so proud to leave you with a company that is blessed with hundreds of long-term partnerships with schools, social-services agencies, and cultural-arts centers — and thousands of iterations of creative education programs that have brought joyful and empowered learning to hundreds of thousands of children. This has been the work of many, many hands and hearts. Thank you all for your part in growing this extraordinary company.”

The board of directors is currently working with a consultant and staff on temporary management while studying various governance models. The organization will announce the plan by the end of the school year.

Under Hellweg’s direction, Enchanted Circle has become the regional leader in the field of arts integration, working district-wide in public schools throughout Western Mass. and collaborating with more than 60 community partner organizations, developing work that bridges arts, education, and human services.

She received the 2019 Lifetime Achievement Award from the Massachusetts Nonprofit Network and was a finalist for Excellence in Leadership in 2018. She has received a Champions of Arts Education Award from the Massachusetts Alliance for Arts in Education and a Millennium Award from the National Guild of Community Arts Educators for her commitment to making quality arts education accessible to all.

In 2016, Enchanted Circle was nominated to represent Massachusetts by the Massachusetts Cultural Council to receive the Creativity Connects Award from the National Endowment for the Arts. Its work was highlighted in the national PBS series, American Graduate, for its Shakespeare program that combats summer learning loss in Holyoke Public Schools. Enchanted Circle received the 2015 Commonwealth Award, Massachusetts’ highest honor in arts, sciences, and humanities; received the 2013 Arts and Humanities Award for Outstanding Organization from NEPR; and was named Outstanding Arts Collaborative in 2011 from Arts/Learning.

Hellweg has created district-wide arts-integration initiatives to enhance academic achievement for Holyoke, Amherst, Northampton, and Westfield public schools, and has collaborated on the development of several Teacher Training Institutes with numerous partners, funded by the National Endowment for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Humanities, and Teaching American History grants. She has taught professional-development workshops for many district-wide school systems in Massachusetts and Connecticut, including the Wang Center in Boston, the Smithsonian Institution in Washington D.C., the History Institute at the University of Massachusetts, and the Collaborative for Educational Services in Northampton. She has been adjunct faculty at the University of Hartford, Hampshire College, and Westfield State University. She has also co-written and directed several site-based historical plays for educational and cultural tourism sites.