Harold Zisla

This documentary, produced by R. Michael Beatty and RMB Creative Associates, with the assistance of LEARN, is of the truly remarkable artist Harold Zisla (1925 - 2016). It shows the artist in his studio discussing his work, his working methods, his philosophy and his life.

The DVD is over one hour in length. The cost of the DVD is $12.95, shipping charges are an additional $3.00 (total is $15.95). Indiana residents please add 7% sales tax ($12.95 + $.91 = $13.86 plus $3.00 shipping = $16.86). To order click on the image to the right. You will be redirected to a retail location (redbud.gallery).

Artist Harold Zisla was born in Cleveland, Ohio, June 28, 1925, he died March 18, 2016. He enjoyed a career of more than 80 years. An artist from childhood, Zisla continued to study art in high school and at the Cleveland Museum of Art until 1943. From 1943-1946, Zisla served in the U.S.. Navy; upon his return he attended the Cleveland Institute of Art and Case-Western Reserve University. In 1950, he received his B.S.. in Art Education, and in 1951, his M.A.. in Art Education from Case-Western. In 1952 he moved to northern Indiana, taking a job as an industrial designer at Uniroyal in Mishawaka, IN. From 1957- 1966 Zisla served as Executive Director of the South Bend Art Center, in South Bend, IN.  For Zisla personally, this time saw an increased questioning of, and movement away from, the academic training and figurative style of his youth. From the late 1960’s to the mid 1980’s Zisla rose to Chair of the Fine Arts Department and Professor of Fine Arts at Indiana University at South Bend. Retiring in 1989, Zisla devoted himself fulltime to his art. The 1990’s were a time for reexamining, reworking, refining and the evolution of Zisla’s mature style; the 2000’s saw a continuing growth in his work, a growth that continued until his death. For more information on Harold Zisla visit his website here: www.haroldZisla.com

From 87 Years On…Harold Zisla at Work by Judy Oberhausen

"When I visit in the Fall of 2012 I find his studio still overflowing with recent paintings and drawings demonstrating an energy and engagement with life… Unlike most of us he has not surrendered to the distractions of technology but has remained faithful to the muses who have always been his companions: Titian, Rembrandt, Picasso, Pollock, Guston, and Bacon. It is these artists with whom Zisla is on intimate terms.  They are the studio companions with whom he carries on a continuous conversation… From his accumulated experience with portraiture, still life, and figure drawing emerged a new style of gestural abstraction that reflected a new kinship with such Abstract Expressionists as Arshile Gorky, Jackson Pollock, and Willem de Kooning.  He was also influenced by Edward de Bono's text on lateral thinking entitled Mechanisms of the Mind (1968) that prompted Zisla to re-examine his notions of perception. … Of his many kindred spirits there is above all, Picasso.  Always Picasso…. Because Zisla now shares Picasso's longevity, the master's presence has become even more palpable in the studio...they are fellow travelers...in age, in the restless quest for new forms of self-expression, and, yes, for immortality.  Like the master, Zisla has experimented stylistically with realism, expressionism, and abstraction.  It was, however, Picasso's cubism with its conceptual approach to the visible world that taught Zisla that reality has no fixed points.  It is this expansive approach to reality that is the enduring theme in both artists' work.  Today Zisla's work continues to be a constantly evolving synthesis of all he has learned from life, from art…."

Best Stories

LEARN worked with RMB Creative Associates to develop an educational program called Best Stories. The program premiered at, and over a three year period was developed with assistance from, the Bilingual Department of the South Bend Community School Corporation under the direction of Maritza Robles. The project is currently being expanded to work with a variety of students in a variety of settings including home schooling, schools, after-school programs and hospitals. This program teaches children English and writing skills (plot, character development, etcetera); fine and applied art skills; as well as familiarizing students with libraries and the structure of books. 

A teacher's guide and a student's workbook have been developed.  The goal of both is to assist teacher and student through the Best Stories process. Both books are eleven inches by eight and one/half inches. The cost for the 235 page Best Stories Teacher's Guide is $29.95. The cost for the 123 page Best Stories Student Workbook is $14.95, Quantity discounts are available. To discuss ordering the books or for more information click here. Please tell us your needs and timeframe.



Teacher's Guide
Best Stories

Click here to read
the Table of Contents

Student Workbook 
Best Stories

Click here to read
a sample section


Click below a picture to read a story from the Best Stories project.

BestStories087 BestStories088 BestStory1

Selections from Best Stories

Click here to read
The Polar Bears and the City
(sample story)

Selections from 
Best Stories

Click here to read
A Problem with Candy
(sample story)

Selections From
Best Stories

Click here to read
There is a Sound Downstairs
(sample story)



Best Stories and its activity of writing a children’s storybook will assist students in reaching academic goals in English.
Students will become more familiar and comfortable with the structure and format of books.
Through samples and their own work, students will become more familiar with books in the English language.
Students will combine work in English with pride in their individual backgrounds.
Creative writing will provide support for furthering reading comprehension.
Through critical reading/writing students will build reading comprehension.
Students will end the project with a product that they can take pride in and share with their families and others.
Students will have a better understanding of the language of fine arts and applied arts. 
Students will have developed a beginning level of skills in fine arts and applied arts.


Eighty-eight students were involved in the Best Stories Program. The students were split into three seventh grade and two eighth grade classes. Eighty-one finished their story to the point that it could be saddle stitched and presented back to them. Two students chose not to complete the project. Five students did not complete enough of the program to be successful. All students who started the program late were able to complete the project.

Each of the students completed a saddle stitched book--total of 76 students.

A test was given to students at the beginning of the program and again at the end of the program to test knowledge in the skill areas covered. Results included:
58 students took both the pre and posttest
16 students took only the pretest
14 students took only the posttest
Average score for all pretests was 3.09
Average score for all posttests was 7.07
Difference in pre and posttests was 3.98, almost 40%
For those 58 students who took the pre and posttest the difference was 3.84, again, almost 40%
Average score for those who only took the pretest was 3.31
Average score for those who only took the posttest was 8.00
For those 30 students who took either the pretest or the posttest the difference was 4.69, almost 47%


Heartland: The Civil War

Lifetime Education And Research Network, Inc. (LEARN) is working with a number of organizations to create an important historical program and product. It  includes a theatrical production, which premiered in South Bend and Elkhart, Indiana, during June and July, 2015; a television production of the play for broadcast and distribution to schools and libraries, which premiered spring of 2016 (South Bend at the History Museum and Elkhart at Ruthmere); as well as related educational materials.

The purpose of this project is to show the influence of the Civil War and its aftermath, both positive and negative, on the upper Midwest, specifically the municipalities of South Bend, Elkhart and Mishawaka, Indiana. The effect of the Civil War on this region is much greater than most realize. The war touched all facets of people’s lives: family, social, economic, political, etcetera. This project will show the costs—the suffering and the loss of life—and the positive outcomes—the end of slavery and the preservation of the nation, as well as the growth of local industry and of these communities.

This dramatized history/docudrama follows the intersecting stories of eleven people, all but one historical residents of the South Bend/Mishawaka/Elkhart area.  Their stories are told from the start of the Civil War through 1890.

Our video of the theatrical production is not quite finished but click on the trailer to see scenes from the beginning of the show, the end of Act 1, and part of Act 2.  

CLICK HERE to see more about the  premiere theatrical presentation, and its cast and crew.             

For information on making a contribution to the educational component of this project please click here .

The video production was overseen by Donnie Rogers and Grass Roots Media, crew members included:

Technical Director Dave Morgan
Floor Director Donnie Rogers
Engineer   Ken Kuespert
Video   Gary Banks, Phil Patnaude, Scott Wadzinski
Audio  Dana Mroczek
Audio Assist Andrea Rogers

The final project will contain five parts:

1. A theatrical script. The script involves metatheatre techniques (similar to “Our Town,” for example) through the use of narration, interaction with the audience and limited set and prop elements. The script is a docudrama. All characters are based on actual people but some actions, interactions, connections and experiences of individuals will be dramatized and fictionalized.

2. Theatrical productions. Premiered by Elkhart Civic Theater at the Bristol Opera House during June, 2015 and by The Acting Ensemble at The History Museum in South Bend during July, 2015.

3. A video of the theatrical production. Premiered at The History Museum in South Bend in March, 2016 and in Elkhart at Ruthmere in April, 2016.

4. A visual presentation of historically important objects. This includes historical photographs, artworks and artifacts, as well as photographs and video clips of current monuments. This will be used as the backdrop/set (projected in rear or front projection in the theatrical productions of the script).

5. Educational materials. Created to provide support for teachers and show how the project can be used in an educational environment. Teachers will be able to use the theatrical production video as a stand-alone or as a model for the students creating their own theatrical presentation. The visual backdrop will also be available for teacher and other production use.


This dramatized history/docudrama follows the intersecting stories of eleven people, all but one residents of the South Bend/Mishawaka/Elkhart, Indiana area.  Their stories begin at the start of the Civil War and continue until 1890. The people include:

1. Elijah Hastings Powell: Our narrator.  A Union Army soldier of the 1st Michigan Colored Infantry Regiment he rose to level of Sergeant.  After the war he became a barber in Mishawaka.

2. Schuyler Colfax, Jr.:  Local newspaper owner, member of US Congress during the Civil War and U.S.. Vice President after the war.

3. William Corby, CSC:  Held several positions with his order; twice president of the University of Notre Dame; was a Chaplin in the Union Army.

4. Mother Angela Gillespie, CSC : The first American to head Saint Mary's Academy (now St. Mary’s College). Under her direction the school moved from Michigan to its present site in 1855. When the request from the governor of Indiana for nurses to assist the Union Army’s wounded was sent out, Mother Angela and St. Mary’s responded.

5. Silas Baldwin: Local Elkhart Businessman. Responsible for the building of the Elkhart Civil War Memorial. Lost two of his three children as a result of the Civil War.

6. Jane (Gephart) Baldwin: mother of Frank and Elizabeth, wife of Silas. Lost two of her three children as a result of the Civil War.

7. Frank Baldwin: son of Silas and Jane, soldier in the Union Army, Notre Dame Student.

8. Elizabeth Baldwin Beardsley: daughter of Silas and Jane, married Albert A. Beardsley and built Ruthmere in Elkhart.

9. Van Greenwood: a farmer and Union Army soldier who saw action in many of the major battles of the war.

10. Grace Goodwin: From the South, but married to a Union solider, she was widowed during the Civil War.

11. Alice Owens: Graduated from St. Mary's School for the Deaf, then worked at St. Mary's for the rest of her life. She is one of a handfull of nonreligious buried on campus grounds.