Founders Pearl Harand, Sam Gaffin, Byron Friedman, Sulie Harand
Founders Pearl Harand, Sam Gaffin, Byron Friedman, Sulie Harand

First established in 1955, Harand Camp’s unique method of teaching has helped thousands develop poise and confidence in an “all-star, no-star” environment. Harand came into being as a children’s arts studio based in Chicago and area suburbs. Founders Sulie and Pearl Harand—already well-known for their mastery of the performing arts disciplines—opened the studio as a way to share these unique talents with a younger generation. Pearl, a former member of the Chicago Repertory Theatre, taught dramatics, while Sulie, known for her incomparable one-woman interpretations of classic musicals, taught voice. Other staff included Sulie’s husband Byron as Business Manager; Nora Jacobs, who had trained alongside Martha Graham, taught dance; and Byrne and Joyce Piven, future founders of the Piven Theatre Workshop, helped with the acting program. Staff would soon also include Errol Pearlman on piano, Estelle Spector (now head of the Columbia College Musical Theater program) as choreographer, and future Cultural Commissioner, Lois Weisberg, in drama.

The studio curriculum focused primarily on musical theater with an emphasis on the community spirit and equal opportunity for which the camp would later become known. The studio was also the first to combine training in all three musical theater disciplines – singing, dancing, and acting. The children loved it so much that they never wanted to go home so many parents suggested expanding the program to a full camp in the summer months. Pearl once told the Chicago Reader that the “dream [had] always been to have a place where kids can laugh and play, where they can develop their whole personality while learning through shared experiences." That dream became a reality when a resort in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin became available.

Led by Sulie and Pearl, along with husbands Byron and Sam, Harand Camp of the Theatre Arts opened its doors in the summer of 1955 with a staff comprised primarily of the studio team and 87 campers—a number that grew to over 250 in just three years. The buildings were renamed after popular shows with the theatre deemed “Carnegie Hall” after the famed venue in New York. Campers were split into groups designated by show names such as Brigadoon (a tradition that continues today) and became known as “Haranders.”

The camp curriculum struck a balance between teachings in the performing arts and more traditional camp activities such as tennis, arts and crafts, and swimming. Jeremy Piven, who was a camper in the 1980s, still marvels at the program telling the Chicago Reader "how many places in the world can you go to as a kid and get fulfillment performing in plays without all the politics—and still get to play sports all day long?"

Harand has also been able to set itself apart from other arts camps by adhering to a philosophy of inclusion and a non-competitive spirit - placing a premium on social development and holding firm to its commitment to sharing lead roles and the message of “No Man Is an Island.” Sulie has said that they have always wanted “to give children the ability to live with other people and not feel someone else has to fail for them to succeed." This philosophy has generated avid support from prominent alumni such as Lois Weisberg, Commissioner of the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs, who has said that "the Harands' approach should be reinvented today in the public schools. Their model is an extraordinary model for teaching."

In 1989 the Harand family sold the camp property in Elkhart Lake; however, the camp continued to live on and moved to Wayland Academy, a preparatory school in Beaver Dam, Wisconsin. Though the property was rented and there were no buildings or beaches to call their own, the traditions and philosophy remained. In 2005 the camp relocated to Carthage College in Kenosha proving, once again that, when it comes to Harand “home is where the heart is.”