On the Rise: Gluon Gallery, Milwaukee
Written by Rachel Hausmann Schall
Built out of a desire to rejuvenate the DIY/Artist-Run gallery scene in Milwaukee, Gluon Gallery opened in a two-car garage in Riverwest in June 2018. Since then, after installing drywall and gallery lighting, organizers Joe Acri and Sal Nicholson have been partnering to curate exhibitions that leave an impression on the local arts community.
Initially, each exhibition was designed to build bridges between communities as Gluon focused specifically on providing opportunities for young, emerging student artists in Milwaukee, something that was important to both organizers. “Emerging artist involvement/platforming is very important to me… it’s a complete necessity to the digestive system of our artist community. I wanted a space that allowed an openness of opportunity for these artists,” said Sal. Both Sal and Joe came to this project with experience in organizing and curating exhibitions during their time as students at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design. According to Joe, the exhibitions in Gluon’s first year of operation were “a curation of social groups as much as a curation of artworks.” They strategically brought together two artists for each show that had different backgrounds and had never exhibited together before. In their first year of operation, Joe and Sal paired the work of 16 emerging artists through curated, two-person exhibitions, organizing eight exhibitions in just six short months of time. In 2018, they showed work from local artists: Olivia Rehm & Nicholas Perry, Molly Hassler & Lily Solheim, Natasha Woods & Kelsey Mui, Sara Carter & Anna Menako, Atticus Rabitan & Ariel Valenzuela, Chad Alexander & Jas Mora, Olivia Burke & Phoenix Brown. Sal said, “We find artists that we think are interesting and could enrich Milwaukee with the work they are creating, diverse backgrounds, and who’s work we thought could hold a conversation together in a productive way.”
Eventually, the gallery began to expand their programming to include other long-standing Milwaukee art events like Riverwest FemFest and 00000 GHOOST $HOW. After two years in their Riverwest garage, Joe and Sal have relocated the gallery. There’s no denying that the move means Gluon loses some of the grittiness offered by the original garage space, however, the charm and approachability remains the same. Still located in Riverwest, the new storefront space is a building that provides more opportunities, which is shared by an array of similar artist-run projects like Open Kitchen, Microlights, and Diagram Press.
In addition to moving, Joe and Sal hope to expand Gluon’s programming to include music shows, performances, residencies, and community focused events. The new location, boasting windows and a street view, will reach more audiences, allowing Gluon the potential to offer regular gallery hours and host events year-round, something that their garage space inhibited because of weatherization and insulation. In just two short years, Gluon has hosted a total of 17 events and they are eager to open their first exhibition at the new location in hopes that they will reach additional audiences, provide new opportunities, and continue to engage the Milwaukee arts community.
On the Rise: Levee Contemporary, Princeton
Written by Rachel Hausmann Schall
With a population of just over 1,000, Princeton is home to Wisconsin’s largest outdoor flea market, many artisans, boutiques, and independent shops. It has become a vacation destination for many looking for adventure and outdoor activities. Located in Princeton’s downtown is also a bright, white contemporary art gallery. Levee Contemporary opened its doors for their first exhibition, Weather Appropriate, on July 3rd, 2019. A group show, featuring works from national artists, acted as the perfect inaugural exhibition to announce the new gallery’s presence in this quaint and charming town.
The space is a collaborative project between brother-in-laws, Andrew Blanchard and Shane Foreman, who both grew up in the deep south before relocating to Chicago. Shane, a businessman that has founded 8+ companies, moved to Princeton and purchased three buildings downtown. He extended an invitation to Andrew to utilize one of the buildings to create a gallery space and one of those buildings eventually became Levee Contemporary after being renovated from its previous life as an old piano bar. Because of the duo’s history in the deep south, it felt fitting to name the space “Levee.” This bright, clean commercial gallery also sits on the Fox River, which has experienced record high water levels and flooding in the past.
Kate Salas, a local ceramics artist, supports the gallery with its daily operations and by keeping a pulse on the local and regional arts scene. Andrew, a working artist himself, is curator for Levee, although he is currently located in South Carolina teaching art at a local college. While the geographical location could have an impact on the artists that exhibit at Levee, Andrew makes it a priority to show a variety of work that represents a diverse selection of regions. The gallery has featured artists from Wisconsin and the Midwest, as well as a selection from the south.
The gallery aims to bring exposure to hard-working artists that are producing high quality works by platforming and creating visibility for those artists that may only be known in one area or region nationally. Levee recognizes the importance of staying accessible to the community, so they keep available works at a wide range of price points posted for sale on their website. Levee hosts four exhibitions a year and encourages a variety of audiences to engage with the space by incorporating initiatives like college outreach. For example, Levee has shown the work of Ripon College students in The Contemporary Portrait in February-March 2020, an exhibition that explored portraiture through the lens of art history to expand the understanding of what a portrait can be. Parental Advisory, a group exhibition about adulthood, featured work from Zane Logan, Glen Miller, Zoe Hawk and Jon Sours. Andrew, Shane, and Kate are considering expanding the gallery to the second floor and look forward to hosting many more shows at the space, including Levee’s first solo exhibition, featuring the work of Madison based artist, T.L. Solien, which is scheduled for Summer 2020.
On the Rise: OS Projects, Racine
Written by Rachel Hausmann Schall
Located in downtown Racine, OS Projects is an immaculately designed, contemporary gallery space. The entrance to the space is highly visible with its vibrant, yellow door that opens to high ceilings and ample natural light. Husband and wife duo Vera Scekic and Robert Osborne opened OS Projects in Spring 2019 with the hopes of building networks between Chicago, Milwaukee, and Racine/Kenosha artists through exhibitions and programming.
Vera and Robert embarked on a three-and-a-half-year journey to open the gallery after purchasing a run-down building in downtown Racine, only minutes away from the community’s art-center and cultural hub, The Racine Art Museum (RAM). Vera, a working artist herself, has a studio that sits above the gallery space. The entire building was designed by the renowned architecture firm, Johnsen Schmaling Architects.
Since opening, Robert and Vera have focused on engaging the local community with four exhibitions a year, showing both Racine/Kenosha based artists as well as Chicago, Milwaukee, and other Midwest regional artists working across a variety of media. While Vera has curated painting, sculpture, and mixed media works in the space, she admits to having an affinity for works on paper, but the gallery can accommodate any and all types of artwork. Although the atmosphere boasts a similarity to that of a high-brow New York or Chicago gallery space, OS Projects exudes a warm and welcoming aura, enchanting all types of art lovers. Thanks to the floor to ceiling windows, bright, natural light pours into the space and pedestrians can fulfill their curiosity as they stroll downtown, peeking in through the windows to see whatever work is on view.
It’s very important to Robert and Vera to remain accessible and approachable within the community, and the large windows allow for just that, offering an invitation for people to enter and explore. Vera says that OS Projects will “revitalize Racine’s art community by making it more visible and by providing a white-walled, professional gallery experience for regional artists to show their work.” With the Racine Art Museum already supporting exhibitions of artists working in contemporary craft, the couple felt that a curated, contemporary fine art gallery was something the community could benefit from and Robert and Vera knew just how to fill that need.
In addition to organizing exhibitions, Robert and Vera have occasionally offered additional programming, such as artist talks to encourage the local community to explore the space and engage with the art and artists in another way. OS Projects has hosted solo and two person exhibitions from artists Maureen Fritchen (Racine, WI) & Gina Lee Robins (Oak Park, IL), Diane Levesque (Kenosha, WI), Vesna Jovanovic (Chicago, IL), and Olivia Petrides (Chicago, IL). Vera and Robert are looking forward to many more years of programming by keeping their opportunities expansive and leaving space for potential growth, while continuing to find innovative ways to engage the Racine community through implementing diversity in the arts ecosystem.
Rachel Hausmann Schall is a visual artist, writer, educator and arts organizer living and working near Milwaukee, WI. She received her BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) in 2015 and became co-founder and co-director of After School Special, a satellite artist collective that supports emerging and underrepresented artists through exhibitions and programming. She has exhibited her painting, sculpture, and installation work nationally at many galleries, alternative, and artist-run spaces. In addition to writing for Artdose, Rachel Hausmann Schall is also a contributing writer for the Chicago based arts publication Sixty Inches From Center and works at Pius XI High School in Milwaukee, WI as an arts educator.
Connect with Rachel at IG: @hoorachel