written by Todd Mrozinski
Jeff & Dana Redmon, Scout Gallery, Milwaukee
As I approached Scout Gallery, located on Historic Mitchell Street, I noticed how open it appeared, with large plate glass windows reflecting the sky yet revealing the activity within. I was welcomed by Jeff Redmon, curator and co-owner, who was half way through hanging an upcoming show in the spacious gallery. Jeff and Dana Redmon started Scout Gallery in the spring of 2019 prior to the closing of RedLine, where they both worked. Jeff was the former director and coordinated its Artist-in-Residence program and Dana was the events and building manager. RedLine was a non-profit organization which housed many artist’s studios and also had a gallery space. Its mission was to “nourish the practice of contemporary art and to stimulate the community to which we are linked.” Both RedLine and Scout Gallery seem to have a similar sentiment through their aim to work with and reveal fresh, contemporary artists to the Milwaukee arts community. The difference is Redline was a non-profit art center and Scout is a for-profit business. Jeff stated, “we didn’t have a need for a board of directors or grant writing because we had a vision for a modern, sustainable gallery business.”
The large front gallery proceeded into a honeycomb of artist studio spaces located on the main and lower levels of the expansive building. Many well-organized studios simultaneously acted as mini-galleries as well as working spaces. Because this semi-private environment has studios that are partially open, it attracts artists who seek to work in an environment with fellow creatives.
Jeff earned a BFA from UW Milwaukee and has his own studio space in the lower level of Scout. He has shown his work and has curated many shows at various locations around Milwaukee. When I asked the Redmons what artist, alive or dead, they would choose to curate a show of, the answer I received was the most open ended one I have heard. “We enjoy the thrill of discovering and working with new, exciting artists. There is so much undiscovered talent out there and that’s what we are focused on.” It is telling that instead of choosing a particular favorite artist, they chose the potential of the unknown and undiscovered, which is exactly what a scout looks for. Jeff and Dana are on the lookout for work that speaks a language steeped in the pollen of newness.
Leslie Walfish, University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh, Oshkosh
A massive, old oak greeted me with outstretched limbs as I pulled into lot 11 of the UW- Oshkosh campus. Curator Leslie Walfish met me outside and shared in my enjoyment of the tree. She mentioned that this area was once a logging town and these 100+ year old trees are somewhat rare. Two more giants flanked the sidewalk as we walked into the building.
There are two gallery spaces at UW Oshkosh on two different floors. We began in the larger of the two, the Allen Priebe Gallery on the ground floor. It is spacious and well-lit with the main gallery opening up onto a space with high ceilings that is both electrically and naturally lit. The student attendant who was watching the space, shared with zeal, how he helps in the installation and curation of each show. Walfish explained that her curatorial approach is collaborative. A student group helps plan, choose, curate and interacts with the showing artist for each exhibition. A portion of student tuition is allocated to pay local and international artists for this mutually beneficial and rare opportunity. The Annex Gallery is a smaller, more intimate space. It is located on the floor above and features mainly local artists who also interact with the students. The music department is in the same building and leads to a wonderful cross pollination of media.
Not only is Walfish the Director of Galleries, she is also the Campus Curator, finding homes for the institution’s permanent collection in hallways, offices and common spaces throughout the university. She also is an Instructor in the Art Department and has a Master of Arts in Art History from the University of Arizona and a Masters of Arts in Museum Studies from Johns Hopkins University. Walfish moved to Wisconsin in 2007 and has worked at a number of the state’s great campus art galleries including Lawrence University’s Wriston Art Galleries, UW Green Bay’s Lawton Gallery, and UW Stevens Point’s Edna Carlsten Gallery. When asked what artist, alive or dead, she would choose to curate a show of, she selected Lorna Simpson. Walfish stated, “Her work is layered with thought-provoking questions and commentary about identity, perception, representation, race, and gender.” Lead by Walfish’s knowledge, dedication and passion, UW-Oshkosh is a role model for the development of artistic, cultural and social growth which, like the old oaks, will span generations.
David Wells, Edgewood College, Madison
The Edgewood College Art Gallery is a hidden gem in the Madison art community. It is curated by David Wells, whose approach is interdisciplinary and emphasizes cultural diversity and material exploration, especially methods and aesthetics that are different than those taught at the institution. Their 2019-20 exhibit season theme of Examining Histories/Understanding Truths/Creating Resilience reflects current cultural issues. Wells’s philosophy is in tandem with the college’s emphasis on social justice in the Dominican tradition of study, reflection and action.
Wells has pursued interdisciplinary interests as an artist, curator and arts administrator for nearly 40 years and is currently the Director of the Edgewood College Art Gallery exhibition program and college art collections. He’s also Director of Ernest Hüpeden’s Painted Forest, a restored folk art site and study center in northwest Sauk County, where he is developing a residency/retreat and summer arts camp/sciences programming. Wells holds a BA in Cultural Analysis from UW-Green Bay and an MFA in Installation Sculpture from Claremont Graduate University, Claremont, CA.
Well known in the Madison art scene, Wells created Curators Conversations Wisconsin, the state-wide forum for arts curators while also serving as the founding Director of Edenfred, the creative residency program of the Terry Family Foundation. His recent projects as an independent, community-based curator include Art On the Rooftop, an annual outdoor sculpture exhibit at the Monona Terrace Community and Convention Center (2014-present), GLEAM: Art in a New Light, the annual light installation exhibit at Olbrich Botanical Gardens (Artistic Director 2015-18) and Art on the River in Dubuque, IA (2018). Previously Director of the Design Gallery at UW-Madison, David Wells supervised the rehousing of the renowned Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection in 2013 before joining Edgewood College. He has curated exhibitions for the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, St. Catherine University, the Dubuque Museum of Art, and the Helen Louise Allen Textile Collection and Design Gallery at UW Madison- among many others in California before returning to Wisconsin.
When asked what artist, alive or dead, Wells would like to curate a show of, he chose American abstract painter Thomas Nozkowski. Wells states, “Even a small show of his works can present vast differences in approach, while rewarding careful viewing with intellectual rigor, subtle learning, visual delight and joy.” David Wells brings his experience and enthusiasm not only to Edgewood College but to the Madison and Wisconsin community of students, artists, curators and viewers interested in challenging themselves and their notions of what art can be.
Todd Mrozinski acquired his BFA in painting and drawing from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1997 where he was the recipient of a Fredrick Layton Scholarship and attended The New York Studio Program. He was the 2015-16 Pfister Artist-in-Residence and curator of The Pfister Pop-Up Gallery. He is represented by The Woodman/Shimko Gallery, Provincetown, MA/Palm Springs, CA. Todd is is a contributing art writer for Urban Milwaukee and teaches drawing and painting for MIAD’s Pre-College and Continuing Education Programs. He and his wife, Renee Bebeau, have a studio in The Nut Factory in Milwaukee, WI.