A cool spring night in Milwaukee’s Third Ward brought out vast numbers of visitors on April 16, filling parking structures to capacity and crowding storefronts and sidewalks. Eager to immerse myself in Milwaukee’s culture and nightlife for the evening, I joined the throng, strolling the brisk streets and stopping at galleries, shops, and businesses for a taste of Gallery Night.
For the past 22 years, Gallery Night (and Day!) has been a local event, that today has grown into a premier two-day event held quarterly with now 66 venues participating, mainly throughout the Third Ward, East Town, and Walker’s Point. Artists, both experienced and newly discovered, have the opportunity to display the wealth of their talents. There is music, food, and shopping throughout the exhibitions.
Along my trek through parts of the Third Ward, I had the opportunity to meet up with a few of the local artists. I found myself amazed at the way artists don’t really seem to find their subject matter, but the subject matter finds them. I was impressed by their humble attitudes (in most cases) and their gracious smiles. It seemed to me that the artists talked about their work almost in the same manner as I would talk about my offspring. My appreciation for the intricacy of art – paintings, photography, sculpture, and anything else that is born of the human imagination– was realized anew on those brisk, lighted streets of Milwaukee.
- Moda Salon, on the corner of Water and Chicago Streets, is home to Bubbles, Ink Gallery, showcasing the intriguing bubble photography of Cherrie Hanson. You almost have to look twice to realize that you are actually looking at a simple bubble. Cherrie, a UWM graduate, discovered the intricate beauty while she was simply goofing around with bubbles and setting up rapid shots with her camera. Since that day she hasn’t looked back. Cherrie runs and owns the gallery, rotating her artwork for the different gallery night events. Previously, Cherrie was featured at the VP Gallery, the most prestigious rank and honor to achieve. Outside the Moda Salon, supporters of Cherrie’s work were promoting her Spheres of Light by blowing bubbles into the night.
- Just down Water Street, set up in the Soups On! Café, Sally Gauger Jensen displayed her prismacolor paintings of scenes throughout Milwaukee’s Bay View community. Sally says the camera sees more than the eye, picking up what your mind won’t let you see. She photographs the street scenes and then transforms them into amazing pencil artwork. Prismacolor allows for easy blending and fine detail as she recreates a soft, impressive version of the photograph.
- A trip downtown wouldn’t be the same without a stop at the Jackalope Lounj and the Wicked Hop, the most “artsy” bar in the Third Ward and also hailed to have Milwaukee’s best Bloody Mary. Here is where I met up with the artists Derek Jacobs and Bob Boissonnault. (It’s not a wonder that his business card simply refers to him as “Bob”.) They set up shop along the sidewalk outside the bar, letting people gather around their portable heaters to view their displays. These guys call themselves the “bartender artists,” splitting the space together to form their own gallery. Derek began showing his oil paintings in January. Bob has been working in tin and metals, taking part in the grand artwork displayed in the bar. Next time you stop at the Wicked Hop, take in the history and the art displayed there, and the walnut bar designed by the same craftsmen who also worked on projects for such well-knowns as Oprah Winfrey and Tom Hanks. You will be impressed.
Shortly after 9 p.m. the night crowd thinned out as the festivities wound to an end. The next day vendors and artists would be out again, displaying and selling throughout sunlit streets. In any case, the light shed on Milwaukee’s outstanding arts community during this two-day event encourages a new appreciation for our local talent.