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Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013

RedLine Milwaukee

Helping Artists Stay In Town

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RedLine Milwaukee is an art gallery and studio space as well as a mecca for artists and arts education in Milwaukee. It has a community print shop and computer room, a classroom and a meeting room, library, kitchen and living space all beautifully installed in a two-story cream city brick building at 1422 N. Fourth St. The building is owned by Lori Bauman, who co-founded RedLine with Steve Vande Zande in 2009.

Bauman earned her bachelor’s degree in art and education at Alverno. Like many artists born and raised in Milwaukee, all she really wanted to do was leave town. She saw no route to a career as a visual artist here. In 2001, however, she was hired by Vande Zande as a resident artist in a teen education program of the Milwaukee Art Museum. Vande Zande is a dedicated MPS art teacher and, like Bauman, a multimedia artist. For nearly a decade, they dreamed, schemed, researched and designed a program to help artists establish careers and remain in Milwaukee. Meanwhile, Bauman earned an M.A. in video art from NYU. A classmate there from Texas, Laura Merage, joined the planning and founded a sister organization, RedLine Denver. The two institutions share ideas and expertise, and hope to exchange exhibits.

 

Artist Residencies and Professional Development

RedLine serves 20 resident artists. Five are mentors; that is, individuals who make their living in Milwaukee as professional artists or teachers and can share “what you need to do to be successful in Milwaukee as an artist,” as Bauman puts it. In exchange for mentoring other residents, they receive free studio space, exhibitions and the rewards that flow from such a community endeavor. Mentors stay for two or three years.

Ten to 12 of the residents are emerging artists in a two-year program that can extend to three. Many already have advanced degrees. These artists set goals and keep logs of their progress. Each receives a studio, full access to the building’s facilities and a mentor who counsels them weekly. They also receive 200 hours of professional development in any areas they request; for example, tax accounting or social media wizardry. Thus far, every emerging artist has found employment in an art-related field.

These artists pay a $200 per month utility fee and devote two hours each month to community service with organizations such as the Boys & Girls Clubs or with RedLine as teen mentors. The remaining residencies belong to the Teen Council. Students join as sophomores and stay through senior year as RedLine helps them into college. Their access to the facility is limited to times when a mentor is present.

A monthly Teen Night is open to the whole city. Resident and visiting artists work hands-on with the 30-40 teens that can be counted on to attend.

 

Exhibitions

Vande Zande calls the gallery the heart that pumps blood into all the other programs. It’s the first thing a visitor to the building encounters. RedLine plans at least one exhibition per year by a foreign artist, an out-of-town artist, a local artist and the RedLine residents. Each exhibit brings different people and activities to the building. Exhibitors make artwork, give workshops and sometimes stay in the building’s living quarters.

RedLine recently received a coveted Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts to bring the Houston artist Nathaniel Donnett to Milwaukee for a residency. His work addresses aspects of African-American culture and experience. The show will open on Gallery Night, Friday, April 19. The current exhibit, “Entwined,” is a collaboration by RedLine mentor Ann Mory Wydeven, a professor at Alverno, and mentee Laci Coppins, whose residency just garnered her a full time job at MAM.

 

Community Print Shop and Educational Programs

The Flux-designed basement print shop is almost as pivotal as the gallery, according to Bauman. Everyone meets there—resident and non-resident Milwaukee artists, visiting artists, school children, art therapists and social workers. It includes two dark rooms, two presses, and facilities for silk-screening, papermaking, fabric dying, animating and ceramics.

These traditional art practices are also vital to RedLine’s education programs. Teachers of all subjects bring their elementary and high school students to the building for “a new lens, a hands-on opportunity, a different learning environment, a new way to solve problems,” Bauman said. “The idea that artists are kooky, frivolous or dangerous is changing in Milwaukee.”

John Schneider is a Milwaukee performing artist, a theatre and dance instructor at Marquette University and a member of the Shepherd Express staff.

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