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Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2010

RedLine Milwaukee Nurtures the Arts Community

Focus on artist development, exhibitions and education

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Too many Milwaukee artists have migrated to other cities in search of a more nourishing, interdisciplinary environment for creating art. Before they co-founded RedLine Milwaukee, Lori Bauman and Steve Vande Zande had each ventured to New York to continue their education—she attended New York University for her master of arts, and he earned his master of science with an emphasis in art from Bank Street College of Education in conjunction with Parsons The New School for Design.

Meeting in 2001, when Vande Zande hired Bauman to help him teach in ArtWorks, a teen outreach program that he developed through the Milwaukee Art Museum, they found a shared belief that Milwaukee could be like other cities with a better-supported creative community.

“We both wanted to live in New York, but we were rooted here in Milwaukee,” Bauman explains. “So we asked ourselves, ‘What do we wish we had as we were growing up here as artists to support us?’”

The response to that question has manifested as RedLine Milwaukee, an art incubator with multilayered services focused on arts and educational programs for the community. RedLine, which celebrated its grand opening on Oct. 2, is housed in a beautifully restored 94-year-old factory on North Fourth Street owned by Wisconsin Arts Lab, a real estate holding company that donates the lease of the entire building to the nonprofit organization. The building’s basement and two floors (approximately 7,500 square feet each) hold an exhibition hall open to the public, studio space for artists, a lending library, classroom space, an apartment for visiting artists, a fully equipped printmaking facility and a multipurpose community room.

RedLine Milwaukee has three main program components: resident artist development, exhibitions and education. The artist residency program selects 12 professional artists to work in RedLine’s affordable studio space with access to in-house equipment and facilities. The resident studio artists are paired with one of five mentors, normally established artists who make a living doing art, chosen by RedLine’s board of directors. These professionals reserve at least two hours a week to mentor their individual resident artists, and they must spend at least 10 hours a week working in RedLine studios on their own productions. Resident studio artists, in turn, mentor teen artists using the youth studio, as well as perform two hours of community service each week.

RedLine’s exhibition program brings “socially relevant exhibitions to the Milwaukee community with a focus on serving a broader audience than is generally considered” by larger institutions. Each year, RedLine Milwaukee plans to show an international artist, a national artist and a local artist, as well as an exhibit showcasing its RedLine residents and mentors.

RedLine’s educational programs range from teen outreach and all-ages art camp to professional development workshops and teacher training programs.

“Our philosophy is that Milwaukee’s children are a resource,” Bauman says. “We think the city’s youth should be considered ‘at-promise,’ as opposed to ‘at-risk.’”

RedLine recently announced that all of its pilot education programs have been funded for the year and have moved on to the implementation stage. At the end of October, six local teenagers joined the resident program through the Teen Studio program, and collaborative efforts with the Milwaukee Art Museum have been finalized that allow as many as 40 teens to participate in two art-making internships with local artists over the course of 100 hours.

RedLine’s state-of-the-art print shop is organized and managed by MIAD alums Kari Couture and Kim Weiss. Member fees and a small collection of printmakers willing to work as studio monitors make hands-on printmaking experiences a reality for anyone looking to learn something new or pros hoping to get their hands on the communal printmaking facilities of their art school days.

By providing a welcoming creative environment, essential supplies, visionary educational programs, cutting-edge exhibitions and strong connections to the vanguards of contemporary art, RedLine Milwaukee offers artists an exceptional collection of resources for professional development and creative growth. And a reason for local artists to stay in Milwaukee.

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