Interview: Walking for Art Along Waukesha's Main Street-Art Fest 2009
Lynn Gaffey, owner of Waukesha's Historic Downtown Almont Gallery, first began her artistic career in the 1970's selling wired bead jewelry. Now proficient with fused glass, the self-taught artist originally began showing her creative pieces in an art gallery before the reclamation of Main Street, 12 years ago, when the first Waukesha art crawl began. Eventually Gaffey became inspired to open her own gallery, as she says, "to show my own art, and that of my friends. As well as to provide affordable and original art, at a place where you can meet the artists." So in October 2002, Gaffey christened Almont Gallery, which became a fixture on Main Street, and an intimate part of the Waukesha community and the still counting 57 Art Crawls. Presently, about 100 artists thrive in Waukesha's Historic Downtown, either showing artwork or renting studio space, while the art crawls currently draw several thousand people to this area five times a year. Gaffey chats about this artistic growth and the upcoming Waukesha Art Fest.
Q: Who originally started the art crawls?
A: I guess we started a trend in this neck of the woods. There were hardly any galleries, just empty store fronts 12 years ago. Then Jeff Seymour, who first started Sprizzo Gallery and Cafe, began with the idea of an art party. I went to the first one, and I' ve been apart of this ever since. We used to have only four, but then they wanted five, so we added the one more, in October. The art crawls have inspired renovating downtown Waukesha. First came the art galleries, then the boutiques, and then restaurants. Our mayor, Larry Nelson, has also helped, been very supportive. Now we have about several thousand people attending every art crawl each season.
Q: And you also began Friday Night Live, which happens every Friday?
A: Friday Night Live has become a big event until [continuing] the end of September. We have five stages with local bands. Now we have outdoor dining on the street, and an ambiance. Even the new Black Trumpet restaurant, named for a species of mushroom, has the Conde Nast recommendation. There's still Divino Gelato, once named in USA Today, for having some of the best Gelato in the country. And the owners now opened Sloppy Joe's Soda Fountain, with homemade ice cream, and a pink poodle for their logo on another corner. [They serve the American Sloppy Joes, and Chicago Hot Dogs. both under three dollars.] Plus, this is a very diverse neighborhood, with fun bars, and nightlife. And all still very safe. We even have a cigar bar, The Nice Ash, which has become very popular.
Q: Could you please speak to the upcoming Waukesha Art Fest?
A: We're in our 20th year, and this is the first time it will be held on Main Street, in the downtown area. The city is closing Main Street between Broadway and Maple. Over 50 regional artists will be selling their Fine Art and Fine Craft, with music, food, and drink all around the area, for purchase in the restaurants. With the event moving to Main Street, there's more community involvement, since it's now all inclusive. And admission is free.
Q: Is there anything else you would like to add?
A: Yes. We have a silent auction that all the artists and some local businesses donate to, those who have gotten involved because we are downtown now. All the proceeds of the auction support scholarships for the four local high schools and Carroll University. It's about living local, low brow, but very affordable, and also amazing.
(Enjoy Waukesha's Art Fest on Saturday, September 12, from 10:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m.,
while the next Waukesha Art Crawl happens on Saturday, October 3, 4:00 to 10:00 p.m.)