Image by Jenna Kashou.
The Southern Graphics Council International (SGCI) held their annual conference in Milwaukee this past weekend. International and local artists were on display at more than 50 different venues. Hosted by both MIAD and UWM, the SGCI annual conference is the biggest annual gathering that showcasing the craft of printmaking.
I kicked off the conference Thursday night at BikeMKE, an event that benefits the Midwest BikeShare, and showcased the poster art of Michael Valenti. The Hanson Dodge Creative office space had been transformed into a gallery filled with creatives, cyclists, activists and artists. Valenti’s posters are fun, quirky depictions of famous scenes and cyclists. The brightly colored, imaginative prints lined the staircase and office walls, and really captivated and enlivened the crowd.
Valenti is based in Illinois, but his son Maxx works at Hanson Dodge. “Hey, my old man did this,” Maxx told Ken Hanson, as he showed him one of his father’s posters. Having owned a successful creative agency for 30 years, Hanson knows a thing or two about spotting talent and saw a natural fit between Valenti’s cycling images and Hanson Dodge Creative's active lifestyle brand. So he offered to put them on display.
Valenti took it a step further and offered the proceeds from the sales of the limited-edition BikeMKE (pictured at left) poster to support Midwest Bike Share.
Midwest BikeShare is working hard to install 25 kiosks with 250 bikes in Milwaukee. Barry Mainwood reported to the crowd that they are only about one third of the way to their $1.6 million fundraising goal, so he doesn’t anticipate that we will have bikes by this summer. They plan to offer memberships and hourly rental rates, with the first 30 minutes free for members to keep the bikes out on the streets. If you support the movement to bring a Bike Share program to Milwaukee, you can sign the petition here.
Friday night, I followed the “Print Crawl” – kind of like a mini-gallery night, cleverly named to sound like one of Milwaukee’s favorite pastimes, a pub crawl.
I stopped at Walker’s Point Center for the Arts (839 S. 5th St.) to see the exhibition “La Ceiba Grafica,” named after a print workshop in Veracruz, Mexico.The democratic facilities are available to the public, regardless of their ability to pay. Though there were only a couple dozen images depicting familiar themes in Mexican art – self-identity, political activism – it blew me away. What’s more – the sustainable printmaking studio uses Mexican marble and other local resources for the lithography process. Per Anderson, Martin Vinaver and Rafael Ruiz, the organization’s founding members, curated the show.
I stopped at the MARN Salon IV at the Mandel Creative Studios (301 E. Erie St.), but nothing really grabbed me so I moved through to MIAD (273 E. Erie St.) to see the “Makers in Print” exhibit with works from China, Argentina and Poland. Other colorful works were on display by master printers and honorees Margo Humphrey and Judith Solodkin – all very different from the next.
Peltz Gallery (1119 E. Knapp St.) Gallery featured “Top Drawer Prints” curated by Warrington Colescott, the well-known Wisconsin-based artist. I learned I missed a guest appearance by the master himself. “Oh, you’d recognize him right away. He walks with a cane and has a little gray goatee. He must be 90 by now,” said one of the gallery employees.
I fell in love with a busy scene, one of Colescott’s satirical etchings, but agreed to sleep on it before I made any major art purchases. On the second floor of the whimsical, brightly colored house-turned-gallery, Cheryl Olson-Sklar, a former professor of printmaking at UWM, curated “Top Drawer Small Prints,” a collection of small works by Wisconsin artists.
The bottom line: Milwaukee is home to some fascinating, forward-thinking artists and people championing art. It was the city's honor to host the SGCI conference here and I think Milwaukee’s distinction as a “Top 12 Art Place” is well deserved.
Follow me on Twitter as @jkashou to stay on top of what's happening around town or search #GirlAboutTown.