The curatorial staff of the Milwaukee Art Museum are constantly researching the collection. Sometimes we request books and articles through interlibrary loan. Other times, we page through archival files either in person or online. And it’s not unusual to talk to colleagues in the field. But believe it or not, every once in a while, an important discovery is made by accident.
Samer Ghani, local artist, videographer, photographer, DearMKE Award winner, and “cultural documentarian,” captures stories as they emerge from Milwaukee events: from milestone moments like the Bucks’ victory parade to intimate rock concerts in neighborhood music venues. Ghani draws energy and inspiration for his artistic practice from Milwaukee’s unique spirit, landscape, and people.
Ghani’s love of art sparked more than 20 years ago, when he was a student in a Milwaukee Public Schools 4K art class at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Now, Ghani comes full circle by photographing the Museum’s Quadracci Pavilion to commemorate its 20th anniversary. The photograph appears on this year’s Member mug, offered to Members who support the Museum with an early renewal.
In a recent interview, Ghani discussed how his connection with the Museum has evolved over the decades.
I’m a book lover. Always have been, always will be. For me, the physicality of a book—the tactile qualities of holding it in my hands, the smell of the paper and ink, and the sound of turning the pages—it is part of a complete experience that I never want to give up. And I’m not the only one. Although e-readers have taken part of the book market, readers still prefer physical books and physical books outsell e-books.
I don’t own an e-reader, but I do a lot of reading on screens, usually on my computer. Compared to even ten years ago, an enormous amount of important scholarship for the art historian is on the internet. I still conduct good and thorough research using printed books, but it’s amazing what is available with a few taps of the keyboard.
This year, the Milwaukee Art Museum was pleased to work with artist and Milwaukee-area native Reginald Baylor for its annual Member mug. The mug features a detail of his painting On Duty, Not Driving, which is part of the Museum’s collection and currently on view.
I recently took the opportunity to ask Baylor a few questions, including some about the painting.
Each year, the Museum produces a gift exclusively for Members who renew early, in response to the first notice that their membership is about to expire. In 2020, we worked with Orchard Street Press, in St. Francis, to produce a distinct Member tote bag. The bag features an original design by Alison Kleiman, design and brand lead at the Museum, that is a playful abstraction of the Museum’s Burke Brise Soliel, affectionately known as the “wings.”
This year marks the 45th year the Milwaukee Art Museum has hosted the Scholastic Art Awards: Wisconsin Exhibition, celebrating the artistic talent of students in grades 7–12 from across our state. Unlike in years past, the exhibition is entirely virtual, with more than two hundred works available for viewing through March 21, 2021.
Selecting the works to include in the annual Scholastic exhibition is a challenge in normal times. When twenty-nine arts professionals from across Milwaukee’s creative community gathered online in early January to judge the over 1,800 art submissions, they all agreed this exhibition of next-generation art felt more essential than ever.
One of the best parts of living in Wisconsin for many is the snowy winters. While the joy of snow days might not be the same for adults as for kids, the fun of making snow angels or the thrill of throwing a snowball never fades. I remember spending hours digging tunnels through snow drifts that couldn’t possibly have been as tall in life as they exist in my memory. I wouldn’t come inside until my masterpiece was finished…or my toes were numb.
As we settle into this cold winter, there are two things that can help us thrive: art and the great outdoors. That’s why the Kohl’s Art Studio is teaming up with the Urban Ecology Center (UEC) to encourage everyone to bundle up and get creative together—outside!
Although this year we cannot gather at the Museum to see the Neapolitan crèche in the European galleries, an annual tradition for many, it is still possible to appreciate the joy this special tableau brings.
Back in early 2018, Tanya Paul, Isabel and Alfred Bader Curator of European Art, proposed that the Museum again install its Nativity scene, or crèche, in the galleries for the holidays. The work, a visitor favorite, hadn’t been on view since 2013, because the setting for the Holy Family and other figures was worn and needed repair—such stage sets are often fragile constructions that require replacing. The Museum’s setting needed either to be restored or refabricated. The decision was made to make a new stage set, and a group of us, from the Conservation department and the preparatory staff, started to explore the possibilities.
Around this time each year the Museum places its beloved Neapolitan crèche in the galleries. But because the Museum is temporarily closed through the holiday season, we unfortunately can’t share the crèche with you in person. I invite you, however, to read on to learn more about it, and about the history of restaging the Nativity scene.