On a searingly sun-filled afternoon, I set out on an adventure with my intrepid photographer friend, Meg, seeking the Milwaukee studio where Heather Hambrecht creates her fantastic organic leather handbag line, (h(om)e). We were armed with an address, detailed directions and a GPS—so we weren’t really expecting a grand adventure requiring a one-woman rescue mission to get us through the final blocks to our urban destination.
Want to know what energizes an art museum staff, beyond knowing that we share a world-class art collection with almost 400,000 people a year? Believe it or not, for the Milwaukee Art Museum staff it was a coloring contest.
Of course, it helps when that coloring contest is both inspired by and judged by Wisconsin artist Reginald Baylor. (And also, when the prize involves a free lunch with the artist.)
The Museum Store featured her work in the Art of the Table “satellite store” that weekend, and even in the company of great international design houses, her RRT Designs pewter jewelry line (crafted by her own hand right here in Southeastern Wisconsin) stood out.
Written by “Sunny” the Dog
You know how sometimes you just need to become a tourist in your own hometown in order to truly appreciate all the wonderful places to go and things to do? Although the Milwaukee Art Museum is my permanent home, I recently decided to spend the day like I was visiting for the very first time.
If you’ve read curator Mel Buchanan’s posts Painting the Gallery Walls or Layers of Exhibition Paint, you already have a general sense of how an exhibition physically comes together. A lot of those same processes apply to the execution of an exhibition store, as well.
While Impressionism: Masterworks on Paper was still in full swing, Director of Retail Operations Karen McNeely and Store Manager Jeanne Tripi met with the Museum’s Exhibition Designer John Irion to discuss the dimensions and the colors of the Accidental Genius: Art from the Anthony Petullo Collection exhibition store. In fact, the Impressionism store and the Accidental Genius store are located in the exact same space–just the configuration of the walls has shifted.
The Museum Store has a dedicated staff person whose primary responsibility is “Product Development.”
Julia Jackson is the Museum Store’s creative brain-power and organizational manager behind items like the Roy Lichtenstein Crying Girl V-neck T-shirt (I get so many complements when I wear mine and it’s really soft, too!) and the Calatrava-inspired “Wings” earrings that I love.
Here is a simplified breakdown of Julia’s design and organization process:
This spring, the Milwaukee Art Museum partnered with The A.V. Club Milwaukee to sponsor a design contest for a new line of T-shirts to be sold in the Museum Store. The contest prompted the designers with the question “What does the Art Museum mean to you?” Clearly, this question was a launching pad for a variety of interpretations.
In the Museum Store, we are always looking to highlight the artists and vendors that make commitments to ecologically and socially sustainable business practices. Throughout the store, this logo (left) will tell you that a company uses recycled, repurposed, or sustainable materials and is conscientious about their shipping and packaging. I recently gave a Cate & Levi repurposed wool hand puppet to a dear friend for her baby shower, and it was the perfect gift! See how cute above! And each is totally one-of-a-kind because of the material.
I’ll admit truly: one of my favorite pastimes is helping people pick out jewelry. I’ll watch a person walking casually along the outside rim of the cases Santiago Calatrava designed for the Museum Store, and then I’ll see the double-take and the excitement in their eyes as they hold that special item in their view.
The thing I find particularly thrilling about the American Quilts Exhibition Store is that because quilts are such a living medium, a part of everyday lives, they often inspire very personal dialogues as visitors pass into the exhibition store. Every day we meet visitors who are eager to share their sewing stories—they admire the works in the exhibition in a profound way because of a shared experience with those artists. We learn about still-vibrant family traditions of sewing, memories of people’s mothers hand-stitching their clothing when they were children, the various techniques seamstresses develop over time, and the agony and the ecstasy of piecing those wee slippery scraps of fine fabric together.