Ten Years of Art Exhibits at the Urban Ecology Center

Written by Guest Blogger
    Monday, 04 April 2016
Ten Years of Art Exhibits at the Urban Ecology Center

As our art exhibits enter their tenth year, Sally Duback, one of the founding members of our arts committee offers this reflection about the beginning and growth of the program.

Ten years ago, UEC board member Danni Gendelman convinced the board that it would be a good idea to host nature-related art exhibitions in the community room. In order to make this happen, she pulled together a small committee of Milwaukee area artists/arts professionals Barbara Manger, Sally Duback and Leon Travanti; and discussions began among them about how this could work.

The group decided to host quarterly exhibitions featuring the work of one or more artists, and the artists would be selected by an annual jury process. Exhibition proposals from artists were (and still are) solicited through listings on the MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) list serve, postings in the UEC newsletter, and word of mouth.

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Nature takes over the nitrogen storage bunker and spent acid house at the Badger Ammunition Plant. Photo: Megan K Hines

The first exhibition in the gallery featured the work of seven Madison area photographers who were granted the exclusive privilege of a two-year window during which they were allowed on the premises of the Badger Ammunition Plant in Prairie du Sac to photograph anything and everything on its six thousand acre grounds. The plant had been de-commissioned, was abandoned and in varying states of decay; so Mother Nature was taking over.

At the time, the future of the site was a subject of some debate, so the presentation of these photographs made for some interesting discussions about the future of such a large tract of land in the heart of the environmentally sensitive Sauk Prairie. This made for a fascinating exhibition, and, because it was the committee’s first and therefore not as well attended as it would be now, one that could be repeated.

Over the years, the UEC exhibitions have demonstrated high quality and the receptions have been well attended, with artists present to talk about their work at opening receptions.

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Top: the community room at Riverside Park, the first gallery space. Photo: Nancy Aten
Bottom: the valley room at the Menomonee Valley, the latest gallery space. Photo: Jamie Bilgo Bruchman

As of this year, the exhibition committee has grown to seven community members and two staff members, and the Menomonee Valley branch has been added as an exhibition venue. The committee has also begun to arrange for participating artists who are willing to give workshops in their chosen media to UEC members. Of course, none of this would be possible without the dedicated support of branch managers Jamie Ferschinger and Glenna Holstein. Their participation and enthusiasm for the programs the Art Committee has put together to date have helped the exhibition grow exponentially.

This article was written by Sally Duback, one of the founding members of our arts committee. You can learn more about our exhibits, see the latest schedule, and browse our art show archive by clicking here.

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