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More than 60 venues to participate in Gallery Night and Day

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Local painter Reggie Baylor, artist-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel, shows his work in his Third Ward studio.

If Milwaukee lives, moves and breathes, then the Historic Third Ward and East Side are the keepers of the city’s heart and soul. These neighborhoods beat with an artistic vigor that pulses with energy and creativity, and this weekend the neighborhoods’ galleries, boutiques and restaurants will open their doors for the 22nd year of Gallery Night and Day.

The weekend will give the Milwaukee community a chance to feel the Third Ward’s artistic rhythm first-hand. Sculptures, paintings, photographs and other art genres will be exhibited in more than 60 venues for free public viewing on Friday from 5 to 9 p.m. and on Saturday 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event occurs on a quarterly basis corresponding with the change of seasons.

Fred Boutique, a first time East Town participant located at 524 N. Water St., will feature Jeff Main’s black and white abstract photography that highlights women’s forms and local fashion. The night will also include a trunk show with one of the boutique’s showcased accessories designers, Jackie Barutha.

Annie Maederer, buyer and store manager, said the boutique decided to participate in Gallery Night because of opportunities to network and connect with local artists and community members.

“It builds a buzz in the community about the art and the store,” Maederer said. “It is an excellent opportunity to broaden our customer base and reach a new demographic that may not have shopped in Fred previously.”

Grava Gallery, a Third Ward participant located at 207 E. Buffalo St., will showcase acrylic paintings by Shane Walsh, a Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design alumnus. Walsh explores an abstract style through his paintings that plays with space and form.

Michael Wavra, Grava gallery owner, has shown Walsh’s artwork in his gallery since Walsh was a student at MIAD. He and the artist met in a grocery store close to the gallery’s old location on Brady Street. His personal connection with the artist led him to choose Walsh as his featured Gallery Night artist.

Wavra said he’s enjoyed watching Walsh’s art change over the years. Previously, Walsh’s style reflected realism whereas his work now takes on a completely abstract style.

This year Grava celebrates its 19th year as an art gallery and custom framer, Wavra said. The gallery serves Walsh as a creative outlet and opportunity to work with artists.

Although Wavra is not an artist, he supports the art community and his framing makes it possible to display art. He said gallery night is an opportunity for anyone interested in art to see what Milwaukee has to offer.

“Gallery night is an easy, fun way of seeing the diversity of art in the city,” Wavra said. “It’s a great learning experience. For people who buy art, it’s a great way to start or see what’s new.”

Gallery night not only provides an opportunity for art enthusiasts to view art but also to meet the masters behind the works.

Reggie Baylor, artist in residence at the Pfister Hotel, 424 E. Wisconsin Ave., will discuss his paintings at his studio gallery inside the hotel.

“To talk about work with viewers is really healthy,” Baylor said. “The open studio concept is going to be a necessity. Artists need to accept coming out of their dungeons. Society expects interaction.”

The process of art engages a viewer’s curiosity, he said. Society loves to see their coffee being made at Starbucks or watch reality television. Art works the same way. Society doesn’t want to see a final product, it wants to see the process.

Baylor said inspiration first hit him when he learned about the linear theory in a college philosophy class. How do you get from one to two if there are endless possibilities numerically? If truth exists behind the theory, Baylor felt he should be able to paint anything if everything in life has a mathematical formula.

“It took the mysticism out of creativity for me,” he said.

The great artists no longer intimidated him, he said. He had the guts to challenge their theories and create his own. Baylor’s paintings often involve intricate designs that rival those created with computer graphic design programs. He paints his own life experiences into his art to create deeply meaningful and interpretive paintings.

Baylor said he hopes viewers will look at his painting like a sound byte. At first glance they grip viewers with their color, composition and design, but their meaning lasts long after the initial encounter.

Gallery Night offers the community a chance to reexamine art’s value in society, he said. He posed the question: What if people wore art on the back of T-shirts instead of an athlete’s number?

“It’s a matter of accepting and believing in the importance of the fine arts,” he said.

While some artists will open up their personal studios to share their work, others will display their pieces in restaurants, giving Gallery Night attendees a chance to incorporate art into their dinner plans.

Soups On!, a restaurant that specializes in homemade soups located at 221 N. Water St., participates in Gallery Night and Day each quarter. Mary Krimmer, owner and homemade soup chef, said she changes the artwork in her restaurant with each new event. The artwork then hangs in her shop until the next Gallery Night.

This fall, Soups On! will feature photographs of Milwaukee by Renee and Peter Skiba, she said.

When asked why she participates each year, Krimmer said, “Why not?”

“I’m a soup artisan,” she said. “Art is something you gravitate to.”

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