LGBT center aims for community involvement with art gallery

A Milwaukee LGBT community center is using its new art gallery to both reach out to the community and raise money for programs. Photo by Elise Krivit/[email protected]

Community centers are commonplace in Milwaukee. But one in particular, the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center at 252 E. Highland Ave., exhibits a little more than meets the eye.

The community center’s art gallery opened in January 2011 in an effort to complement its outreach programs. Gallery curator Jeremy Hanson is hopeful that the space will continue to provide a safe welcoming place for people of all walks from life.

“We started this gallery over one year ago mainly to start ‘friendraising’ rather than fundraising,” Hanson said.

The art gallery has raised approximately $500, according to Hanson, but money is not his main focus.

“We are happy that we have been raising money to support our programs, but our focus is to bring people into the center that we don’t necessarily see,” Hanson said. “We want everyone, gay or straight, to feel free to come in and enjoy the art.”

Patrick Price, director of philanthropy and chief financial adviser of the community center, is also very impressed with the recognition the art gallery has seen, as well as how it benefits everyone in the community.

“Within the first show I was shocked to see how many people had shown up,” Price said. “We didn’t expect to have over 80 people at the grand opening. It was great to see all the support.”

When the art gallery sells a piece of art, it receives 20 percent of the commission.

Portions of the profits go to keeping the center open and running various programs such as the Anti-Violence Project, which focuses on violence against the LGBT community, and Project Q, an after-school program for community youth.

Price and Hanson both said the center would like to give each program as much money as needed, but their desired allocation of equal funds to each is not feasible. As a result, they are forced to direct the money to those programs that receive the least state and federal funding.

The mission of the LGBT Community Center is “providing culturally sensitive and competent educational, social, and health and wellness services that meet the needs of LGBT youth, adults and their allies,” according to its website.

Exhibits have varied in style, and have included a series of photographs of same-sex couples, artwork representing the feelings and emotions of spring and an upcoming showcase of art made from fibrous materials.

The current exhibition is entitled “Print and Mixed Media,” and showcases work “made in collage, mixed media, assemblage, etc. works that incorporate multiple mediums,” according to the community center’s website. The show ends Sept. 30.

“Our first show was the inaugural opening, where we had the biggest attendance of 80 people,” Hanson said. “Our Spring Fling show raised the most money but had a decent turnout as well.”

Kristen Gaffey, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said she is intrigued by art and loves the complexity of what it can show.

“I would be open to going to this art gallery,” Gaffey said. “It doesn’t matter what building it is in; art is art and I think it is great that this community center has a gallery that could bring in both people and income.”

Julie Pope, a sophomore in the College of Health Sciences, said she would not be deterred by the fact that the art gallery was in an LGBT community center, but rather more interested.

“I think that a lot of different art would be shown and accepted at the venue,” Pope said. “I would go.”