The ART Around Us

An uncommonly rich environment for art abides in Wisconsin, nurtured by the eclectic works of a thriving population of artists—famous painters and those aspiring to recognition by galleries and art aficionados, sculptors, photographers and mixed-media exp

Some of the 6-by-6-inch artworks that will be featured in the Artists in Our Midst exhibit at Gallery 224 in Port Washington.
Ozaukee Press staff

For the first major appeal to the community for financial support of the visual arts, Jane Suddendorf knew where to turn.

She would call on the talents of the artists she has worked with for years.

Suddendorf, who taught art at Port Washington High School for 17 years, founded Gallery 224, Studio 224 and the Port Washington Saukville Arts Council about eight years ago to help nurture emerging artists and culture in her community.

More than 500 artists have had their work displayed in Gallery 224.

On Thursday, Dec. 5, the works of 130 artists, most of whom have shown their art previously at Gallery 224, will be on display in a fundraising exhibition with a unique twist—attendees will be able to take home one of the artworks.

Suddendorf, the executive director of the Arts Council, which encompasses the Gallery 224 and Studio 224, wasn’t exactly sure what the response to the fundraiser would be. This is the first time she asked artists to donate their work.

She limited the size of the donated pieces to 6 by 6 inches so they could easily fit in the gallery. As time went on, replies with commitments to send a piece began to arrive, one from as far away as Florida.

“I have been honored and overwhelmed by the response,” she said.

The exhibition, called Artists in our Midst, will coincidentally be the gallery’s 50th. Suddendorf noticed the milestone while counting posters from all the past exhibits.

Few galleries mount exhibits with the frequency of Gallery 224, and the pace is picking up. Its exhibition dates for 2020 are already booked.

“That’s a first. That speaks to the growing visibility and demand for the gallery,” Suddendorf said.

In an unusual feature, exhibits at Gallery 224 are not limited to a single artist. Themes are developed and multiple people submit work.

“If we have a theme and six different artists address it, I feel like that’s a great teaching tool,” she said. Suddendorf invites the artists to discuss their work with gallery visitors.

“They’re conversations, not lectures,” she said. “If people know the story and the process and where the piece came from, it’s more interesting.”

She hopes that helps create a welcoming atmosphere at the gallery. Sometimes, she said, people become intimidated when they enter art galleries and quickly try to find a way to leave gracefully.

Gallery 224 holds programs such as Drop In and Draw on Fridays, providing a quiet space with a lake view where artists can fill their sketchbooks, and offers programming for Balance and Portal,  which serve people with developmental disabilities.

“It’s about so much more than work on a wall. It’s a place to have conversations people wouldn’t have otherwise,” she said.

Artists in our Midst, she said, will help continue the mission to raise awareness of artists and the value of the arts.

“As a small nonprofit, we’re pretty vulnerable,” Suddendorf said. “We’ve had generous support, but we need to broaden the base.”

The three entities—Gallery 224, Studio 224 and the Arts Council—combined have three paid staff members. For many years, it was just volunteers, Suddendorf said, and they remain vital to the operation.

“That’s why we’re still here. It’s not me,” she said.

Some volunteers are artists who submitted work for Artists in Our Midst.

Suddendorf didn’t put any stipulations on the pieces. Some have photos, others are painted. Some are sculpted and others include items hanging from them or have a sculpture on top of the six-inch square. Some artists who create large works found the project especially challenging.

“It hasn’t been just put something on this panel,” she said. “The work reflects the thoughtfulness they put into all their work.”

Among the more renowned artists represented in the exhibition are Tom Uttech of the Town of Saukville (featured in last week’s Ozaukee Press) and Craig Blietz from northeast Wisconsin.

Those highly successful artists, she said, don’t need this show. They’re doing it more as mentors to emerging artists, including those who participated in ARTservancy, an initiative in which artists were invited to create pieces inspired by nature preserves in Ozaukee and Washington counties. All 24 artists involved in the project sent in a piece for the Gallery 224 fundraiser.

“What it means for an emerging artist to be in a show with Tom Uttech is incredible,” Suddendorf said.

If this exhibit has a theme, Suddendorf said, it’s the diversity of artists.

The night before the event, a reception will be held just for the artists. While most have had work in the gallery, many have never met.

The show is not juried, she said, meaning every piece submitted will be included.

“I feel there’s quality work to choose from,” she said. “There’s something for everybody. There’s such a variety.”

While every artist is included, so is every ticket holder. Everyone will walk out with a piece of art.

The event will be held from 5 to 7 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 5,  in the vacant space next to Gallery 224. Food and drinks will be available.

A silent auction will determine the order of art selection. After that, raffle tickets will determine who will be next to choose their art. Each person receives one raffle ticket and may purchase more to increase their chances of moving up in the selection process.

“My hope is people leave with a piece of art they really love,” Suddendorf said.

For those who purchase tickets but can’t attend, remaining pieces will be available for pickup at the Arts Council on Dec. 6 and 7.

Tickets are $100 per couple and may be purchased at the Arts Council, 303 N. Franklin St., from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Thursdays or by mailing a check to the Arts Council, 303 N. Franklin St., Port Washington, 53074. Checks should be made out to Gallery 224 with “AIM” in the memo line.

Gallery 224 is located in the Port Harbor Center at the foot of Main Street in downtown Port Washington.



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Wisconsin’s largest paid circulation community weekly newspaper. Serving Port Washington, Saukville, Grafton, Fredonia, Belgium, as well as Ozaukee County government. Locally owned and printed in Port Washington, Wisconsin.

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Port Washington, WI 53074
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