Gary Tuma Transitions to the Future @ WPCA

Feb. 15, 2010
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A visit to Walkers Point Center for the Arts clearly expresses their new future…furniture and files everywhere waiting to be moved into their new home. The WPCA will expanding to new space after February 28 to another vintage building at 839 South 5th Street. The former day care and learning center became the perfect fit for the WCPA’s mission to foster children’s art education and classes in the neighborhood while furthering their appreciation for contemporary art in a gallery setting. The location provides more visibility and accessibility, but this great task looms before the organization leaving only a small transition time until their first exhibition in March. Executive Director Gary Tuma discusses the WCPA’s new home with enthusiasm.

Q: What was the advantage of moving WCPA?

A: It’s been part of our vision for many years, to own a building. So buying this building, being sole occupant means you can renovate as you want. We’ll be able to triple the size of the education center and have a one third larger gallery space. While the second floor is almost move in ready for our education staff and classes, with a separate front door entrance, the gallery will need much more renovation.

Q: What attracted the organization to this building?
A: Many of the major systems had already been updated, heating and air conditioning, and the second floor meets the needs of WPCA’s educational goals. The building has character. But the street [5th Street and National Avenue] appears to be inviting a transition to a cultural center, a haven. Bucketworks and Art Works for Milwaukee will be moving together, to 706 South 5th Street. The Milwaukee Ballet is on the corner along with Carte Blanche Studios [the theater company] in the neighborhood. We’re more visible in this location and there may be more foot traffic with the restaurants within walking distance.

Q: What will be your first priority?

A: Well, moving. There’s a lot to move. And our first exhibit is scheduled for March 5, but there’s a little flux with that, maybe all the exhibits this year. I’m waiting for estimates to come back to do a little bit of renovation that we planned for the gallery right now. We also hope to expand our classes, because the second floor has two large classrooms with wonderful windows and light. After we’re settled we may try offering adult classes again.

Q: And then in the future?
A: The gallery space on the first floor needs major renovation, floors, walls, we’ll need a detailed plan approved by the board and more money to accomplish those goals. So we’re going to start with the basics first off to get the gallery up and running. Eventually we’d like to offer more space for our own members, to show their artwork, even if juried.
We’ve some exciting shows planned this year…Colin Matthes and Anthony Smith, Jr. in “Sailing the Barbarous Coast,” then a photographic essay documenting new immigrant families from the Neighborhood House in July, and the Brazilian show, “Essences,” in September. We hope with several spaces in this location to eventually host concurrent shows.

Q: And how long will it take to complete the renovations?

A: We’re working on this now along with the board. Jane Brite founded the WPCA together with several very dedicated women over 20 years ago. But we’re trying to organize a major Capital Campaign to fund the more extensive renovations in the future. This is mainly for the gallery spaces. But everyone, they’re excited and welcoming the transitions. We also hope to plan a mural on the large wall facing National Avenue. That might inspire others in the neighborhood to do the same, contribute to public art. And, we hope to have a grand opening, a party, to thank all those who helped us move and celebrate our new home. It’s in the near future, maybe March. It will be a very grand party.


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