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“After Hours” exhibition showcases staff work

An intricate paper cutout of two legs amidst green ferns. Branches grow out of the top of the legs.

Kelly Alexander-Wendorf, “Walking Through,” 2020.

From lab supervisors to library workers to the president of the college, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) offsite gallery space, the Gallery at The Ave, will showcase staff work in its newest exhibition, “After Hours.” On view from July 18 – October 7, 2023, the exhibition is located in the bustling heart of downtown Milwaukee.

Identified as individuals holding administrative and technical roles at the college, MIAD staff are often creative in their own right while working to support the needs of the MIAD community. Works ranging from photography to blacksmithing, ceramics to papercutting embody the ethos of the exhibition, which explores artistic practices that are often honed and explored before or after work and on weekends.

Kelly Alexander-Wendorf ’10 (Printmaking), admissions office manager & events coordinator, expanded her practice in both printmaking and papercutting while attending MIAD as a student. “I’m very thankful to have been chosen to be a part of this exhibition,” she says. “It is an opportunity to share a different creative side of me to my colleagues. In the Admissions Office we talk about creativity, art, and design all the time to prospective students. I’ve always found these conversations to be inspiring and a way to bring myself back to the art studio to continue my practice as an artist.”

Kat Barndt ’23 (Communication Design, Industrial Design), technology support specialist, mixes fine art with design to explore difficult and taboo themes and topics in need of advocacy. “This was such a great opportunity to be able to create pieces for this show, and have an outlet to explore concepts that I’ve had for a while, but haven’t had a push to execute them until now,” she says. “I also am grateful that I was able to work with such great gallery staff.”

Megan Cunningham, assistant registrar, creates multidisciplinary work informed by her background in anthropology. “While my job as Assistant Registrar at MIAD has fostered a sincere appreciation for the “Professional Artist” persona and landscape, I frequently use my personal practice to question the functional limits of these labels and my relationship to them,” she explains. “This opportunity to present what I consider to be my own brand of “outsider art” to a physical space and my community is a very significant personal achievement and emotionally charged experience.”

 

A textile sculpture of a flesh-colored rainbow with raining clouds at either end. Two needles pierce through the ends of the rainbow.

Kayle Karbowski, “Crying Rainbow Tongue with Disco Clouds,” 2020.

Ben Dembroski ’02 (Sculpture), managing director of Emerging Technologies Center & institutional labs, sometimes puts his practice on the back burner, but says exhibiting in the show “lit a fire.” The work he submitted is part of a larger series that he had been planning to start. “We are at our core a community of creative practitioners,” he says. “It’s something our students, even if they’re not aware of what everybody’s practice is, they can feel it leaking into the hallways and soaking through the walls. It’s just how we approach everything that we do.”

Bryan Jerabek, environmental health and safety coordinator, is a knife maker known as Nomad Knife & Tool when not at work. “I’m showing a big piece of myself to everyone in MIAD and also the community at large,” he says of the exhibition. “I don’t get out a lot like that, so it’s nice to have a place to do that.” Working with students, Jerabek says that his pieces are “what I use to start conversations with people about making stuff.”

Kayle Karbowski ’15 (Integrated Studio Arts), lab technician – rapid prototyping, counts education as an integral part of her artistic practice. “Participating in this exhibition is a love letter to the students I work with—to remind them that life can take us many places and art happens always, even if we’re not “in the studio” every day.” Karbowski also notes that “there is a different kind of freedom that comes from having your creative endeavors being parallel or maybe seemingly unrelated to your career … I see this exhibition of staff work to be an important example to our students that having an active practice in relationship to your career can take many forms.”

Adam Lefebvre, 3D lab supervisor, is a multidisciplinary artist and studio potter who designed, constructed and milled his contribution to “After Hours” using the equipment in the “well-equipped facilities” at MIAD. “I’m fairly new to Milwaukee and MIAD, so it’s been great to be plugged into this community of artists and makers,” he continues.

Jeffrey Morin, president of MIAD, works in letterpress, fine art and paper art. “I am proud of MIAD for recognizing that many staff members are makers and an exhibition of our work validates the importance of that aspect of our lives outside of MIAD,” he explains. “Being a practicing artist and designer is important to me as a leader because it keeps me tethered to some very fundamental aspects of the college. For the same reason, I will be returning to the classroom this fall to learn more about our students and learn more about the faculty experience at MIAD.”

 

A woodworked cigarette box filled with Newport cigarettes.

Benjamin Yacavone, “Box o’ Boges,” 2020.

Hannah Schmidt, library circulation coordinator, is a photographer and multimedia “dabbler.” Her artistic practice incorporates a background in art therapy: “Art has an important place in wellness. It has an important place for people who are creative in their lives. To have that come back after an extensive period of not having that felt really cool and good,” she says. “There’s a lot of pockets of creativity at MIAD that don’t always get the chance to shine … It’s really neat to be able to honor that creativity in a way that hasn’t been offered here before.”

Mariah Tate Klemens, textiles lab technician, is an interdisciplinary artist whose roles at MIAD have spanned adjunct faculty to her new position in the textiles lab. “It’s really fantastic to have the staff included because so many of the staff at MIAD are also trained artists. It’s great to be seen in that way,” she says. “As an educator, there’s a lot of call and response between your own practice and ways you’re helping students broaden their own thinking about their practice … Having that dialogue with students is really exciting and important.”

Ben Yacavone, 3D lab supervisor, uses industrial materials, found objects, textiles and video to create sculptures. “It’s really refreshing to see MIAD recognizing that at an art and design school, there are creatives in every department, and pretty much the whole institution,” he says. “Getting to celebrate that is really fantastic, and I’m glad to be a part of it.”

Marie Couture and Mariah Tate Klemens are also showing work in “After Hours.” The exhibiting creatives do not constitute an exhaustive list of staff who pursue artistic practice outside of work, but rather a glimmer of the talent that comprises the vibrant MIAD ecosystem. “After Hours” is on view at MIAD’s Gallery at The Ave until October 7, 2023. Learn more about the exhibition and view a full list of participating artists on the Gallery at The Ave website.

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