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Alumni-run Grilled Cheese Grant in its eighth year

Arguably Milwaukee’s most delicious fundraiser, the Grilled Cheese Grant is in its eighth successful year of supporting art and design students’ senior projects. This year’s leadership is composed entirely of Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design alumni: Rachel Hausmann Schall ’15 (Integrated Studio Arts), Alyssa Anderson ’15 (ISA), Joe Acri ’17 (Sculpture) and Sal Nicholson ’19 (New Studio Practice: Fine Arts).

The Grilled Cheese Grant awards funds to Milwaukee undergraduate seniors at MIAD and the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to support their senior projects. “It’s a project that was born out of a feeling of necessity and urgency,” says Joe Acri. The current leaders have all experienced the financial pinch of funding a successful senior exhibition. Rachel Hausmann Schall, one of the original founders of the grant, wanted to initiate a secondary source of funding outside of either institution: “We thought it would be a great thing to create for future graduates to fund their thesis.”

An annual community fundraising event, the Grilled Cheese Grant partners with a different venue space each year. Attendees donate $5 or more for a grilled cheese sandwich made with locally-sourced ingredients and vote for one of five selected finalists. This year’s event takes place on April 1, 2023 at MIAD alumni-owned Vanguard Sculpture Services. “We don’t have a storefront as a unit of organizers,” says Hausmann Schall. “That’s part of the fun now. We try to change and evolve and meet the needs of the students and our audience, which I think is an element of excitement.”

A group of people views the 2022 Grilled Cheese Grant installation.

2022 Grilled Cheese Grant

Finalists are selected by a panel of jurors unaffiliated with either MIAD or UWM. Funds are raised at the event and totals vary from year to year. First-place winners can expect their project to be fully funded, and runners up will receive partial funding. All finalists have access to professional development opportunities facilitated by grant leadership.

“It’s a really fun way for all of us to be able to stay connected to that community and for us to be able to give back in some way,” says Alyssa Anderson. Community support is central to the grant’s long-lived success. “There’s an element that even if you don’t get selected as a finalist, the students come and they support their peers,” continues Hausmann Schall. Acri credits continued student interest in maintaining his motivation to continue organizing the grant. “Every year has felt just as, if not more, beneficial than the last … [seeing] the effect it’s had on students as well as emerging artists in general has been so rewarding and great,” he says.

Current MIAD and UWM seniors can submit their application via the Grilled Cheese Grant website. Applications are due February 26, 2023. MIAD’s 2023 Senior Exhibition opens Friday, April 21. Visit miad.edu/seniorexhibition for updates!

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