Curator of “Boyfriend Material” exhibition on artistic support
Curating an exhibition at one’s alma mater is bound to be a surreal experience. LaNia Sproles ’17 (Printmaking), curator of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design’s (MIAD) recent exhibition “Boyfriend Material,” explains their impressions of putting together the show and their philosophy on art and curation in Milwaukee.
“If I would have known that at the start of freshman year that I would have been curating a show at my alma mater, I probably wouldn’t have believed it,” says Sproles. Spanning tattoo and curation, figurative drawing and education, Sproles’ multifaceted artistic practice keeps them busy both locally and further afield. They were approached by MIAD to curate a queer-themed exhibition for summer 2023, which coincided with Pride Month and a city-wide effort through QKE to showcase queer art throughout Milwaukee.
Sproles used their perspective as a graduate of the college to inform some of their curatorial choices. “I made the exhibition keeping the students in mind and what they would appreciate, even though they’re not in school right now,” they explain. “It was still important to think about the students in terms of what I would have wanted to see as a MIAD student.” Focusing on queer artists in and around Milwaukee, Sproles hopes the exhibition “reminds people that Milwaukee is filled with a lot of different types of talent.”
“I’m very interested in storytelling,” says Sproles, whose previous experiences in addition to curation include being artist in residence at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee and teaching for Artists Working in Education. “[T]here’s something striking about people who can also create these compositions that make you feel like you’re looking at something complex.”
“I really wanted to make an exhibition where people felt moved in some way,” they continue. “It’s refreshing to see that these people who I really respect and admire are all living and working as artists, surviving whatever the hell is happening in the world on a daily basis, making intriguing, provocative, thoughtful work. I want people to understand the gravity of everyone’s thoughtfulness.”
Curation is only one part of Sproles’ extensive skill set. They are currently exhibiting work in a solo show at Goldfinch Gallery in Chicago and participating in a group show at the University of Washington. Of their solo show, “Objects of Affection,” Sproles said “A lot of it reflects my personal ideas of intimacy and features people that I very much care about—turning them into these precious safekept objects.”
Reflecting on their experience at MIAD, Sproles especially appreciates the instructors who guided their education. “My professors were really good about pushing me and making for sure I was on track,” they say. “That’s all I ever wanted from a professor and that’s the reason why I wanted to go to school. I wanted to be pushed in the right direction, and that felt really good to me.”
Coming up next for Sproles is a move to Chicago to find further and more varied opportunities as an artist. Hoping to maintain and encourage a flow of art and artists between the two cities, Sproles explains, “I also want people to know that Chicago is a very accessible city from Milwaukee!” Wrapping up their time in Milwaukee, Sproles’ curatorial accomplishments in “Boyfriend Material” closed on Saturday, July 15. “It’s nice to look back on how much I’ve grown as a person and as an artist,” adds Sproles.
Current and former First-Year Experience (FYE) students celebrated their video, animation and sound design works at the FYE Media Arts Festival 23 – an in-house film and media screening in MIAD’s Community Hub on November 16.
Brady VanderHart ’24 and Emma Jenkins ’25, Communication Design majors at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD), were named Students to Watch 2024 by Graphic Design USA magazine (GDUSA).
MIAD alum Brandon Minga ‘04 (llustration), principal artist and founder of the House of Rad (hrad), was excited to host the 20th anniversary of the Feed Your Soul benefit for Feeding America Eastern Wisconsin on November 3, 2023. This was the second consecutive time hrad has hosted the event.
Three MIAD Communication Design students received 60th anniversary American Graphic Design Awards from Graphic Design USA (GDUSA) magazine. The students were selected from over 8,000 entries, and judged alongside professional design work. Fewer than 10% of entrants received an award.
Interior Architecture and Design (IAD) seniors from MIAD were taken to new heights on November 13 when they toured the construction site of The Couture, a 44-story skyscraper under construction that will be Milwaukee’s tallest residential and mixed-use building. The tour was part of a series of tours their senior thesis “Building Systems” class is taking with instructor Dan Kalkman, AIA.