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MIAD alum, faculty member recognized locally and nationally

In his journey from a student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) all the way to instructor at the college, Paul Druecke ’87 has flourished as an artist both in Milwaukee and nationally. Druecke’s art has resulted in everything from a Mary L. Nohl Fellowship to inclusion in the highly selective Whitney Biennial to a solo exhibition at the Milwaukee Art Museum. Most recently, Druecke was honored as a 2023 Mildred L. Harpole Artist of the Year for the City of Milwaukee.

“My connection to MIAD as an alum and instructor has helped shape my artistic practice,” says Druecke. “The skills I learned at MIAD allowed me to develop my artistic voice with attention to detail as well as the big picture. The result is an interdisciplinary practice that acknowledges its roots as it navigates new terrain.” Spanning writing, sculpture and even a made-for-Youtube cooking program (Milwaukee Kitchen), Druecke’s work has been anthologized in Wiley’s Companion to Public Art and recommended by the New York Times. In fact, one of Druecke’s sculptures can be seen from MIAD’s main building in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward: Shoreline Repast, located in Catalano Square as part of Sculpture Milwaukee’s inaugural installation.

Integral to Druecke’s artistic practice is writing. “Thinking back to undergrad education, my independent study with creative writing instructor Carol Sklenicka, now a renowned biographer, fueled my interest in poetry and literary content,” he explains. This emphasis on writing is exemplified in Shoreline Repast, in addition to several other works. “[Shoreline Repast] is part of my work with ‘public inscription,’ a term I coined to refer to the many ways that culture writes itself into the landscape,” Druecke says.

After establishing himself as an artist, Druecke came back to MIAD in 2011 as an adjunct faculty member teaching fine art. “In all classes, I emphasize creative problem solving as the foundation for a prolific and self-rewarding career,” he explains of his teaching philosophy. “I encourage experimentation that incorporates intuitive exploration as well as methodical, meticulous process.”

Fostering community within MIAD and in Milwaukee’s creative community is vital to Druecke. “I … look for opportunities to build relationships with students, alumni, and colleagues as part of ongoing creative exchanges,” he says. From collaborative projects like Friends of Blue Dress Park to a tentative partnership with MIAD’s Printmaking Department working together on experimental paper-making, Druecke’s artistic practice centers community. “MIAD’s culture of camaraderie created a life-long interest in exploring connections between individuals and groups,” he says.

Now, Druecke is honored to take this focus on interdisciplinary art and community-building a step further as one of the Mildred L. Harpole Artists of the Year for the City of Milwaukee. “I took the opportunity to learn about Mildred Harpole’s life,” he says. “She contributed so much to this city over a lifetime of political activism and fighting for social justice. Her legacy is inspirational and it deepens the significance of the award. As someone attuned to the dynamics of commemoration, I would like to channel that power into new projects.” Together with fellow awardee Ben Tyjeski and Friends of the Arts Jenelle Elder-Green and Carl Bogner, Druecke was recognized for his contributions and exceptional service to Milwaukee’s arts community.

Keep up with Paul on his website, read more about the Mildred L. Harpole award and learn about MIAD’s New Studio Practice: Fine Arts major!


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