Art at the Perfect Time

Galaudet Gallery is a new downtown showcase for art

Zack Katz, photos by Andrea Paulseth

THEY’VE GOT A CORNER ON ART. Vicki Milewski, far right, showed her work to guests at her brand new space, Galaudet Gallery (618 Farwell St.).
THEY’VE GOT A CORNER ON ART. Vicki Milewski, far right, showed her work to guests at her brand new space, Galaudet Gallery (618 Farwell St.).

In the heat of last year’s summer, artists Vicki and Mike Milewski found themselves in Eau Claire for a business meeting with some time to spare. Standing in the shade of a lofty old Victorian home on Farwell Street with a “for sale” sign posted in the yard led to a big idea. The Milewskis immediately envisioned the space as a home for Vicki’s studio and their collective artistic endeavors.

“I walked in and looked at this wall in the first room, and could just imagine my sister’s ‘Purple Lotus’ piece hanging there,” Milewski said. “She was getting the same feelings I was about this impressive-looking building. … One thing led to another, and here we are.”

“One thing led to another” is a modest way of describing their endeavors – since purchasing the home in October, the Milewskis have had their hands full acquiring art, molding the home into a gallery, and preparing for their inaugural exhibition.

At a glance, entering the giant home seems daunting, but the tall ceilings and open spaces play into the minimal feel the Milewskis hoped to achieve.

At 6:18pm on June 18 at 618 S. Farwell St., the gallery opened its doors. Calculated as it may seem, Mike Milewski said the opening was soft and the gallery is still entirely in development. For example, a gift shop featuring clothing and other items relevant to the current exhibition is still in the works.

With an impressive cast of Gicleé reproductions of Oscar Howe’s work, a selection of John James Audubon prints, and some original sketches of The Badlands by Vicki Milewski herself on display, the siblings exceeded their opening night expectations.

“The gallery was only open until nine, but we had visitors until 1 in the morning,” Mike Milewski said. “We were overwhelmed and a little exhausted, but excited nonetheless.”

To make the gallery multidimensional, the siblings went for a mixed media exhibition. Mike Milewski said the method of displaying prints of Audubon’s bird paintings in tandem with taxidermy adds an accessibility factor to the Galaudet experience.

“We wanted a different theme.  ... Something more contemplative, something requiring more thinking, something more interactive,” Mike Milewski said.

Other than the clever opening time, opening a gallery on a whim might seem overly spontaneous. But Mike Milewski said he feels the opening of Galaudet is timely and significant in the midst of the push for the Confluence Project downtown, and hopes other galleries will be a product of these renovations.

In addition to displaying art for the enjoyment of the community, Mike Milewski sees the work on display in the gallery as an investment for art enthusiasts. While he said “flipping” art is often frowned upon, he encourages the circulation.

“It’s not always about purchasing or acquiring pieces,” Mike Milewski said. “What I love is it’s also about appreciating the works … being able to hold a conversation over a piece of art.”

The majority of pieces on display are for sale, except for a selection of media being rented from other galleries. While it’s not a top priority, Mike Milewski said he and his sister hope to continue establishing their Farwell home by gaining historical status in the future.

The inaugural show, “My Medicine Part 1,” runs though July 28, but don’t be discouraged if you can’t make it to this particular showing — the Milewskis have exhibits scheduled all the way into late 2015.

Galaudet Gallery • 618 S. Farwell St., Eau Claire • (715) 513-9994 • galaudetgallery.yolasite.com