(gentle music) - The art is alive at this downtown Milwaukee Hotel.
On this episode of The Arts Page, meet Jeff Zimpel, the artist and residents at Saint Kate - The Arts Hotel.
Life skills through stage skills, that's the motto of this local theater academy.
See how a Madison artist wants to give new life to old barns and learn how this creative Wisconsin couple inspire each other every day.
The Arts Page starts right now.
(upbeat music) Welcome to The Arts Page.
I'm Sandy Maxx.
There is a patron saint of artists and her name is Saint Catherine.
She was a nun and an artist herself, a champion of the creative process.
At Saint Kate - The Arts Hotel, a play on the name Saint Catherine, they provide a platform for artists to display their work to the Milwaukee community from a lobby gallery, a black box theater, and installations and displays throughout the building.
The inaugural artist in residence at the Saint Kate is Jeff Zimpel.
He has created a welcoming studio space where he invites people to participate in his ecological art.
Zimpel specializes in creating paints out of natural elements, then applying them to resin.
He then photographs those resins, creating these stunning images you see here.
Come with us now.
Visit Jeff Zimpel at his living studio at the Saint Kate.
(gentle music) - I tell people that working at Saint Kate's a very dreamy environment.
Walking into the lobby, the first thing you see is Big Piney.
It looks like a driftwood horse, but it's more than that and it encourages deeper looking and second looks and third looks.
Around every corner, there's art.
But then you also have kind of this art of hospitality, this amazing group of people who are so good at welcoming people.
The one thing I can depend on is that there's a rhythm of people that course through this place every single day.
It's this interesting mixture of people staying at the hotel who are looking for an outstanding experience, but then you have the passers through, the people who just are on their way to a Bucks game or just finishing up a play at the Milwaukee Rep.
It makes me who- I'm mostly interested in compositions of participation and getting people to engage in the creative process.
As an artist, I have an ideal situation for visitors.
Because it's a hotel, they're coming in opened up.
They're coming in ready to engage.
And then you also get people who are looking to collaborate.
Artists from all over town stream through here.
It's the swirling atmosphere of art and thought.
I grew up in Green Bay, but during the summers my grandparents had a place up in northern Wisconsin in a place called Forest County, more specifically outside of Crandon.
And so growing up, being surrounded by nature, playing for me was going and chomping around the swamp.
Playing for me was going into forests and usually coming out with, you know, sticks that looked like staffs and colorful rocks and filled up my bedroom with nature and the most vibrant nature.
When I went back for graduate school and started to really question what the painting I was up to was all about at a really deep historical level, like, what is this paint?
What is this pigment?
Where does it come from?
I kind of snapped back to my upbringing and where I found a lot of vibrancy from nature.
And so as I wrote my graduate thesis, I actually went up back to where I grew up and would go down different logging roads, find some sort of earth color, and then go back and write a section of my thesis.
And so it was this deep dive and acknowledgement of nature and where kind of the stuff of art comes from.
Studio Ecology is a year-long artist in residence where I'm working under the premise that the studio is alive.
What happens to me as an artist?
What happens to my daily practice if I just work under the maybe poetic premise that my materials, the space, the artifacts, it has some sort of agency, is alive.
And so Studio Ecology is as much a mindset and meditation as it is the name of the studio and this project.
Paint is a substance that allows us to best communicate our intentions, our feelings.
It starts with color that comes from nature.
Most of the color came from me, but over the course of my time here at Saint Kate, I've received many gifts from people all over the world.
What I do is encourage them to help me set it in motion.
And so we take color off the wall, add it to the mortar and pestle, (pestle grinding) crush it, and work it until it's a fine powder.
And then we get to wake it up with oil.
We work that oil into the dust.
And this powder here comes from a place called Plum Lake, which is at the tip top of Wisconsin.
And it's a beautiful environment.
What I've found is the healthier the environment, the healthier the ecosystem, the more color is just riding on the surface.
The surface of stream beds, the surface of the forest floor, colors everywhere.
(pensive music) And so one of the things that I like to do is trap that paint in resin.
As the resin cures, it gives off heat.
And when that heat kicks in, your mark continues to move and change, even within the resin.
And so I observe it slowly month after month, photograph after photograph.
(pensive music) All of this is moving to a culmination of the residency with a one day conference called The Living Studio.
And it is an excuse to get people together and gather and think critically and creatively about what our creative spaces are, how they're composed, what happens when you think about your creative spaces as compositions in and of themselves.
And so it's gonna be a conference, but a conference led by an artist.
But it's gonna be a perfect way to wrap up this project and The Living Studio.
- You could meet Jeff Zimpel at his Saint Kate studio through August 20th.
First Stage Theater Academy has been teaching kids theater classes in Milwaukee since 1992.
And their goals are not just to bring up the next generation of performers through family friendly theater, but also emphasize creative thinking and confidence.
First Stage is Milwaukee's second largest theater company, right behind the Milwaukee Repertory Theater.
And they give young people a place to be themselves and grow into charismatic, creative adults.
(gentle music) - First stage is an equity theater for family audiences.
We have a theater training program for young people ages 3 through 18, where we focus on teaching life skills through stage skills.
So they're learning about the work of theater and what it takes to be an actor, but more importantly, they're learning about themselves, becoming more comfortable in their bodies, developing communication, collaboration, empathy, right?
Really important things just to help them be better humans, I think.
- A lot of what First Stage does is just sort of boosting children's voices and the voices of youth through theater and giving them a space in theater - About First Stage, something that you wouldn't know until you've spent time here is being in the room and in the space with incredible performers and artists and designers and being able to work with them, bounce ideas off of them, and get feedback is something that's very, very powerful about working at First Stage as a young performer because there are all those people you can look up to and learn from in many different ways, many different fields.
- My origin story with First Stage is kind of untraditional.
I wasn't one of those really energetic kids whose, you know, parents didn't know what to do with them so they sent them into theater camp, right?
I actually was like unbearably shy as a young person.
I was a little bit of a shrinking violet, but I had a great imagination and I was really sensitive as a kid, and I felt things very deeply.
So my mom, who was an educator, said "why don't we enroll her in theater classes at five years old?"
I blossomed throughout the years through the Academy, through Young Company.
- I joined First Stage when I was six.
I started with First Stage Summer Academy.
I came for one week and then went every summer up until this point.
And that's been 11 years now.
- Your only hope for escape is the time machine.
- My favorite story about when I first joined First Stage is that I went into class and beginning of a First Stage day we all take three breaths together and I left that room in tears and I got into my mom's car later in the day and she's like, "oh, no, what's wrong?
Are you okay?"
And I was like, I found the place I'm meant to be.
And that's my favorite story about when I joined First Stage.
'Cause that's what it's like.
That's what it's like every day.
- Some of my friends that were in theater were like you should check out First Stage.
It's a super great thing.
And it was exciting, it was fun.
I immediately just felt so at home at First Stage.
I've found my place.
First Stage is a spot that I wanna continually come back to and I want to continue to be part of this community.
- [Interviewer] Angel, what skills do you think First Stage has provided you?
Feel like First Stage has really helped me build those skills as an actor and as a student, but also being able to engage with other people in a very empathetic and very honest and compassionate way.
The people at First stage are what make it First Stage and that is your friends and your teachers and your mentors and then, being an older student, the younger people that you find yourself in a leadership role to them and getting to sort of help them step into First Stage the way others helped you.
- The skill I think I've gained the most from working at First Stage is confidence in the rehearsal room, in a class, it's always an atmosphere where you are supported and everything's all right.
So it makes it makes it much easier to grow confidence in a space where everyone's kind to you no matter what you do.
- Working with young people and being able to witness their growth and confidence in becoming a better version of themselves, a more confident version, and realizing that their voice matters in the rehearsal hall, in the classroom, and if they can translate that into the understanding that their voice matters in the world, it's an incredible gift.
- If you're thinking about doing theater and you don't know whether it's right for you or not, I say give it a try nonetheless.
And no matter who you are of what your skillset is, there's a place for you in that team.
There's a place for everyone.
- To me, I feel like theater is such an intersection of so many things of music and performance and literature and art and history that you will find some extra bit in theater or in acting that sparks your interest.
Give it a try, try out theater.
See what works for you and see where you can find yourself in theater.
Some people are born to be heroes, but that's not me.
No, no, no.
- Learn more about First Stage and their training programs by going to their website, firststage.org.
Next, we meet a Madison artist who lovingly demolishes old Wisconsin barns, bit by bit, then brings new art to life using all of those elements.
His name is Jeremiah Logemann, a completely self-taught reclamation artist.
Our colleagues from the Milwaukee PBS web series My Wisconsin Backyard show you what's special about his artistic process.
- This is how ugly the stuff looked, but then they turn into something like that.
This was a dairy barn in Cross Plains, Wisconsin and these are oak barn beams that are 150 years old and it's gonna be a dining room table for a guy in Mukwonago (relaxing music) One night just looking on the internet, I saw a picture of this American flag made out of barn wood, and I just like- I just had to have it.
And I thought, well, it can't be that hard to make.
So, I drove around the countryside looking for barns.
I needed a gray barn and a white barn and a red barn.
And I found those three colors.
(relaxing music) I don't have any training.
I didn't have any schooling in any of this.
I didn't have a mentor.
My friend taught me how to weld for a few hours once, but after that, it's just like making mistakes and yeah, I guess you learn faster from the mistakes.
There's what, a half a barn here?
Usually a barn is, you know, 10, 20 tons worth of material.
And it takes about 350 hours to take one down.
Starting with the shingles, and then the roofing boards, and then the siding, and the framing, and even the nails.
I save all the nails and put them on a trailer.
I try to use every bit of it.
The majority of what I do is barn wood.
For one, this is Wisconsin, it's what we have.
And the stories behind this material run pretty deep.
I've had people from like England and New Zealand call me and say, "oh my gosh, that was my great-uncle so-and-so's barn and I saw this on the internet."
This is the original City of Madison flag.
I think I'm sharing history.
I think a lot of this material, well, I mean it would just go in a landfill if I wasn't using it.
Then it's a whole nother thing when you can save the stories as well.
I picked up a bag of litter on a trip.
So all the litter represents where the national parks are in lower 48.
If I can save more than a few other people, then it makes up for the people that maybe aren't recycling and I feel like I can impact a little more than the average household.
I don't know what it's like to live in some other states that aren't that cool, but our state's awesome and people love it.
So it's cool that I'm kind of just showing people what we already have.
Redoing it a different way.
(relaxing music) - For nearly 30 years, Artist Wence and Sandra Martinez have owned and operated Martinez studio in Door County.
Sandra creates paintings, then Wence weaves those paintings into tapestries.
We get to know this collaborative couple in this feature from the Milwaukee PBS program, Adelante!
(folk music) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (folk music) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) (speaking Spanish) - Thank you for watching The Arts Page.
I'm Sandy Maxx.
Please join us the first Thursday of every month for a half hour full of art on The Arts Page.