Catherine Jozwik
Art Scene

No Longer a “Sleepy Backwater”

So says gallery owner John Sobczak about Milwaukee’s art community.

By - Jan 28th, 2020 03:34 pm
Tyanna Buie 'Object. Pattern. Image. Revival.' Nov 16, 2018-Jan 5, 2019. Installation detail. 21, 2017 installation detail pictured. Photo courtesy of The Alice Wilds.

Tyanna Buie ‘Object. Pattern. Image. Revival.’ Nov 16, 2018-Jan 5, 2019. Installation detail. 21, 2017 installation detail pictured. Photo courtesy of The Alice Wilds.

Milwaukee native John Sobczak, owner of Walker’s Point contemporary art gallery The Alice Wilds, has experienced the evolution of the city’s visual arts scene firsthand.

“Over the decades, I’ve watched the Milwaukee art community mature from kind of a sleepy backwater into a serious and rewarding destination,” Sobczak noted.

After working with Third Ward gallery owner Dean Jensen for 25 years, Sobczak, along with business partner Tina Schinabeck, opened The Alice Wilds in June 2017, after Jensen retired and closed his gallery. “I’ve been working with galleries here my entire adult life,” Sobczak said. “The Alice Wilds feels more like an inevitable continuation rather than a decision.”

The gallery represents nearly 20 artists, including painters Jenna Youngwood, Sean Heiser, and Luis Galvez, photographers Steven Foster, Tara Bogart, and Tom Bamberger, and interdisciplinary artists Tyanna Buie, Santiago Cucullu, Jon Horvath and Grant Gill.

Although works displayed in The Alice Wilds are diverse, Sobczak is particularly drawn to photography.

“Anyone who has known me for the last 30-odd years knows of my deep and abiding interest in photography,” he said. “Over that time span, I’ve been involved in exhibitions that run the gamut from Eadweard Muybridge to Natalie Krick. If I actually take the time to construct a comprehensive list, I find I’m quite impressed by it.”

In the coming months, the gallery will feature exhibits by painters Shane Walsh, Leslie Vansen, and Brennen Steines. Sobczak feels that these exhibits, combined with a number of other painters represented, “demonstrates (the gallery’s) rather extraordinary commitment to a new generation of painters.”

“Given it’s our personal mission to support artists any way that we can, the Alice Wilds will remain, by default, a contemporary gallery,” Sobczak said. “That doesn’t preclude an occasional foray into historical exhibitions if appropriate opportunities arise.”

Sobczak added that the gallery is working with the estate of Laurence Rathsack, the beloved UW-Milwaukee professor and painter, on a future exhibition of his work.

The Alice Wilds’ current exhibition, Grant Gill: Formation of Iridescent Structures, runs through February 29. Visit the website for more information.

Photo from The Alice Wilds

Art Events and Gallery Openings

Wednesday, 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m.:

UWM’s Peck School of the Arts, 2400 E. Kenwood Blvd., will host the Artists Now! Guest Lecture Series, which will feature the work of filmmaker, performance artist, and educator Portia Cobb. Visit the website for more information.


-To celebrate Valentine’s Day, art school and paint bar Splash Studio, 1815 E. Kenilworth Pl., will be transformed into Cupid’s Studio through February 23. According to a press release, the studio will feature “love-inspired cocktails, mocktails, ice cream drinks, special events, date night ‘make and take’ projects, and inspired decorations celebrating the love of couples, families, besties, and singles.” For more information, and to make reservations, visit the website.

Friday, 6 to 8 p.m.:

Tangency, paintings and photography by Lauren Semivan and John Shimon, opens with an artists’ reception at Portrait Society Gallery, 207 E. Buffalo St., Suite 526.

Friday, 7 to 11 p.m.:

-The Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) presents Miami Nights, an event complete with Cuban fusion cuisine, live music, vendors, and more. Fedoras and white blazers are recommended.

Saturday, 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m.:

The Milwaukee Public Library’s Atkinson branch, 1960 W. Atkinson Ave., will host the Black Art, History and Culture Harlem Renaissance Workshop in the Community Room. Participants will learn about Harlem Renaissance artists and make an African mask greeting card with materials including African fabrics and beads.

Saturday, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.:

Lynden Sculpture Garden will host Majolica: Make a Love Plate for Valentine’s Day, a ceramics workshop with Katheryn Corbin. The cost is $125 ($110 for Lynden members) and includes all materials.

Saturday, 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.:

Vibez Creative Arts Space, 3536 W. Fond du Lac Ave., will host Black History Month Kickoff Gallery Night. For more information, visit the website .

Sunday, noon to 4 p.m.:

Make Whisk Brooms with John Holzwart, a craft workshop hosted by the owner of Plant Based Services, LLC, will be held at Lynden. The fee is $52 and $45 for members. Visit for more details.

Last Chance: Exhibit Closing

Scout’s Honor: Scout Collective Show ends Saturday at Scout Gallery, 1104 W. Mitchell St.

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