Marcela Garcia Seeks Diversity In Art
Walker's Point Center for the Arts leader takes over after years of leadership changes.
Marcela Garcia, Executive Director of Walker’s Point Center of the Arts, realized the value of the arts at an early age.
When she was just five years old, her family moved from the city of Guadalajara in Mexico to Milwaukee so that her parents could attend graduate school. Adjusting to a new land, new culture and new education system proved to have its difficulties, and through art and family meals Garcia’s family was able to find a sense of refuge.
“My mom has always done sewing and knitting and my dad is amazing in the kitchen,” and those things helped the family maintain their cultural identity,” she says. Her parents’ appreciation of the arts paved the way for Garcia to attend programming at the WPCA from her early years in grade school, experimenting over the years on everything from pottery to photography to drawing to painting. So Garcia has a history with this institution going back 20 years.
The student art work at WPCA “was something that allowed me to continue to ask the questions of ‘who am I’ and ‘what impact do I want to have in this world,’” Garcia says. “I was fortunate enough to have a family environment that valued the arts and how it can be a way to empower youths.”
Garcia came to the conclusion that she wanted to put an emphasis on the stories that weren’t being told. She would go on to attend UW-Madison and graduate with a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and a double minor in Chicana/Latinx Studies and American Indian Studies. After college, she became interested in non-profit work and enrolled in a Latinx non-profit leadership program.
“I took my history and knowledge of the importance of representation and inclusivity and saw an opportunity in a non-profit to apply it,” Garcia says.
She served as Program Director for Board Governance and Leadership at Partners Advancing Values in Education (PAVE), where she led governance and leadership programs for independent school systems in Milwaukee. Garcia’s involvement with local art came full circle when she became the Executive Director of Walker’s Point Center for the Arts in 2016.
“It was the perfect timing and perfect mixture of all of my passions: holding our communities accountable for how we tell our whole stories, building leadership with our youth as well as building capacity for people doing the work, like the artists,” Garcia says.
One of the major changes Garcia oversaw at WPCA was a rebranding process that ended in 2019. Garcia used this effort as an opportunity to dig into the community that has supported WPCA for over 30 years and tweak the programming to ensure that equality was always at the forefront.
The organization had gone through some turmoil. “In a period of five years, I was the fourth director to come on board, so I knew there were some organizational challenges that needed to be resolved,” she says. “I think it was changing the mindset of what it means to not only be a non-profit organization, but to add the layer of arts organization and make sure it has the structural background to bring sustainability.”
Garcia has big plans for the WPCA this year. On April 17, an exhibit titled “Is/Isn’t” will feature the work of two painters and explore painting as a medium Garcia also plans to roll out the WPCA’s 8th Annual Youth Arts Show a week earlier than its normal July 9 opening, in time for the Democratic National Convention. WPCA also hosts the annual Day of the Dead celebration, the city’s longest such event, which uses art to celebrate life and death.
Garcia notes that there is a lot of development happening in the Walker’s Point area, and wants to push a discussion of gentrification and how to maintain WPCA as a safe space for those who may feel like they no longer belong in a changing neighborhood.
“We have a long way to go as a city,” when it comes diversity, she says, “so being able to champion’’ this goal and doing it through the arts at WPCA is satisfying, she says. “It’s something that I’m really proud of with this team.”
Art Events and Gallery Openings
Tuesday, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Attend a sip-and-paint session at The Farmhouse Paint Bar & Banquet Hall, 4511 S. 6th St. Alcohol and coffee beverages will be served and supplies will be provided. An instructor will lead the painting session. This session’s subject is “colorful kitten.” Admission to the event is $31.68.
Wednesday, 6:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sip-and-paint session at The Farmhouse Paint Bar & Banquet Hall; This session’s subject is “the woods.” Admission to the event is $31.68.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m. – 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, 5:30 p.m.
Meet artist and writer Nathaniel Stern at the St. Kate Arts Hotel for a discussion on his works. The event is free and open to the public.
Friday, 10 a.m. – Noon
Bring your little ones along to a play date at the Milwaukee Art Museum. The monthly program is designed for ages five and under to develop an appreciation for the arts. Stop in for a sing along between 10:30 a.m. and 11:15 a.m. The event is free for members and free with museum admission.
Friday, 4:00 p.m.
Join Saint Kate Art Historian Samantha Timm for a 45-minute guided tour of the St. Kate Arts Hotel with a glass of champagne in your hand. Admission to this event is $15 with a limit of 15 guests, first come, first serve.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
Join Milwaukee Art Museum educator Amy Kirschke in a one-hour exploration of a single work of art. The event is free for members and free with museum admission.
Saturday, 10:30 a.m.
At Story Time in the Galleries, you’ll listen to a story that pertains to a work of art in the Milwaukee Art Museum. Afterwards, make a drawing inspired by what you’ve seen and heard. The event is free for members and free with museum admission.
Sunday, 12:30 p.m. – 2:30 p.m.
Join Sue Pezanoski Browne and Katie Hobday, Lynden Sculpture Garden’s teachers-in-residence, in an exploration of their project that involves turning trees into clay chimes filled with personal narratives. The event is free to members or with admission to the sculpture garden.
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