Lynden Sculpture Garden
Press Release

Nineteenth Cycle of Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund Announced

Larger Awards Introduced in 2022

By - Jan 5th, 2022 03:13 pm

The Lynden, in collaboration with the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and joined by Black Box Fund, announces the nineteenth funding cycle of the Mary L. Nohl Suitcase Export Fund. The program, funded by the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund and Black Box Fund, was created to help visual artists with the cost of exhibiting their work outside the four-county area (Milwaukee, Waukesha, Ozaukee, Washington counties). The Fund is designed to provide greater visibility for individual artists and their work as well as for greater Milwaukee. To date, the Fund has supported a diverse group of 358 individual artists and twenty-two artist collectives for a total of 404 artists who have exhibited their work throughout North America, and in Europe, the former Soviet Union, Africa, and Asia. More than $217,730 has been awarded to artists working in a variety of media, from film to ceramics. They include well-established artists as well as those at the start of their careers. A special effort has been made to support Nohl Fellows as they exhibit work made during their fellowship year. (See below for a list of 2020 awardees.)

Starting with this cycle, the total amount of funding available annually has increased from $15,000 to $20,000. This will make it possible to increase the maximum size of individual awards from $1,000 to $1,500. Although the COVID-19 pandemic shut down most exhibition activity for an extended period, artists are again on the move, taking their work around the world for shows and screenings. At the same time, the cost of flights, gas, and shipping has risen, creating hardships for artists without other forms of support who wish to participate in opportunities outside the immediate area.

The Suitcase Export Fund is open to practicing artists residing within the four-county area who want to export their work beyond the area for public display. Priority is given to artists with exhibitions outside of Wisconsin. The Fund provides support in two areas: transportation of the work (packing/shipping/insurance) and transportation of the artist. Funding is only provided for upcoming opportunities (exhibitions or screenings commencing between January 1, 2022, and August 31, 2022, for the Winter Cycle; similar opportunities commencing between July 1, 2022, and February 28, 2023, for the Summer Cycle).

The Suitcase Export Fund opens twice a year, disbursing awards in response to demand until the funds for each cycle are exhausted. The Winter Cycle is now open; the Summer Cycle will open on July 1, 2022. Approximately $10,000 will be awarded in each cycle. The guidelines are now online at For those without computer access, paper applications are available from Polly Morris at or (414) 446-8794.

The Suitcase Export Fund was created to increase opportunities for local artists to exhibit outside the four-county area, and to provide more visibility for individual artists and their work as well as for greater Milwaukee. In a typical year, the fund assists as many as thirty artists, enabling them to take themselves, and their work, around the world. In the twelve-month period beginning in December 2020, the Suitcase Export Fund made nineteen awards to individual artists and collectives, the majority of them in the final months of 2021.

Artists take advantage of Suitcase travel to layer on residencies, meet their counterparts (activists, organizers of DIY spaces) in other locations, or undertake research on new projects. These trips often open doors. Awardees seek out connections with local artists, and they keep an eye out for ideas and projects that could be adapted back home. As they meet other artists and collectors, or begin relationships with galleries, they are able to explore future collaborations, make plans for artist and curatorial exchanges with the host city, or make the essential contacts filmmakers require to get their work in front of an audience.

As the first set of artists ventured back out into the world those at residencies were struck by the contrasts with lockdown life. They marveled at private studio space that encouraged them to “experiment in ways I would not be able to in my small home space”; time spent in close contact with fellow artists from around the world; the opportunity to take “sunny isolated walks.” As one artist observed, those walks “did wonders for my mental health after being inside for most of the past year.” Artists also observed how their thinking had shifted during the pandemic. One participant in a desert residency noted that “it felt almost dystopian, like this could be a version of the future with global warming as it is.” Yet across the entire year, artists commented on the power of being in purposeful community and the sheer joy of being around so many (like-minded) people at once.

Many awardees garnered invitations to show or screen at new venues, and they were quick to offer to bring the work they were exposed to at festivals, exhibitions, or residencies to Milwaukee. Time and again they described alerting their fellow artists back home to the opportunities they had experienced and encouraging them to participate in the future. Awardees were proud to promote Milwaukee as “a desirable location to be a professional working artist”; as one artist put it, it’s always important to “show others that we aren’t just about cheese and beer.” Others emphasized that they had contributed to the greater Milwaukee arts ecosystem by hiring or mentoring local artists as they prepared for their exhibitions and screenings.

Pandemic isolation and its attendant loss of opportunities for artists had an enormous impact on artists. “Being able to have a dedicated space to create led me out of an artistic slump,” wrote one of the earliest travelers. The word “confidence” cropped up frequently in final reports: “Making and showing the work…was an invaluable experience and helped to boost my confidence in my own artistic voice. Showing this body of work meant that I was able to see its impact on other people, which was incredibly moving for me to experience.” Nor was it only audiences that altered the artists’ understanding of their work–sometimes the physical space they were showing in enabled them to see their work in a new way. Another artist wrote about the way that travel broadened his vision: “I was exposed to lots of material, fabrication options, culture and objects that would not have been available to me here in Wisconsin.”

Artist Mary L. Nohl of Fox Point, Wisconsin, died in December 2001 at the age of 87. She left a $9.6 million bequest to the Greater Milwaukee Foundation. Her fund supports local visual arts and education programs, keeping her passion for the visual arts alive in the community.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation is Wisconsin’s largest community foundation and was among the first established in the world. For more than a century, the Foundation has been at the heart of the civic community, helping donors achieve the greatest philanthropic impact, elevating the work of changemakers across neighborhoods, and bringing people and organizations together to help our region thrive. Racial equity is the Foundation’s North Star, guiding its investments and strategies for social and economic change. Leveraging generations of community knowledge, cross-sector partnerships and more than $1 billion in financial assets, the Foundation is committed to reimagining philanthropy, recentering communities and remaking systems to transform our region into a Milwaukee for all.

Black Box Fund, a nonprofit organization, was founded in 2019 with the belief that art can be a positive unifying force to connect community. Black Box Fund’s mission is to support public art, music and performance that inspires, educates, and enhances the well-being of our Milwaukee communities. Our goal is to activate creative community spaces.

In the eighteenth cycle, the Fund made nineteen awards, the majority of them in the final months of the year, providing assistance with shipping and travel to seventeen individual artists and two duos (for a total of twenty-one individuals). We were also able to see projects through to completion from the previous cycle that had been postponed during the pandemic. The awards made in the 2020 cycle took artists and their work to Miami, Florida; Bloomington, Minnesota; Kansas City, Missouri; Binghamton and New York, New York; Nashville, Tennessee; and Cisco, Utah. Outside the United States, artists (or their work) traveled to Guayllabamba, Ecuador; Kouvola, Finland; Aix-en-Provence and Paris, France; Skagaströnd, Iceland; Syracuse, Italy; Aveiro, Portugal; Tbilisi, Republic of Georgia; and Barcelona, Spain.
2020 Winter Cycle
Recent graduates Felipe Pagan Cancel and Jacquelin Valadez participated in Nave Proyecto, an artist-run initiative in Guayllabamba, Ecuador, that provided an opportunity to develop a body of work among like-minded artists. Each residency culminated in an exhibition.
Carey Watters has been invited as an artist-in-residence/visiting professor to Made Labs in Syracuse, Sicily. She will focus on a developing body of work she that weaves together feminism, historic map making, and religious and pagan symbolism drawn from her travels in Italy and research on Byzantine architecture, design, and religious reliquaries. The three-week residency will conclude with in an exhibition.
2020 Summer Cycle
Kyoung Ae Cho’s work was selected by Marika Szaraz and Raija Jokinen for the Asia-Europe 5 international touring textile exhibition. The exhibition showcases works by European and Asian textile artists and launched in Poikilo-museums, Kouvola, Finland. It will travel to museums in Belgium, Germany and Denmark in 2022.
Christopher Davis Benavides shipped his sculpture, “Chimeneas Despobladas,” to Portugal for the XV International Ceramics Biennial of Aveiro at the Aveiro Museum. Although the artist was not able to travel with the work, following the biennial it will travel to Spain for an exhibition that is proposed for the Museo del Ruso in Alarcón, Spain.
Emma Daisy Gertel participated in Bubblegum, a themed exhibit presented by Muros, a “global art activation agency,” in partnership with the Hilton Cabana Miami for Art Basel 2021. The exhibition celebrated the “playfulness and positivity” of the new Pantone color, qualities that resonate with the artist’s work. Gertel showed a new painting and did a live painting.
Britany Gunderson screened her short film, “Background Material,” at the 39th Festival Tous Courts in Aix-en-Provence, France. Gunderson participated in screenings, a Q&A, and the awards ceremony. It was an important opportunity for a young filmmaker to “meet more filmmakers, festival organizers, and see films that I would not be able to see otherwise.”

Gregory Klassen’s solo exhibition at ZieherSmith in Nashville, Tennessee featured twenty-six drawings from Their Four of Hearts, a series of 176 drawings. The opening coincided with Nashville’s downtown art crawl.
Kate Klingbeil traveled to New York for a solo exhibition of new work in several media at Hesse Flatow. The exhibition included cast iron and brass sculptures were made during a recent Arts/Industry residency at the John Michael Kohler Art Center and was a meditation on resilience and tenacity after hardship.
Brad Lichtenstein (Nohl 2011) previewed American Reckoning, a film he is making with Yoruba Richen, at an event that included a public exhibition at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York. American Reckoning is part of Un(Re)Solved, a project from Frontline that includes an interactive exhibition and a podcast as well as this film.
Nancy McGee was invited to exhibit six works in the 6th edition of the Biennial of Fine Art & Documentary Photography, an exhibition of international award-winning photography at the FotoNostrum Gallery in Barcelona, Spain.
Keith Nelson (Nohl 2018) was finally able to travel to Nashville, Tennessee, for a solo exhibition of work–some made during his Nohl Fellowship–at ZieherSmith.
Melissa Paré traveled to Kansas City, Missouri, for a group show with two other artists at Troost Gardens. She exhibited her framed silk pieces.
Nirmal Raja (Nohl 2020) and Lois Bielefeld (Nohl 2012, 2017) will participate in a solo show at Artistry in Bloomington, Minnesota, featuring collaborative works from their previous exhibition, On Belonging. In addition to photographs, video, and sculptural work, the exhibition will include a site-specific installation by Raja.
John Riepenhoff (Nohl 2009, 2014) spent a month in the Republic of Georgia during the grape harvest making work with Georgian artist Mamuka Japharidze for an exhibition at Gallery Art Beat in Tbilisi. Individually and together they painted the night sky over the vineyards.
Nicole Shaver and her collaborator, Heidi Zenisek, have been invited by the NES Artist Residency to create and install a light sculpture as part of Light Up 2022, a January 2022 festival marking the darkest month of the year in Skagaströnd, Iceland. The immersive light and projection installation will be created during a month-long residency which will culminate in an artwalk.
After pandemic delays and reroutings, Nathaniel Stern was able to travel The World After Us: Imaging techno-aesthetic futures, a solo exhibition, to Binghamton University Art Museum in Binghamton, New York. The exhibition of sculptures, installations, prints, and photographs combine plant life with electronic waste, and scientific experimentation with artistic exploration.
Jenny Jo Wennlund will travel to France for a solo exhibition at Les Mésanges, an art space, gallery, and cafe in the Belleville neighborhood of Paris. She will be showing ten paintings, selling her archival prints at a nearby gallery, and meeting with gallerists interested in showing her work and commissioning murals in the future. She relied on her network of Milwaukee artists, including at least one former Nohl Fellow, for introductions.
Natasha Woods (Nohl 2019) travelled to Cisco, Utah. As a visiting artist at Home of the Brave Residency, she created a visual and sound installation onsite using equipment she acquired as part of her Nohl Fellowship. She also worked with the organizers to archive past projects and artist interviews in an accessible online platform.

NOTE: This press release was submitted to Urban Milwaukee and was not written by an Urban Milwaukee writer. It has not been verified for its accuracy or completeness.

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