Name, Title & Organization you are representing:
Jessica Zalewski, Marketing and Publications Manager, Racine Art Museum
One song you can’t stop listening to:
Talk about local, it’s “Don’t Waste Your Time” by Nick Ramsey & The Family
What are you most passionate about in regards to what is happening in our community and what is RAM doing for the community?
I’m passionate about how art––of all varieties including visual, music, poetry and performance––brings the community together. I started at RAM nearly 14 years ago, just a month after the museum opened in downtown Racine. During that time, I’ve represented RAM to support and infuse the arts community with energy through a variety of collaborations.
Events like the get behind the arts studio tour, which just finished its 7th annual event this spring, invite the public to connect with local artists and see how they work to create art in their studios. Through these collaborations, I’ve seen the communities of Racine, Kenosha and Milwaukee come together, building relationships and engaging residents and tourists alike.
At RAM, we host free admission and free hands-on art projects every First Friday, attracting thousands of visitors every month––many of them returning repeatedly to make art and develop their creativity. Attendance at these popular events has grown to reflect the diverse population of the city of Racine across boundaries, including age, race, culture, and income.
RAM, and its original campus the Wustum Museum have been important gathering places for the community for over seven decades. In addition, we bring art education programs out into the region with RAM on the Road (ROTR), a vehicle covered with art and loaded with materials and supplies to bring the joy of creating art to kids and adults of all ages. ROTR programs are free to public and private schools, daycares, community centers, civic organizations, senior centers, and senior residential care facilities.
How did RAM get started and what is in store for 2017?
RAM’s history dates back to 1938 when Jennie E. Wustum honored her husband’s memory by donating their house, property, and a small trust fund to the city of Racine, Wisconsin to establish an art museum and park. In 1941, her donation formally became the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, our original campus.
The former Wustum home––an 1856 Italianate-style farmhouse––is still at the center of the Wustum Museum location, which has continued to provide art education and exhibitions for 75 years. Fast forward to 2003 when award-winning Chicago-based architects Brininstool+Lynch reinvented two nineteenth-century buildings on Main Street in downtown Racine to create RAM––a 40,000 square foot art museum to house and display RAM’s growing permanent collection.
The largest of its kind in the US, the museum’s contemporary craft holdings include over 4,000 pieces in art jewelry, ceramics, fibers, glass, metals, polymer, and wood, as well as over 4,000 works on paper and sculptures. The building itself is a work of art, featuring an inventive exterior façade made of translucent acrylic panels that are illuminated at night, making the museum glow like a Japanese lantern.
Throughout 2017, both campuses continue the celebration of Wustum’s 75th anniversary of bringing art to the community––with special events and exhibitions. This summer, RAM presents The Box Project: Uncommon Threads showcasing commissioned works by 36 of the world’s top fiber artists. They—many of whom usually work on a large scale—were challenged to create an original piece within the confines of a small box.
Organized by the Cotsen Foundation for Academic Research (CFAR) with RAM, this traveling exhibition presents works commissioned by Lloyd Cotsen between 2004 and 2013 together with 22 large-scale fiber art pieces on loan. Open through August 27, 2017, RAM is the only Midwest venue for this show before its final stop in Washington, D.C. Learn more about everything RAM at ramart.org.
Why do you choose to support 88Nine?
RAM has supported 88NINE for over six years because we believe that our intentions and goals––as well as our audiences––are aligned. Both organizations are embedded firmly in the community––recognizing how beautiful, important, and interesting southeastern Wisconsin is.
Similarly, we both bring nationally known––as well as local––art to the community, while continuing to tell our collective stories on a broader stage. It’s an ideal collaboration, and a valuable, reciprocal support system.