Collaborating to Make a Difference through Art
The Wisconsin Union’s Wheelhouse Studios is partnering with University of Wisconsin-Madison student organizations to use a popular Wheelhouse event to bring attention to important topics.
Wheelhouse hosts the event, called Free Art Friday, on the first Friday of every month during the academic year in the lower level of Memorial Union.
Last semester, Wheelhouse hosted a Free Art Friday collaboration with the Wisconsin Union Directorate Cuisine Committee during a week of Wisconsin Union-hosted human rights events, which helped explore the issue of food insecurity on campus, in our greater community and globally.
The Free Art Friday included a lecture by UW-Madison Professor Jeri Barak, who studies food insecurity, as well as a discussion about where our food comes from. Participants created pastel drawings and expressed and explored this important topic through creativity. Open Seat, the food pantry on campus, collected food donations, as well.
“Students are coming to us wanting a platform to offer the campus community what they are passionate about in our really great, wonderful space,” said Taylor Franklin, Wheelhouse Studios program director. “An art studio space is particularly suitable to highlight people’s stories. I want Wheelhouse to feel like everyone’s space and a space where exploration of art and important topics can happen.”
Another co-hosted Free Art Friday was the Día de Muertos celebration with Lambda Theta Phi Latin Fraternity. Participants created an altar of loved ones lost, made calavera masks, as well as ate traditional Día de Muertos food prepared by the Wisconsin Union catering team in consultation with Lambda Theta Phi.
These student organization collaborations continued in March when Wheelhouse partnered with Wunk Sheek, an organization that aims to serve students of indigenous identity and members of the UW-Madison community interested in indigenous issues, culture and history. The event included traditional beading, drumming by Madtown Singers, as well as traditional and modern indigenous food. Madtown Singers also taught participants some dancing techniques.
“What’s great is that both us at Wheelhouse and Wunk Sheek are interested in making this an annual event,” Taylor said. “I’m loving the fact that we are having these sustainable relationships. We just want to keep finding ways to more deeply connect with our student community.”
In addition to Free Art Friday, Wheelhouse Studios offers workspace, drop-in art opportunities and classes for artists of all levels.
Wheelhouse also hosts a variety of other events such as the free Terrace Paintacular, Madison’s largest group paint event; and, Terrace Art Zone, a series of free art projects at the Memorial Union Terrace in June and July. Plus, the Wheelhouse team provides a variety of painting and ceramic projects for private group events.
Student organization representatives who are interested in co-hosting an Art Zone this summer on the Terrace, can contact Taylor at firstname.lastname@example.org.