After years of social distancing and independent creation, the Urban Ecology Center will feature artwork created by Milwaukee artists throughout the pandemic.
Four local Jewish artists are hosting an exhibit at the Riverside Park location, open now through July 31, 2022, titled “Four The First Time,” with the underlying themes of nature and abstract expressionism. This exhibit marks the first time these artists are collaborating to create an immersive experience for visitors.
Bev Richey, one of those artists, is a New Haven native with a strong background in psychology and art. When she settled in Milwaukee as an adult, she acclimated to the Milwaukee art scene by getting involved in the Jewish Artists Lab, of the Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center. The program put Jewish artists together regionally to create an exhibition after a 10-month learning experience.
Richey creates abstract expressionist paintings based on what it means to live as a liberated human being.
“In Judaism, the task, like in most spiritual situations, is ultimately to liberate the soul,” Richey said. “If you take apart the Passover story, it’s about developing relationships with a liberated self.”
At the exhibition, Richey will feature a series based on the COVID-19 pandemic. In the true form of an abstract expressionist, she does not have a premeditated design or title and will step up to the canvas and let the painting come out.
“At the beginning of the pandemic, we had no idea what was going on and things were falling apart,” Richey said. “If you look at the piece, I am squeezing paint out of a tube, almost like I am patching the world back together, similar to the repair side of Judaism.”
Miriam Sushman specializes in stained glass mosaics and was the initial organizer of the group. Her artwork is inspired by nature, and she did a series on houseplants and Wisconsin birds for the exhibition.
“There’s a lot in the Talmud concerning Jewish law about how to handle land with respect to the land, but also the effects nature has on people,” Sushman said. “That’s how I incorporate Jewish values into my art.”
Although she had always been active as an artist, she discovered her passion for mosaics when she moved to Wisconsin in the early 2000s. Since then, she has been teaching others at the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, the senior living community Saint John’s On The Lake and the Grand Avenue Club.
“The Grand Avenue Club is a resource center for people who experience mental illness,” Sushman said. “I taught members how to create a mosaic through a community mural featuring fish from Lake Michigan.”
At the exhibit, Sushman is excited to share her artwork not just on the walls, but also interactive on the ground with her stepping stones.
“It’s at the Urban Ecology Center, which tries to bring nature education to children and adults in Milwaukee, so the stepping stones are a perfect match, even though usually in an exhibit art goes on the walls,” Sushman said.
The other artists include Adria Rose, whose artwork is also inspired by nature and uses mixed media and watercolor to create fine art. Jonathan Ellis is a visual artist who develops a contemporary style rooted in truth, love, humor and theory.
“The pandemic was really isolating, and as artists, we spend a lot of time working alone anyway,” Sushman said. “Human nature and human connection, those are the most important aspects of our work,” Richey added.
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How to go
What: “Four The First Time,” with art by Jonathan Ellis, Beverly Richey, Miriam Sushman and Adria Willenson.
Where: Urban Ecology Center, Riverside Park location, 1500 E. Park Place,
Contact: 414-964-8505, UrbanEcologyCenter.org