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The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Times

The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Times

The student news site of Milwaukee Area Technical College

MATC Times

Over a year in the making: The Community Art Collection

Photo by Trevor Keay/MATC Times
Artist John Kowalczyk created the mixed-media painting collage titles “Create, Cultivate, Collaborate” specifically for the College’s Community Art Collection.

A need for artwork around the college arose over two years ago when planned renovations started on buildings at the Downtown campus. These upgrades created new open spaces including study nodes, large open corner nooks and long bare hallway walls that seem to stretch into infinity. In other words, a clean canvas.

What emerged from this delightful dilemma was an opportunity to build something not only new and fresh but also include the ability to ignite an entire community. The firestarter well positioned to lead this project is a life-long lover of art, Julie Ashlock, Ed.D., Director, Center for Teaching Excellence.

Ashlock’s joy of art developed when she was a child. As a kindergartner, her painting of a duck was so impressive that her teacher had it displayed at the Madison Children’s Museum in a show of children’s works. She has set her standards high ever since. This is one of her many leadership qualities that served to make the Community Art Committee thrive.

“I have tried to be very open to suggestions on what we should focus on and to honor ideas that the various members bring to the table,” she said. “The positivity and smiles that I see when I look out at the other committee members is contagious. I can tell that the other members are really happy to be there, and all have a love for the arts themselves; they want to support arts within the community and at MATC.”

Despite a worldwide pandemic, the Committee got right to work on its review of candidates and their proposals. In the end, a total of 13 artist were selected including muralist Byada and photographer Libby Sutton.

When ESL student and artist Byada arrived in the United States from her native homeland of Thailand, she was left in awe by what she saw, expressive murals challenging the observer’s emotions with its messages. The Thai artist instantly knew she wanted to incorporate this style with what she had learned in her native country. Fast forward ten years and she her work is leaving art fans in awe.

“Arriving in the US, what really struck me was all of the amazing murals and street art that can really grab the moment and the feelings that are hard to talk about in society,” said Byada.

The work she created for the Community Art Collection is called “Just Find Yourself and be Yourself.” It has become one of the more popular pieces in the collection, serving as the highlight selection on the Gallery Night MKE website. The painting’s myriad of color and shapes immediately grabs the attention of its viewer.  This style was created with intent by its artist.

“Honestly, I would like most for the person walking by to just have a calm and happy moment in the middle of all of our hectic days,” she said.  “Like when we are walking through traffic and crowds and take a shortcut that brings us to a view of the lake and the clouds drifting by.  A moment of freedom from all the things we were doing and have to do,” she laughed.

“Actually life is a lot of work and I hope my art can be like a connection to bring forth good memories and a smile from the relaxed heart, even for just a little while,” added Byada.

While Byada creates magic with a brush, Sutton uses her imagination to create art via the end of a lens, her camera.

The second-year photography student describes her style as graphic and often times abstract. “I’m inspired by a quote by Claude Monet, “‘To see we must forget the name of the thing we are looking at,’” she said.  His words are always in the back of my mind when I photograph,”. Said Sutton.

The photographs submitted by Sutton echoed Monet’s words perfectly. She submitted abstract photographs of windows at Bradley Technical High School, the eastern wall of the US Bank building, and a wall beneath the Lincoln Avenue bridge. This created a unique representation of well-known structures with a unique point of view.  She is going to replicate the idea with her art installation at the college.

“The subject of my project will be something that MATC students, faculty, and staff see every day – parts of buildings at the downtown MATC campus. I hope to showcase the very familiar in a new light. These images represent what is possible when you look at something differently how a perspective change can change you,” she said.

Sutton strives to give new meaning and definition to her subjects by creating the extraordinary from the ordinary. Her creativity feels effortless, perhaps because photography is a newly discovered passion. A Milwaukee native, she has been a local hospital pharmacist for over 10 years but has always had a deep appreciation for the power of visual media and its ability to tell a story, evoke emotion and inspire.

The collection of art including Sutton’s work “Perspective” can be viewed throughout at the downtown campus daily in the Main building second floor corridors, near the C building entrance, and throughout the T building second floor corridor.

Each artist was paid $2,500 for winning the contest, however, the joy their work adds to the community is priceless.


Community Art Collection exhibit “Breaking Through!” slideshow

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About the Contributor
Victoria Magee, Editor-in-Chief