# Arts in Milwaukee – Mentors
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Arts in Milwaukee

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2021 Mentors


To Phyllis Bankier, Photography is about capturing the moment, the emotion, the action, the subject, the memory, the beauty and the purpose of life. Photography allows her to take all the things she enjoys about life, and save it forever. Her compositions are a celebration of color, light, shape and some emotional manipulation. As a nature photographer with a specialty in flowers, Phyllis Bankier looks for the intricacies of structure in nature, bringing out the details that are not always seen by the casual observer. She approaches her work with observation, patience, and an open mind.
Photographing is a beginning; from there she takes the raw image and does some expressive tweaking – creating what she saw and felt when she released the shutter. Maybe it’s bringing out more light, texture or color. She is showcasing the distinctive characteristics of each subject. Not only has she taught photography, her work has also been exhibited locally and nationally.http://www.scenescapes.us/. https://www.instagram.com/scenescapespb/ 


Argentinean born artist Santiago Cucullu creates multi-media works that culminate in spatially unified installations. Often arranged with elaborate wall-sized murals, sculpture, and vibrant paintings on paper, Cucullu emphasizes the subtleties of intuitive pacing and spatial orientation experienced in his broad installations. Specifically, Cucullu creates works using a duality of materials and appropriation to indicate the oscillation and ability of objects to collapse on themselves while activating an exhibition space.

Elements in the work reflect moments from everyday life and local histories that act to displace or highlight frictions and narratives that we encounter. Cucullu uses imagery from one specific place to disrupt ideas of a uniformed reality by displacing representations of one particular culture into another and allowing these representations to reside side by side.
Cucullu currently lives and works in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and Boston, Massachusetts.
He received his MFA from the Minneapolis College of Art and Design and his BFA from the Hartford Art School in Connecticut. A former resident of the Core Program at the Glassell School of Art, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, Cucullu's work has been exhibited at a number of institutions in group and solo shows, including the Mori Art Museum, Tokyo; Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; The Museum of Modern Art, New York, The Walker Art Center, Minneapolis; and Hammer Museum, Los Angeles, among others.


Mutópe J. Johnson received his MFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Peck School of the Arts Department
of Art & Design. Johnson also earned a BFA degree from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater Arts and Communications
Department. Mutópe’s recent accomplishments include being selected one of four University of Wisconsin-Whitewater
2015–2016 and 2016–2017 Inclusive Excellence Program Scholars, a distinguished 2013–2014 Imagining America P.A.G.E. Scholar (Publicly Active Graduate in Education) and a 2014 Dedalus Foundation Award-Nominee. Johnson’s’ visual art has been included in exhibitions at the Overture Center Fine Arts Gallery Madison, WI, the Charles Allis Fine Arts Museum, Northern Kentucky University Fine Arts Gallery, the Charles A. Wustum Fine Arts Museum, Racine WI, the Milwaukee Art Museum, Juxtaposition Gallery Minneapolis, MN, Susan Woodson’s Gallery Chicago, Ill, and many others.
Mutópe’s professional background and broad range of experiences have included positions at large and small graphic design companies, advertising agencies and marketing communications firms. Johnson served in positions such as Chief Creative Officer, Global Marketing Brands Manager, Creative Director and Art Director while concurrently painting for more than 15 years
as a professional visual artist. Mutópe was co-founder of the former Strive Media Institute, a Milwaukee-based nonprofit training ground for teens in TV, communications and journalism. Johnson’s current research and visual arts practice has led him to consider his role as an artist and how the arts can help shape the current state of African-American culture and its rich history.
More importantly how the arts have enriched all of our lives. Johnson states; “This becomes my own personal way of establishing a working method that uses the power of the arts to help influence public opinion. As artists we can open up new avenues of critical thinking that serve as creative strategies that help to inform and educate others through the visual arts.”


Sharon Kerry-Harlan was born in Miami, Florida and currently resides in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin and Hollywood, Florida. She received a BA from Marquette University and studied art at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design, both located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Kerry-Harlan’s work includes textiles, mixed media, and photography. Her work has been exhibited locally, nationally, and internationally at the Smithsonian/Renwick Gallery, the American Craft Museum, the Harn Museum, the Milwaukee Art Museum, and many others. Her work has been published in books and art catalogues. Sharon worked at Marquette University as an Academic Coordinator. She also taught textile courses as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Currently, she concentrates on her artwork. Her work can be found on her website: https://www.sharonkerryharlan.com/home


Jessica Laub is an artist who works in a variety of media to create mosaics, ceramics and paintings. Her artistic style, characterized by a bold use of color and a strong sense of line, celebrates the beauty she encounters in the world around her. Her art is influenced by time spent living in Central America and her appreciation of nature. Common themes include: human connections, relationships, communication, meditation, plants, animals, magical creatures and celestial bodies. Jessica uses clay to create sculptural forms and dishware, as well as to make handmade tile that she pairs with stained glass, broken dishes, mirrors and other shiny tesserae in her mosaic work. She creates small-scale interior mosaics as well as larger mosaics and sculptures intended for yards and gardens. Her studio is located at the Toy Factory in Riverwest. Jessica has a passion for community-based art and enthusiastically engages participants in turning their artistic visions into reality at schools and organizations throughout the city. www.JLaubArt.com


Todd Mrozinski acquired his BFA in painting and drawing from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 1997 where he was the recipient of a Fredrick Layton Scholarship and attended The New York Studio Program. The natural elements, shadows and his
immediate environment are his subject matter. Mrozinski's work is produced in series, each series relates symbolically to his life experience and grows out of present day observation and inspiration. He has exhibited nationally and locally at galleries such as Elaine Erickson Gallery, Portrait Society Gallery, Real Tinsel and Usable Space.
Mrozinski was the 2015-16 Pfister Artist-in-Residence and curator of The Pfister Pop-Up Gallery. He is a contributing art writer for Urban Milwaukee and Artdose Magazine, is a MARN Mentor and teaches drawing and painting for MIAD’s Pre-College and Continuing Education Programs. His business, The Artistic Encourager, provides students with both formal and social artistic development. He and his wife, Renee Bebeau, have a studio in The Nut Factory in Milwaukee, WI.  www.toddmrozinski.com


U.S. native, Carmen Alicia Murguía is an award winning Author, Educator, and Community Builder. A graduate of the prestigious Loft Literary Center's "Inroads: Latino/Chicano Writers Program," in Minneapolis, MN, Carmen is the author of “The Voices Inside,” “Carmen,” “The New Carmen (in this opera our heroine lives),” “Love: Poetry & A Short Story,” and “A Poem For All My People!” Carmen appears in multiple anthologies and reviews, has read widely, and conducts workshops on “Finding Your Voice,” “Navigating Life After the Closet,” and “The Intersections Of Culture & Identity.”  Carmen loves travelling to beachfront climates, dancing to R&B and Cumbias, spending time with her 91 year old mother, and most importantly, makes time for Love.


Ras ‘Ammar Nsoroma, known as Ammar, is a muralist, portraitist and mixed media painter. His work centers around the spiritual, cultural and political consciousness of the African Diaspora with particular attention to the Orisha deities of the Yoruba people.
Ammar was born in Milwaukee where he has lived for most of his life. He graduated from the Milwaukee High School of the Arts, where he painted his first mural as a senior, and then attended the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) as well as the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. He has exhibited extensively in both Chicago and Milwaukee and has created over 100 murals in Milwaukee, Chicago, Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Washington DC collectively. Ammar is a founding member of African-American Artists Beginning to Educate Americans about African-American Art (ABEA) and is an avid reader. The knowledge he gains through reading is reflected in his drawings, paintings, murals, and mixed media pieces. In 2020 Ammar was named one of two 2020 Mildred L. Harpole Artists of the Year, by the City of Milwaukee Arts Board.
Aside from being a talented muralist, Ammar is also an avid bicyclist and advocate for bicyclist rights. He currently works for the Wisconsin Bike Federation and leads the King Dream bike tours in the summer.


Born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, Danielle L. Paswaters spent the majority of her formative years just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. Her multifaceted upbringing informs her career in the curation of modern and contemporary art through a focus on issues of social justice and equality.
Danielle is an art museum and gallery professional with over 10 years of academic, curatorial, and administrative experience. She holds a B.A. in Art History with a Business minor and is currently pursuing an M.A. in Art History and Non-profit Management from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.
Trained as an entrepreneur, a paralegal and an art historian, she is currently the Gallery Manager and Curator at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Union Art Gallery. Danielle has worked on exhibitions including Fifty Works for Fifty States: The Dorothy and Herbert Vogel Collection; Gilbert & George; Andy Warhol: The Last Decade; Act/React: Interactive Installation Art and On Site: Santiago Cucullu. In addition, she has curated exhibitions which included works by Reginald Baylor, Mutope Johnson, Michael Davidson, Della Wells, Valaria Tatera, Tia Richardson, Ammar Nsoroma, Jennifer Espenscheid and others. 
Danielle’s current research explores gender inequalities and race relations by way of investigating the community building aspects of interactive art and performance theory. She is specifically interested in exploring the ways in which multiple forms of art can be combined to create a more collaborative and immersive experience. Danielle believes that museums, galleries and community art spaces have the power to be agents of change. By blurring the divide between highbrow and lowbrow art we allow for a wider reach into our communities, which helps to create a greater sense of equality that can then translate into more productive and empowering societies.


Kendall Polster started welding art as a hobby while working as a research biologist at the Blood Center of Southeastern Wisconsin. My brother had a shop and taught me how to weld. I entered medical school, eventually taking a leave of absence to pursue my art. My sculpting became an obsession, a compulsion. I never returned to medical school. Apparently my hobby got way out of hand….. From that moment on in 1994, I have made my living by welding art, without any other sources of income. It's been 26 years now. I spend half the time welding pure sculpture and the other half welding artful furniture and restaurant interiors with my employees. I enjoy the challenges of both; being precise and exacting at times and at other times having no regard for measuring or planning. I feel it is a nice balance. If I get tired of one, I do the other. All of my sculptures utilize recycled scrap metal from the junkyard or waste from my furniture making. I don’t take anything too seriously; I just enjoy making my work. I do not overly talk about my art; I produce it, sell it, make my living at it, and let other people define it. I see no reason for me to overly intellectualize my art. I feel that inordinately thinking about the meanings within the field of art is way over rated. I have no desire to make some quasi-important statements about life, social issues or such. If at times my work suggests such, let it be to the individual to interpret that which meanings they want. I would rather have people form their own ideas about my pieces. To me, the purchaser of my work and their opinions are just as important as mine, the creator of the work. I prefer to have them attach and associate their own meanings to my work. I am a self-taught /outsider artist and that is fine with me. As for my artist statement: I WELD JUNK! It’s that simple. www.weldguy.com


Nirmal Raja is an interdisciplinary artist living in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She had lived in India, South Korea and Hong Kong before immigrating to the United States thirty years ago. She holds a BA in English Literature from St. Francis College in Hyderabad, India; a BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and an MFA from the University of Wisconsin Milwaukee. She has participated in solo and group shows in the Midwest, nationally and internationally. She is the recipient of several awards including “Graduate of The Decade” from University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee. She collaborates with other artists and strongly believes in investing energy into her immediate community while also considering the global. She curates exhibitions that bring people from different cultures and backgrounds together. She was a mentor at RedLine Milwaukee, a community arts incubator for six years and is now a mentor for the Milwaukee Artists Resource Network. Raja is represented locally by Portrait Society Gallery.
Photo credit Kevin Miyazaki


Adam Setala is a graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design's undergraduate Illustration program, and holds an MFA in Visual Studies from the Minneapolis College of Art & Design. He began teaching at The Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design in 2013, where he is now an associate professor and currently serves as the departmental chair of the Communication Design department. 
Adam's professional design practice, which has spanned the past 15 years both at the agency level, as well as through extensive freelance, centers on advertising design, identity design, publication design, experimental typography, and conceptual design. He has extensive experience in art direction, and creative direction.
Adam also has over 10 years of professional contract illustration experience working with such clients as BuzzFeed, The Dallas Morning News, The Children's Hospital of Wiscon­sin, etc. He has been published in national, and interna­tional publications. Most recently his design work has been featured in Formist Editions' (Australia) 2019 book, Ficciones Typografika 1642.


Nathaniel Stern is an awkward artist, writer and teacher, who likes awkward art, writing and students. He is a Fulbright and NSF grantee and professor, interventionist and public citizen. He has produced and collaborated on projects ranging from ecological, participatory, and online interventions, interactive, immersive, and mixed reality environments, to prints, sculptures, videos, performances, and hybrid forms. His first book, Interactive Art and Embodiment: The Implicit Body as Performance (Gylphi 2013), takes a close look at the stakes for interactive and digital art, and Ecological Aesthetics: artful tactics for humans, nature, and politics (Dartmouth 2018) is a creative and scholarly collection of stories about art, artists, and their materials, which argues that ecology, aesthetics, and ethics are
inherently interconnected, and together act as the cornerstone for all contemporary arts practices. Stern’s ongoing work with startups and industry, on the other hand, has helped
launch dozens of new businesses, products, and ideas. He holds a joint appointment as Professor of Art and Design in Peck School of the Arts and Mechanical Engineering in the
College of Engineering and Applied Science at the University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee, and is a Research Associate at the Research Centre, Faculty of Art, Design and Architecture,
University of Johannesburg. He is the Director of UWM’s Startup Challenge.


Della Wells is a self-taught artist who began drawing and painting in earnest at the age of 42 and her creative process stems primarily from her personal experiences embellished through the art of storytelling into visual work. Wells'; work has been written about and has appeared in several publications including Betty-Carol Sellen's and Cynthia J. Johanson’s book; Self Taught, Outsider and Folk Art, A Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources, 2000 and 2016 ed. and one of her images appears in a children's book “The Classic Treasury of Childhood Wonders:  Favorite Adventures,
Stories, Poems  and  Songs For Making Lasting Memories”, published by National Geographic and written by Susan Magsamen.  In 2011, an award winning play which was written, inspired by her life,  "Don't Tell Me I Can't Fly", debuted in Milwaukee. The play was commissioned by Milwaukee First Stage Children's Theatre and written by Y York. In 2010, the play was selected to be read at the Kennedy Center in Washington D. C., for its New Visions, New Voices Festival. Since its debut in Milwaukee, the play has been produced in Nashville, Tennessee and in Charlotte, North Carolina.  She illustrated a children's book "The Electric Train" by Nanci Mortimer. She has exhibited in various galleries, museums and art festivals all over the United States, Italy and British Columbia. Venues include the The Hickory Museum of Art,The Milwaukee  Art Museum,John Michael Kohler Center For the Arts, Milwaukee Art Institute of Design, The Appleton Art Center, Kentuck Festival of Arts, Huntsville Museum of Art, The Loyola Museum of Art, University of Wisconsin in Madison,University of Wisconsin in Whitewater, University of Wisconsin in Milwaukee, Alverno College, Costal Museum, Mark Woolley Gallery, 5 Points Art Gallery and Studios, Clayton Gallery, The Cedarburg Art Museum, David Barnett Gallery and the Outsider Art Fair in New York. Her dolls, cards and collages are currently sold at The Smithsonian ‘s National African Museum of History and Culture. Inuit Center For Outsider Art in Chicago sells her dolls and cards. She has been a featured artist at the Kentuck Festival of Arts, the largest art festival which features folk, self-taught and outsider art in the United States. Her work is in over 100 private, corporate and museum collections including North Western Mutual Insurance, Milwaukee Bucks and The Wright Museum of Art. Wells is represented by the Portrait Society Gallery in Milwaukee, Main Street Gallery in Clayton, Georgia , Red Piano Too Art Gallery in St.Helena Island, South Gallery and Marcia Webber Art Objects in Montgomery, Alabama.


Jason S. Yi is a multi-disciplinary artist whose work has been exhibited nationally and internationally. Notably, he was included in the international biennial exhibition at the Inside-out Art Museum in Beijing in 2013 and 2017’s Sculpture Milwaukee, the first international public art exhibition held in Milwaukee, curated by Russell Bowman. In summer of 2018, his large scale work “Legend of The White Snake” was acquired and permanently installed in front of the Museum of Wisconsin Art. Some of his awards include Joan Mitchell Foundation Painters & Sculptors Grant, Mary L. Nohl Fellowship, MASS MoCA Residency and Kamiyama Artist in Residence Fellowship sponsored by the Japan Foundation. 
He is currently a faculty at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design, Gallery Director of Hawthorn Contemporary, and Plum Blossom Initiative co-founder with Leah Kolb, exhibition curator from the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art. www.jasonyi.com