Galaudet Gallery: home to fine art, crafts and artists

Local neoabstract expressionist Vicki Milewski sells both her art and the art of others to the community

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Photo by Faith Hultman

A local artist and owner of Galaudet Gallery, Vicki Milewski’s Pipestones Collection is part of The Artist’s Eye exhibit currently on display at the gallery.

Since 2011, a faded blue victorian house standing on the corner of Farwell Street has been home to Galaudet Gallery, one of two art galleries owned by siblings Mike and Vicki Milewski.

The current exhibit, “The Artist’s Eye,” showcases one-of-a-kind pieces, prints and originals by Georgia O’Keefe, Pablo Picasso and Vicki, along with various other artists and craftspeople. Each one of the four gallery rooms is dedicated to a different way artists see the world: Artist as Visionary, Artist as Explorer, Artist as Seeker and Artist as Maker.

The siblings are fifth-generation artists who opened their first gallery in Chicago followed by the second in Eau Claire. Both galleries were given the name Galaudet — their mother’s maiden name.

Although Eau Claire wasn’t initially on their radar, they knew the moment they entered the house it was the perfect location for a second gallery, Vicki said. Right when they walked in, they both pictured the same painting, one from Vicki’s Chakra series, hanging on the wall in the entry of the gallery.

It soon became apparent to them the arts were thriving in Eau Claire. Mike had been working with neighborhoods in Chicago on the edge of gentrification, and Eau Claire’s downtown was at a similar tipping point six years ago, he said. Because of this, the siblings decided Eau Claire was the place for their next business venture.

Thus far, Mike said the gallery has been successful in reaching the community and is larger than their gallery in Chicago.

“I’m looking forward to seeing a lot more galleries opening in downtown Eau Claire,” Mike said. “I can see the galleries becoming a very big tourist attraction.”

There are many collectors in the Eau Claire area the gallery tries to cater to, Vicki said. While they often wish to remain anonymous, these collectors have impressive assortments and are dedicated to supporting the arts.

At the same time Mike is running the original Galaudet Gallery in Chicago, Vicki is running the Eau Claire location; the mission of the gallery is twofold.

“First and foremost, we want to bring art to the people,” Vicki said. “We have pieces priced across the spectrum.”

They offer something for everyone, including UW-Eau Claire students, Vicki said. The second part of the gallery’s mission is elevating craft and art in a changing world.

After the industrial revolution, crafts were on the verge of being relegated to a bygone era, so artists and craftspeople joined forces to raise crafts to the level of art. The digital revolution is almost like a second industrial revolution, Vicki said.

“At the click of your phone or computer you can see thousands of photos,” Vicki said. “So why should you buy a photo and put it on your wall? … That leaves the artist and the craftsperson in this kind of nebulous area that is similar to the industrial revolution.

Vicki is a self described “neoabstract experientialist.” She tries to convey her experiences in whatever artistic genre they are best expressed. So far, she has produced a film that is currently touring Europe, written books, composed music, worked with paint, pencil, photography and mixed media and has won various awards for her art.

“I look at my art, from my first pieces that I made when I was, like, five, and I can see that even then I was responding to metaphysical experiences that were beyond the physical reality,” Vicki said. “I was interpreting that and putting it down on paper.”

Vicki finds much of her inspiration on a farm in Thorpe, Wisconsin, that has been in the family since before Wisconsin’s statehood. One of her collections, which has over 300 pieces, was inspired by the receiving jar in the milk room of the barn. Otherwise, she has been inspired by much of nature around the U.S., she said.

“Some of my abstractions, they clearly resemble things,” Vicki said. “In my Pipestone drawings you might recognize a creek, you might recognize a flower, you might recognize a tree, but it’s also part of an experience that I had with the creek, with the flower, with the tree.”

Parts of the Pipestones Collection, which is inspired by Pipestone National Monument, are available as part of “The Artist’s Eye” exhibit, currently on display at the gallery.

The next exhibition at Galaudet Gallery will be “There’s Only One,” a theme in support of efforts to protect the Arctic National Wildlife refuge with Wilderness Designation. Exhibit details and artwork information for the Galaudet Gallery can be found on their website.