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On the Wing

Exhibition & Fundraiser

Opening reception: 6 to 8 p.m. Friday, May 10

Portrait Society Gallery

Exhibition runs through June 8



Portrait Society Gallery is pleased to present an exhibition of more than 150 sketchbooks created by participants of On the Wing, PSG’s non-profit organization dedicated to giving voice and visibility to adult populations who may not have access to art resources. The exhibition opens with a celebration May 10 from 6 to 8 p.m. and runs through June 8 at Portrait Society Gallery in the Third Ward. 


Every Tuesday, for two years, Portrait Society has conducted sketchbook drawing sessions at the House of Peace, the Capuchin hub of community services in Milwaukee. When participants finish a sketchbook, On the Wing purchases it for $50. It is finally time to share the fruits of these labors at this exhibition and celebratory fund-raising event! 


Portrait Society Gallery initiated the project out of a love of sketchbooks, as well as a desire to expand geographic and personal boundaries by reaching across some of the cultural and economic divides that segregate Milwaukee. Portrait Society conducted independent fundraising for the first year of On the Wing. More than ninety generous individuals donated $8000. The program has now secured not-for-profit status with a long-term goal of creating a small library to house the sketchbooks, leaving a legacy of visibility and self-expression. 


The sketchbook, uniquely, is a place of possibility and risk-taking. It does not demand finish and thus allows the artist to be less self-critical. Another blank page offers another possibility of exploration, like an unknown place in which to wander. The sketchbook encourages experimentation which leads to a sense of potentiality and freedom. “When we draw communally, the focus generates a kind of relaxation that provides a heightened atmosphere of community,” Debra Brehmer, PSG Director, said.  Artists who attend the weekly sessions support each others’ work, share stories, offer suggestions. Well-known Milwaukee based artist Pat Hidson co-hosts the classes each week. Guest artists are occasionally brought in for informal workshops. With more funding, On the Wing would like to expand this component. 

The On the Wing Exhibition will include 100 sketchbooks by class participants as well as about 50 sketchbooks by local artists, including Della Wells, Santiago Cucullu, Carri Skoczek, Pat Hidson, Jean Roberts Guequierre, Ariana Vaeth, Fred Bell, Rose Balistreri, Steve Burnham,  Mutope Johnson and many others. In addition, a special project by illustrator and zine artist Kristopher Pollard will also be presented. All of the sketchbooks will be for sale for $100 each to raise funds for On the Wing. Prints of sketchbook pages will also be available for purchase. 

Damon White, an On the Wing participant, described the impact of the class: “Happiness is the state of my mind when I come to art class. I’m in total bliss, problems are pushed to the side. Art is what pushes the bolder out of my way so I can seek growth and humility through my drawings.”


The On the Wing Exhibition and Fund Raiser invites participation at many levels: Buy a sketchbook or print, create a sketchbook, make an independent contribution or simply come to the reception and celebrate. 


Portrait Society Gallery, now entering its 10th year, represents both artists who have academic training as well as those who have not had access to wider educational, curatorial or commercial support. The gallery seeks a broad audience while also operating at a national level within the contemporary art world.


On The Wing is a partnership of Portrait Society Gallery and fiscal sponsor Feast of Crispian, Inc.  All donations should be made payable to Feast of Crispian, Inc.  Donations are tax


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