Parachute Project brings art to unlikely audiences, forgotten spaces
The Parachute Project, a mobile art organization that transforms vacant buildings into one-night-only exhibitions is partnering with local businesses as they try and draw internationally acclaimed artists to the masses.
The group, comprised of local artists Makeal Flammini and Ella Dwyer, have already booked celebrated Belgian painter Kati Heck for it's Aug. 19 show. A performance for by the traveling experimental theatre company Missoula Oblongata Friday at Flammini and artist Colin Matthes' Astrix Gallery, 524 W. National Ave. will help raise funds for the show, which is a coup for the upstart group.
Flammini asked Heck, who has shown her work in some of the world's most important galleries and had The New York Times call her work "forceful and entertaining, to come to Milwaukee last summer when they were in Belgium for her boyfriend Matthes' art show.
Dwyer and Flammini said they are excited to involve such a high profile artist in their project, which aims to make art accessible to a more diverse segment of the community and shed light on the potential of Milwaukee's forgotten industrial landmarks.
"We don't want anyone to feel like they can't go to an art show. It is for the people, because art is good for people. Especially at a time like right now where arts are being stripped... Art lifts people and brings them together," Flammini said.
In 2010 the group transformed buildings at the then abandoned Pabst Brewery complex for their inaugural show "Sweeping the Pool of Light", and last summer poured countless hours into cleaning up what was once the Tower Theatre at 27th and Wells Streets, a building designed by the team that created the Oriental Theatre.
"To see it from the outside it looks like nothing. You can't even believe what's encased inside it. All these winding hallways and 7,000 wheelchairs, a big gym with this beautiful theatre hidden behind it... We are inviting people to see that and try to see that as something beautiful rather than something that doesn't matter," Flammini said.
The group hopes to make art a more communal experience by holding its shows in neighborhood's removed from the art scene and not yet bit by the development bug, they said.
"There were kids everywhere at the last show. The community was really excited," Dwyer said.
"There were so many people who came from the neighborhood and were so excited about it and a lot of them had never been to an art show," Flammini added.
Although they are still seeking out their next location, August show is already drawing support from the community with Beans and Barley, the Dean Jensen Gallery, local restauranteur Scott Johnson, the Walker's Point Center for the Arts, and WMSE signing on early as sponsors.
"To see that there are other people who believe in our project like we do really inspires us and we are really thankful for that because it helps us move forward," Flammini said.
Still, Flammini and Dwyer said they continue to look for community partners as they look to expand the scope of their project and improve the caliber of artists they bring in.
Friday's performance is one of many small fundraisers planned for the August show, and will be an event in it's own right. The Missoula Oblongata's traveling theatre concept shares much of the Parachute Project's passion for delivering art to unlikely audiences, Flammini said.
"The plays are really well written and really beautiful. The first time I saw them I teared up," Flammini said.
The M.O.'s new play Clamlump starts at 8 p.m.
More information on the August Parachute Project event can be found at its website.
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