By Maureen Post Special to Published Jun 03, 2009 at 2:30 PM

What's for some a time of economic despair, can spawn economic opportunity for another.

That's precisely the view Kaitlin Rathkamp and Joe Ledger, owners of Caggio, a new gallery and consignment space at 918 E. Brady St. are taking.

Located in the space formerly occupied by Out of Solitude, Rathkamp and Ledger completely transformed the space, spending hours ridding walls of pink paint, removing cabinetry and designing an art infused atmosphere.

While Caggio intends to display the works of local and regional artists, Rathkamp and Ledger themselves aren't strangers to the art world. Rathkamp, who works as a commercial artist for Rockwell Automation, freelances photography in her spare time.
Likewise, Ledger, who works as a sound engineer, plays the bass with Milwaukee's own Will Phalen and the Stereo Addicts.  It's easy to see where their love of art meet the evolution of ideas. Their demeanor exude creativity; even in brief conversation, concepts and potential projects are continuously bubbling at the surface waiting for full fledged formulation.

Caggio: An Art Experiment is one project Rathkamp and Ledger kicked into  full formulation.

"I think Brady Street needs it, I think Milwaukee needs it. I think anytime you have a place where artists can come together and showcase their work, I think that's always necessary; you have to have those places where people can congregate," Ledger says.

"We're going to feature local artists and produce a show every six weeks. We plan to branch out to regional and national artists as well but focusing on the Midwest is very important to us, we have roots here," Rathkamp says.

Not only do Rathkamp and Ledger have roots in Milwaukee, they're roots go back to precisely the same location. Nearly 10 years ago, Ledger lived in the apartment above what has become Caggio. Now, as if by some stroke of destiny, he finds himself back in the same building but with a much different motivation.

"I think what happened was the space fell out of the sky, landed on us and we had no choice but to take the opportunity," Ledger says.

Leasing the space only two months ago, Rathkamp and Ledger tirelessly poured every extra moment into their collaboration.

The hard work has paid off as the duo comes full circle and Caggio launches a grand opening this Friday with an incredible list of artist's work on hand. Mixing mediums, Rathkamp and Ledger secured several photographers, painters, a jeweler and textile artist for the gallery's first show.

"We want a place where people can come and always find something new. Some things might stay for longer than six weeks, but we want things to always be new and fresh," Rathkamp says.

As the night's featured artist, photographer William Lemke, whose work is in the Milwaukee Art Museum's permanent collection, leads the show with several landscape photographs taken over the last 15 years. Originally studying under Ansel Adams, Lemke's work reflects the serenity of the natural life, specifically in the western United States.

As adventurous in travel as he is artistically and technically talented, Lemke's work epitomizes the strength and depth of the Wisconsin art scene.

Other artists include painter and printmaker Maggie E. Banks, a current Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design student, whose work tweaks techniques of layering, texture and color blending through installation. In addition, work by painter and designer Michael Coates, known for his paintings on wood panels, will be on display.

While the show's opening exhibit features a slew of prestigious Milwaukee artists, Rathkamp and Ledger intend to exhibit various mediums at a variety of price points.

"We're going to focus on practical art as well, things you can buy for your house and use; really accessible things where if you are on a budget, you'll still be able to bring art into your home," Ledger says.

Maureen Post Special to staff writer Maureen Post grew up in Wauwatosa. A lover of international and urban culture, Maureen received a bachelor’s degree in sociology from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

After living on the east side of Madison for several years, Maureen returned to Milwaukee in 2006.

After a brief stint of travel, Maureen joined as the city’s oldest intern and has been hooked ever since. Combining her three key infatuations, Milwaukee’s great music, incredible food and inspiring art (and yes, in that order), Maureen’s job just about fits her perfectly.

Residing in Bay View, Maureen vehemently believes the city can become fresh and new with a simple move across town.