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Recently, four Milwaukee creatives opened the Cocoon Room, 820 E. Locust St. The official opening was in March, but last November they took over the space that was formerly Foxglove Gallery and, before that, a tropical fish store.
The goal of the group is to provide artists and musicians a space to share and sell their work as well as provide educational outreach to the community.
Cocoon Room sells handmade and vintage jewelry and clothing for men and women, house wares, kitschy knick-knacks and local art.
It’s also a gallery space that displays work of any medium from a variety of local artists. The gallery will have a different collection of work up for display and sale every three to six weeks.
In the center of the space is a large communal work table where the owners create their art. The public is welcome to use the space and Cocoon Room provides the art supplies.
"During our regular hours, patrons can come in and view the art, and shop in the boutique, as well as make art of their own," says Rachel "Rae" Buth, one of four artists operating Cocoon Room.
The other artists involved in the venture are Sheila Teruty, Amanda Mills and Kiran Vedula.
Buth is a designer, photographer and musician who runs a small business, Redish, that’s based out of Cocoon Room. She makes and collects a variety of art pieces and is currently focusing on working with velvet.
"I hope to share my talents and passion for the arts by continuing to create, learn from and educate others," says Buth.
Teruty is a vintage garb collector/curator, event-planner, freelance wardrobe stylist and photographer. She also runs So Passé, an online boutique where she sells rare and unique indie style and vintage wares. The business is now housed in Cocoon Room.
Mills is the owner of Sunshine Acid Designs, which specializes in handmade jewelry, DIY and up-cycled clothing and vintage fashion. She will teach jewelry and clothing design classes this summer at Cocoon Room.
"I have an immense passion for creating art in all forms, and I am really looking forward to the future of Cocoon Room," says Mills. "I’m in a very experimental stage right now. I’m trying my hand in a lot of different things and seeing what’s working. My work is definitely evolving."
Vedula is a musician and youth care professional. He is a founding member of the Fresh Cut Collective. He is hoping to eventually get not-for-profit status to offer more art experiences to the community.
"We would like to offer more classes and even free classes for kids and adults," says Vedula. "You can walk in and have an art experience without spending a lot of money."
For special events, such as gallery openings and festivals, Cocoon Room will host bands and DJs. Eventually, the co-owners hope to get a liquor license. In addition to the regular hours and special events, Cocoon Room will also host various creative workshops, corporate groups, classes and lectures.
COA Youth and Family Centers and SC Johnson Wax in Racine have booked space for day-long staff trainings during the summer. Also, Mills will teach jewelry and clothing design, Patricio Amerena – a member of Fresh Cut Collective and The Improvised Musical – will lead improv comedy nights and Vedula will base his youth arts program out of Cocoon Room.
Cocoon Room also offers freelance graphic, web and fashion design, music recording and production, video filming and editing, photography and styling.
The owners believe that Riverwest is the ideal location for this venture.
"Riverwest is the heart of Milwaukee's art and culture. It is the intersection of many different types of people and places, one of the most diverse neighborhoods in an otherwise extremely segregated city, so there is naturally a creative spirit because of the crossing of so many influences and backgrounds," says Buth.
Cocoon Room will host a gallery opening on Friday, May 31, Celebrating Queer Milwaukee, an event with art and music from Milwaukee's LGBT community. On June 1, in conjunction with the Midwest Small Press Fest, Cocoon Room will offer poetry readings.
"Milwaukee's arts and culture scene is still an awkward teenager compared to a city like Austin, but it is maturing quickly as there are more and more people becoming committed to pulling Milwaukee out of its past industrial identity and taking the city into the future," says Buth.
"Milwaukee will go through many changes over the next five years, especially in relation to the arts. We hope to make Cocoon Room part of that journey."
Molly Snyder started writing and publishing her work at the age 10, when her community newspaper printed her poem, "The Unicorn.” Since then, she's expanded beyond the subject of mythical creatures and written in many different mediums but, nearest and dearest to her heart, thousands of articles for OnMilwaukee.
Molly is a regular contributor to FOX6 News and numerous radio stations as well as the co-host of "Dandelions: A Podcast For Women.” She's received five Milwaukee Press Club Awards, served as the Pfister Narrator and is the Wisconsin State Fair’s Celebrity Cream Puff Eating Champion of 2019.