By Royal Bonde-Griggs, Special to   Published Jun 25, 2011 at 11:04 AM

The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center, 252 E. Highland Ave., started a gallery in January 2011 to complement its outreach programs. Gallery curator Jeremy Hanson hopes that the space will add opportunities for artists who may not have other outlets to show their work in Milwaukee.

"My vision for the gallery space is for it to grow into an LGBT community-run gallery. The Milwaukee LGBT Community Center Gallery would be known as a destination to view and purchase diverse art," Hanson says.

Shows at the gallery open on each Gallery Night. The gallery's current show, entitled "Spring Fling," runs through the end of June. It features four artists, Tara Herbert, Hector Guevara-Preciado and Michael Kautzer from Milwaukee, and one Chicago artist, Anne Kauff. The gallery does not charge artists a fee for showing. Proceeds to the center from art sales go toward its operating costs, and are taken at less than the usual gallery commission.

The gallery's next show will be print and mixed media. It opens on Gallery Night, Friday, July 29. It doesn't have a theme, unlike the spring show. Hanson says shows with themes are more challenging and that he's organizing many of the shows according to media in order to put his efforts toward attracting more LGBT artists.

"Most artists so far have been allies. I'm looking for more people who identify as part of the LGBT community. It doesn't matter if you have no training, just a love for the aesthetics of art," says Hanson.

Hanson doesn't exclude anyone in the gallery and has shown everyone from outsider artists to well-established Milwaukee and Chicago artists, such as Kay Knight and Peter Thaddeus.

"I have been working with other mentors in Milwaukee such as MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network) and local gallery owners to help build the community center galleryʼs patronage. I am recruiting artists, volunteers, and donors with the same passion to navigate this new venture to make the Milwaukee LGBT Community Center Gallery a success," says Hanson.

The center already has a permanent collection of art, including photographs of same-sex couples currently displayed in the halls and along one wall of its community room. The community room houses the art gallery, but is also used for other purposes. On Wednesdays, for example, are choir rehearsals.

Hanson had been volunteering at the LGBT Community Center for a year when the center moved into the Blatz Brewery's former boiler house building in November 2010. At that time, he joined the center's events committee to focus on designing more events that would involve the public without need of a service, taking advantage of the bigger space the new building afforded.

In 2010, over 10,000 people were served through various programs and services at the center, an increase in over 7,000 people since 2006, according to center director Dr. Maggi Cage. Among its programs and services are the Project Q youth program, the Anti-Violence Project, HIV and AIDS awareness programs and a smoking cessation program.

The community center also rents space in its historic building. Tenants include the Lesbian Alliance, Wisconsin Voices and the Pride Fest administration, which is located on the mezzanine level. Part of the mezzanine overlooks the community room in which the gallery is located.

The community center runs on volunteer labor. Hanson, who has a full-time job elsewhere, says that all the time he spends at the center is his own, including the work he does for the gallery, which has no operating budget.

"I do it because I love art and believe in the community center," he says.

Since joining the events committee, Hanson organized two parties commemorating the new building and a grand opening celebration, in addition to numerous smaller parties.

"I've been high on volunteering lately," he says.

Hanson says that he needs between five and 10 volunteers who can help out every gallery night and day and that the center can use many other volunteers. Hanson finds that most of the volunteering at the center does not require a lot in terms of any particular skill. "Just people who have time," he says.

Hanson would also like any artist who's interested in showing their work to contact him for the last show of the year, scheduled to open Gallery Night, Friday, October 21. The show will focus on fiber-related artwork. His email is on the center's website at the link below.