By Julie Lawrence Special to Published May 18, 2010 at 3:02 PM

On the one hand, the Walker's Point Center for the Arts (WPCA) has returned to its roots. It recently relocated from its longtime spot at 911 W. National Ave. and moved into an historic building on South 5th Street, just about a block or two from where the community arts center began more than 20 years ago.

On the other hand, it's embarking on a fresh start. It's got a new lease on life with a 6,000-square foot space, one that's more than one-third larger than its former building. It officially opened its new doors to the public for spring Gallery Night on April 16.

And with a new home comes several other new additions. The extra space allows for more than one exhibit to show at a time. The main gallery continues to feature curated contemporary thematic exhibitions and the additional "salon" exclusively highlights members' work.

According to executive director Gary Tuma, a major part of WPCA's mission is fostering creativity in children through innovative education. He and his staff, then, are thrilled with the 2,500-square feet of new classrooms located on the second floor.

The way they see it, the more room they have for educational offerings, the better they are able to counter balance the devastating decreases in arts instruction within Milwaukee Public Schools and help under-served and at-risk youth.

The triumphant return of Afternoons with Art on April 5 marked the center's first educational program at the new location. The classes offer kids ages 6-12 to spend fun, creative time outside of school and cost $5 for members and $10 for non-members.

But the WPCA doesn't wait for kids to come to them. Through the SO/HO (Site-On / Hands-On) program, the center partners with schools through the MPS Partnership for the Arts grant to offer a variety of after school programs throughout the city such as Afro-Cuban dance, African Ameri-dance, puppet theater, drum making, percussion, creative writing, culture crafts and visual arts including printmaking, hand-crafted tile mosaic mural, community murals, ceramics, painting and drawing.

As for the in-house art exhibitions, "In the Balance," works by three local artists Amanda Gerken, Josie Osborne and Heather Wiedeman, closes Saturday, May 29 to make way for the summer show, "Sailing the Barbarous Coast: Work by Colin Matthes and Anthony Smith," which runs Friday, June 18 through Saturday, July 17.

The exhibition reflects a sense of uncertainty in the midst of economic calamity, social unrest, and global disruption. Anthony Smith's gestural sequential paintings are paired with Colin Matthes' brusque, obsessive drawing-based site-specific installation. The artists question our relationships to the contemporary world, especially, our participation in the activities we do not necessarily endorse.

"Here, There, and Elsewhere: Refugee Families in Milwaukee -- John Ruebartsch and Sally Kuzma" opens on summer Gallery Night, Friday, July 23.

In the past year, photographer John Ruebartsch has been visiting and interviewing refugee families in Milwaukee with visual artist and ESL teacher Sally Kuzma. Through his documentary photos and the words of the refugees themselves, they are creating intimate family portraits that provide a window into the daily lives of some of the newest -- and least familiar -- Americans.

Julie Lawrence Special to staff writer Julie Lawrence grew up in Wauwatosa and has lived her whole life in the Milwaukee area.

As any “word nerd” can attest, you never know when inspiration will strike, so from a very early age Julie has rarely been seen sans pen and little notebook. At the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee it seemed only natural that she major in journalism. When offered her an avenue to combine her writing and the city she knows and loves in late 2004, she knew it was meant to be. Around the office, she answers to a plethora of nicknames, including “Lar,” (short for “Larry,” which is short for “Lawrence”) as well as the mysteriously-sourced “Bill Murray.”