In Arts & Entertainment

Katie Gingrass: smart, sweet and smiling.

Katie Gingrass Gallery closes after 37 years

A few Saturdays ago, I had the honor of sitting with Katie Gingrass inside her lovely East Side home within viewing distance of the water tower. She shared stories about her family, her gallery and her myriad interests.

Gingrass, who owned the Katie Gingrass Gallery in Milwaukee's Third Ward since 1980, quietly closed shop this weekend with the help of her family.

"I honestly don't remember when I didn't have the gallery," says Gingrass.

Gingrass was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1933. She received an undergraduate degree from Michigan State University and a master's degree in speech and language development from the University of Michigan.

She later met Rudy Gingrass, a still-practicing plastic surgeon from Wauwatosa, and moved to the village. The couple married and adopted five children: two boys and three girls. One of her daughters passed away last year.

In her early 40s, Gingrass – who was a longtime appreciator and collector of art – opened the first Katie Gingrass Gallery at 241 N. Broadway in the Third Ward. She was one of the pioneers in helping transform the former warehouse district into a vibrant artistic, cultural and entertainment scene.

In 2013, the gallery moved around the corner to 207 E. Buffalo St. "It was a gem in the community," says her daughter, Sarah Gingrass.

Gingrass represented many artists and showed a wide variety of work in her gallery, including contemporary still-lifes, figures, landscapes, cityscapes, abstract pieces, oil paintings, pastel drawings, photographs, lithographs, watercolors, sculptures, fabric, glass and enamel.

At one point, Gingrass had three galleries: in Milwaukee, Santa Fe, N.M., and California.

"I'm not an artist myself, but I always appreciated art very much and have many artist friends," she says.

Gingrass and her husband later divorced and she married a man named Charlie Bray. The two lived in various homes on the East Side.

"I kept the Gingrass name because that was my children's name and the name of my business," she says.

Gingrass was sad to close the gallery, but appreciative for the joy it gave her for many years. She plans to spend more time going out to lunch with friends and reading – both with her book club and on her own.

"I got to meet so many wonderful people and see so many beautiful works of art through the gallery," she says.

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