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Uniting art


September 2005

Paul Masterson is the director of The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center, which promotes gay-relevant visual and performing arts.

The Milwaukee Gay Arts Center’s aim is to promote gay-relevant visual and performing arts, says Paul Masterson, the director. But the Walker’s Point center is not exclusive to the gay and lesbian population, adds the former curator of the Lesbian Gay Bisexual Transgender Community Center Gallery.

"It’s hard to define what that life is because we’re part of a bigger picture," Masterson says. "We want to promote art in general and gay art in particular."

Since opening its doors in late March, that’s what the new center has done. It celebrated its opening during Gallery Night in April, and two theater groups — Ray Bradford’s RSVP Productions and Mark Hooker’s The Uncommon Theatre — have staged shows there. Additionally, there are a number of artists who display their work. "The artist pool is partially from my contacts as LGBT curator," he says. "Since opening, we’ve gotten a lot of contacts from other artists."

Masterson said the idea for the center came about in conversations with Don Hoffman, the editor of "Queer Life," who knew the space was available. "More or less by coincidence and default and a bit of luck, the space had previously been a gallery," says Masterson, adding that some remodeling had to be done.

The 1,000-square-foot space has a 12-by-18-foot stage, though it’s used mainly for seating. "The productions that are being done now are done in the round," he says. "It’s an old factory building. The ceilings are very high. The acoustics are wonderful."

Capacity is about 100, and early cabaret performances have nearly been sold out. "It’s fairly close, intimate seating," Masterson adds.

Beside art exhibits and theater productions, yoga classes are taught at the center, and benefits for the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin have been held. In the future, Masterson hopes seminars, art lessons and other educational offerings will be held at the nonprofit center. The center will also likely be involved in the LGBT Film Festival.

But again, Masterson said the center’s purpose is not to be exclusive but to be a facility that "integrates the community."

Already interest in it is widespread. "Since we’re the only gay arts center in town, we’re pretty much citywide," he says.

The gallery’s hours are 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and later hours on weekends are planned. Admission is free, and tickets to productions held so far have started at $10. "It’s very reasonable, very accessible," Masterson says. "There is very enthusiastic support we’re getting from the community."