New art gallery opens in West Bend

Daily News

June 7, 2017

Ric Hartman poses next to a picture of the old West Bend Theater at the Gallery of Wisconsin Art, 303 Water St., West Bend. The gallery opened Saturday.
Submitted photo

Ric Hartman, a collector of early Wisconsin art, opened the Gallery of Wisconsin Art on Saturday with a ceremony held at the West Bend museum.

“There is such a rich heritage of Wisconsin art, yet no gallery specializes in promoting or selling it,” Hartman said in a news release. “That will be our role.”

The facility is at 303 Water St. and is adjacent to the Milwaukee River, the Eisenbahn Trail, the Museum of Wisconsin Art and its proposed cultural campus, and to the city’s sculpture collection.

Hartman’s gallery will be one of the largest in the state with more than 6,000 square feet of display space, the release said.

The restored two-level, 10,000-square-foot building will also be home to a nonprofit coffee shop, operated by the Volunteer Center of Washington County. It will open this fall.

Regular hours for the gallery will be 10 a.m.6 p.m. Tuesdays through Saturdays.

“We want to generate support for our local nonprofits and all the good things they do,” Hartman said. “We want to be a warm, inviting and friendly place for all people to gather.”

The building, which was previously a tire retailer and an antique restoration shop, was bought by Kevin Zimmer. His previous projects include renovated buildings for Dublin’s and Bibinger’s restaurants. Zimmer restored the building’s functionality and sold it to Hartman. Zimmer also served as general contractor.

The gallery will feature work of early artists dating back to 1900 of both accomplished and contemporary artists. It will also offer a variety of fine art, including paintings, prints, crafts, sculpture and ceramics – all from Wisconsin artists.

“I have had the joy of collecting Wisconsin art for more than three decades, and I want to share that joy with other people,” Hartman said. “Our gallery will promote Wisconsin’s creative human resources and allow people to experience beautiful works, buy them, take them home, put them on their walls and have them become part of their lives.”

Hartman holds a master’s of fine arts degree from the University of Wisconsin-Madison and ran a creative design agency in Menomonee Falls for more than a decade. Before that, he was director of creative services and branding for Menasha Corp., a multi-billion dollar corporation, for 14 years. He worked as a designer out of college and taught in the Elkhorn School District for five years.

One of his designs was a finalist in a United Nations International Disarmament Poster contest and was exhibited around the world.

Hartman has been active in several civic and professional organizations, including a stint as president of the Menomonee Falls Rotary Club and terms on the boards of the Menomonee Falls Chamber of Commerce and Community Memorial Hospital.

He currently serves on the boards of West Bend Friends of Sculpture, Historic West Bend Theater Inc. and the Greater Menomonee Falls Foundation.

“It is always exciting to add a unique, new venue for art in southeastern Wisconsin,” said Jack Pachuta, president of the League of Milwaukee Artists, in a news release. “The design of the gallery and Ric Hartman’s plans for the future can only expand the impact and accessibility of art in the area. We look forward to working together.”