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Black History Month: Milwaukee art gallery showcases artists of color

Posted at 11:15 AM, Feb 14, 2020
and last updated 2020-02-17 11:22:45-05

MILWAUKEE — To celebrate Black History Month TMJ4 News is taking you to an art gallery on Milwaukee's north side.

Milwaukee artist Bennie Higgins mostly paints people.

You'll find Higgins here at Five Points Art Gallery and Studios when he's not working with domestic violence survivors at the Alma Center. Even during his 25 years as a Milwaukee police officer, he made time to create.

"Now I'm moving to be rooted through art, versus in my previous careers," said Higgins.

Higgins used to work out of a studio in Bay View, but now rents a space here, at a former funeral home at Port Washington and Keefe.

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"I thought it would be a great idea to have this on the north side where i live so returning to my community to do this was a powerful draw for me," said Higgins.

Right now, the gallery space is filled with work by Milwaukee artist Darrel Payne. Payne is proud to have his pieces on display so close to home.

We asked Payne if having his work close to home was special to him.

"Very much so. It warms my heart and soul," said Payne. "It gives me more light to create more work."

Gallery director and artists herself, Fatima Laster grew up a block from here.

"There's still just a dire lack of representation for us," said Laster. "I was like this will be ideal to have like this artsy renaissance space in here like we meet, we eat we show our work we sell our work and then it's just a great hub and network for people to build their careers."

Laster believes this gallery is beneficial to the community.

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"Economically it's another business in the space and then culturally it's a space where people can come and congregate safely and just learn about different works and practices that are out there," said Laster.

A lot of the art is local, but Laster is even attracting artists from other parts of the country.

"I wanted to showcase the talent, the range of talent, our viability and help us get on the platform and be a sound board for everyone to kind of grow," said Laster.

Laster struggled with initial funding for the project, but Greater Milwaukee Foundation stepped in.

"Our program supports entrepreneurship, job creation, blight elimination through the investments that we make so when Laster project came across our desk it hit on all of those," said Evan Reed of the Greater Milwaukee Foundation.

Artists around the community are thankful to have a place to call home.

"I've been painting all my life, but hasn't been my main focus all my life," said Higgins.

The gallery is open to the public Thursday through Sunday.

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