Supporting artists and the creative economy in northeast Wisconsin Featured in the Friends Fall 2019 Issue

Monday November 4, 2019
Supporting artists and the creative economy in northeast Wisconsin Karen Kjell’s artist space at the Fine Art Fair in Sturgeon Bay in May 2019

Located in the heart of Green Bay’s Arts District on the city’s east side, the NWTC Artisan and Business Center serves as a creative hub for artists of all ages and abilities. 

Often referred to as Green Bay’s best kept secret, the Artisan Center is more than just an art school. It is a place where artists come together to share ideas and their love of art.

Sue Simoens, a ceramics artist, has been active at the center for over two years.

“The Artisan Center provides a vital service to the northeast Wisconsin community,” she said. “It enriches the arts and provides a creative space to artists who otherwise would not have the means to produce artwork.”

The Artisan Center offers a variety of classes designed for all artists of all levels in metals and jewelry, ceramics, fused glass, drawing, painting, textiles and woodturning. 

While the journey is different for each student, many carry their newly-discovered craft far beyond the end date of the classes. Some even end up becoming instructors. 

Pete Schuh, a Woodturning instructor, earned his Woodturning certificate at NWTC. 

“My first classes were kind of stressful,” Schuh said. “I had no idea what a wood lathe could do. The Artisan Center provided an experienced instructor, lathe, tools and the wood necessary to complete the lessons.”

Other artists use the resources at the center and the skills they learn to pursue entrepreneurial efforts in the arts. 

Karen Kjell stumbled upon the Artisan Center in 2017 and soon discovered her passion for ceramics. She has taken that passion and turned it into a business called Karen Kjell Studio. Kjell exhibited her work earlier this spring at the Fine Art Fair in Sturgeon Bay. 

Griffin Wendt, also a ceramics artist, who had not thrown a pot since middle school, enrolled himself in the center’s Ceramics Fundamentals course in fall 2018. Today, he has his own business called Griffin Henry Pottery, and he recently showed his work at the De Pere Art Walk.

Jan Scoville, dean of regional learning at NWTC, said Wisconsin’s creative workforce employment accounts for more occupations than the nearly 130,000 jobs within the state’s beer, biotech and papermaking industries. 

“Northeast Wisconsin continues to see growth in the arts sector,” she said. “The Artisan and Business Center supports artists and the creative economy by offering skill-building classes for adults and youth, training and supporting development of arts-based businesses and collaboration with other arts entities to share resources and promote art-related events.”