Studio tour and its pre-party offer a glimpse of art in the making

Studio tour and its pre-party offer a glimpse of art in the making

Kenosha Fusion

April 11th, 2014


Get Behind the Arts Lee RobertsApril 10, 2014 6:30 am  • 

Since then, the Kenosha-based musician and business owner has spent most of his spare time transforming the space into a new, polished arts venue called Fusion, designed to showcase local and regional talent.

Miller — who area music fans may recognize as one half of the duo Acoustic Soul ( — has long been a supporter of the arts in southeastern Wisconsin, serving with various organizations. And with Fusion, the 58-year-old owner of Instrument Specialists Inc. in Twin Lakes hopes to accomplish a goal he’s had for quite a while: providing education, exposure and resources to help other performing artists get ahead.

The venue’s main floor will serve as a performance space for live shows, complete with audio and video recording and streaming equipment. Everything from concerts featuring regional acts to all-ages shows, plays and recitals can be held there, according to Miller.

The spaces on Fusion’s upper floor are designed to serve as work spaces for musicians and visual artists, as well as meetings and/or lessons. There’s also an outdoor garden area, where Miller plans to host seasonal events.

It’s not a particularly large venue — the performance space can seat 70 to 80 people. That’s OK, though, because Miller wants it to be a listening room where audiences can have “a really nice, intimate experience, with good lighting and audio.”

To help him achieve those goals, Miller recently formed the Kenosha Performing Arts Association (501c3) with representatives from various sectors of the community. He, some friends and a local contractor have also spent the last several months gutting the old record store and building new spaces.

Brick walls, hardwood floors and a 12-foot tin ceiling in “pristine condition” have been exposed and restored. Fluorescent lights have been replaced with chandeliers, and while there’s still more work to be done, Miller is planning a grand opening event during Kenosha’s June Second Saturdays.

In the meantime, the public can get a preview of Fusion and its many possibilities during Sunday’s “get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour.” Various groups, including musicians and a puppet theater, will perform there during the tour.

Step inside

Fusion is one of more than 45 artists’ workplaces throughout Racine and Kenosha whose doors will be open to the public during the April 13 “get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour.” The self-guided tour will run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. and offer 24 locations where visitors can get a rare, behind-the-scenes look at the creative processes of visual and performing artists.

Included are individual artists’ studios, as well as exhibition and education centers ranging from Racine’s Spectrum Gallery to Kenosha’s Actor’s Craft theatrical studio. Tour-goers can start at any location and visit as many, or as few, locations as they choose. The majority of stops are located east of Interstate 94, and some locations — such as Racine’s 16th Street Studios — offer the chance to view the work of multiple artists.

Demonstrations of everything from screen printing to portraiture and glass blowing can be found throughout the tour. Some stops will also offer live entertainment or interactive options.

There’s even something for architecture buffs this year, at the studio of Racine artist Jane Hobbs-Baldwin. In addition to learning about Hobbs-Baldwin’s work, visitors to her studio can tour her unique, ranch-style home, built and first-occupied by local architect Hans Geyer. Influenced by Frank Lloyd Wright, Geyer was known for his use of natural, honest finishes including stone, brick and wood, according to Maureen Fritchen, of the 2014 GBTA tour. This Geyer home also features a rear, elevated patio, looking out over woods and ravine.

Preview Party

In its fourth year, the “get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour” is organized by a collective of Racine and Kenosha artists and supporters of the arts. Its goal is to promote local talent, broaden arts audiences and educate the public about the region’s creative economy.

It does so not only through the Studio Tour, but the annual GBTA Preview Party held the night before. The Preview Party offers tour-goers a glimpse of what’s to come. And Saturday night’s event — to be held in Kenosha during the city’s Second Saturdays event — promises to be “an exciting, fast-paced snapshot of Sunday’s Studio Tour,” according to Fritchen.

Most artists featured on the tour attend the Preview Party, she said, and having the opportunity to sample their work is a great way for tour-goers to decide which studios they don’t want to miss the next day. See accompanying story for Preview Party location and details.

While it is difficult to gauge attendance at GBTA tours because there are multiple locations, last year’s Preview Party alone drew more than 500 people, Fritchen said. And organizers are planning for an even bigger event this weekend.

One reason larger attendance is expected is because organizers expanded their promotion of “get bEHIND the aRTS,” with the aid of a $10,000 Joint Effort Marketing Grant, received from the Wisconsin Department of Tourism this year. Fritchen said GBTA is “thrilled” to have received the grant, which allowed organizers to reach out into Milwaukee, Chicago and northern Illinois when advertising the event.

If You Go

WHAT: get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour.

WHEN: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, April 13. A Saturday night Preview Party will also be held, see accompanying story for details.

WHERE: 45 studios throughout Racine and Kenosha.

COST: Suggested donation is $5 and includes souvenir button and access to all participating studios (no charge for kids). Buttons and maps will be available at the GBTA Preview Party on Saturday, April 12, as well as at all participating studios on tour day.

INFO: Go to

Finding Saturday’s get bEHIND the aRTS Preview Party won’t be difficult, as its downtown Kenosha location is marked by a large, colorful mural by Racine artist Dee Hutch.

A painter and tattoo artist with Racine’s Black Hand Tattoo Gallery (, Hutch created the 21-by-10-foot mural on boards covering the windows at 5715 Sixth Ave., Kenosha, where the GBTA Preview Party will be held.

In addition to transforming the empty storefront into a work of art, Hutch’s get bEHIND the aRTS mural serves as a giant poster for both of this weekend’s events. The 24-year-old Park High School graduate has also done mural work inside Racine’s George Bray Neighborhood Center and St. Paul Baptist Church. And some of his smaller paintings will be on display at the Black Hand Tattoo Gallery during Sunday’s get bEHIND the aRTS Studio Tour.

Saturday’s free Preview Party will run from 6 to 10 p.m. and will feature an exhibition of work by artists whose studios will be open for Sunday’s tour. Hosted by Kenosha’s Rustic Road Brewing Co., the party will also offer a variety of live entertainment, a cash bar and free food, provided by Kenosha restaurants. Drawings to win free art classes, tickets to performances and other creative prizes will also be held.

Nick Ramsey will serve as the evening’s emcee, and the entertainment lineup is as follows:

  • 6 p.m. — Jean Preston, poet
  • 6:30 p.m. — RG Productions, old time radio troupe
  • 7 p.m. — Donoma, alternative rock band
  • 8 p.m. — Raffle Drawing, must be present to win
  • 8:30 p.m. — Actor’s Craft, theater troupe
  • 8:45 p.m. — Nick Demske, poet and founder of BONK!
  • 9:15 p.m. — Family Power Music, positive hip hop group

For more, go to

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