Milwaukee Succeeds featured in Northwestern Mutual's new Giving Gallery

Hi Friends,

Last Thursday evening an exciting new art gallery was unveiled here in Milwaukee: the Northwestern Mutual Giving Gallery.

This stunning collection of 25 art pieces was commissioned to celebrate Northwestern Mutual’s 25 years of giving. More than $320 million dollars of investment later, they want to “harness the power of visual art to celebrate this milestone and engage our community”. Each original work of art honors a non-profit here in Milwaukee, and Milwaukee Succeeds was lucky enough to be chosen as one of the 25.

Several of our backbone staff had the opportunity to attend the opening event last week, and let’s just say we were absolutely blown away. Laura Johnson, our Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA, is excited to share her impressions of the gallery.

Take it away, Laura!


Arriving at the opening night for Northwestern Mutual’s Giving Gallery, guests were prompted to answer one of three questions.

I had to complete the sentence: “I believe art has the power to….” Quick to answer because I’ve thought about this before, I wrote: I believe that art has the power to speak a language that everyone can understand.

This idea came to life as I walked through the Giving Gallery; a maze of diverse art pieces housed in the atrium of Northwestern Mutual’s beautiful new building. Art of all mediums are displayed in this small but mighty gallery; a massive metal dragonfly, mixed-media collages and a painting that looks like stained glass. Like any art gallery, the walls are filled with beautiful pieces by notable artists. But what makes the Giving Gallery unique, is the confluence of art and the non-profit sector. Seventeen artists with Wisconsin ties were paired with 25 non-profits in Milwaukee with one job in mind: create art that connects. The artist’s task was to learn about the non-profit and then interpret their mission and work into a creative art form. This gallery and the art that fills it was created to celebrate 25 years of giving through the Northwestern Mutual Foundation. Over the past quarter of a century, they have donated over $320 million, with $87 million of it going to the 25 non-profits featured in the gallery.

Milwaukee Succeeds was one of the organizations honored to be a part of this celebration. The wonderful artist who created our partnership’s piece is Milwaukee-based artist, printmaker, photographer and retired art professor, Nancy McGee. Ms. McGee is considered an authority on water-based serigraphy—a type of screen printing—and taught at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design for 20 years. The work of art she created for the Giving Gallery is a stunning, four-paneled piece featuring vibrant colors and eye-catching abstract designs.

She writes: “When I began this project, I knew I wanted my piece to focus on reading and be interactive for the viewer. The resulting artwork is what I refer to as the reading totem. It speaks to innovation, discovery and evolution, and I hope it encourages creativity and personal discovery, especially among young people. I want them to believe their own interpretations of art are valid – art itself has innumerable meanings.”

Ms. McGee’s artist statement speaks straight to the heart of our partnership: we innovate, we discover and we evolve. I sincerely hope you get a chance to stop by the gallery (which is free and open on weekdays!) to see how this idea is brought to life. I also hope you have time to look at all 25 art pieces, and day dream about your own interpretations. I truly believe this gallery speaks a language everyone can understand—you just have to open up your heart and listen.

Thanks for reading!

Laura Johnson
Community Engagement Coordinator VISTA
Milwaukee Succeeds

Photos courtesy of Milwaukee Succeeds and

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