By Dylan Deprey
After nearly a year and half of planning, creating and coordinating, the Northwestern Mutual Foundation is set to open its doors to a first-of-its-kind gallery to celebrate 25 years of philanthropic impact.
“Giving Gallery: Community in Process,” is a 26- piece multi-media exhibit.
The “Giving Gallery” was created by pairing 17 local artists with 25 non-profits to tell their story through one-of-a-kind art pieces, and inspire the community it reflected.
The exhibit is set to open mid-February, and will be in the Northwestern Mutual Tower and Commons for one year. The gallery is free to the public and open during normal business hours. The 25 non-profits will also receive $10,000 as a celebratory donation.
“We are bringing 25 years’ worth of stories to life through art, highlighting our commitment to the communities we serve and celebrating the work we’ve done in partnership with outstanding nonprofits,” said John Schlifske, chairman and CEO, Northwestern Mutual in a press release.
The Northwestern Mutual Foundation has given more than $320 million towards improving education, revitalizing Milwaukee neighborhoods, enhancing the quality of life across the city and fast-tracking the national search for a cure to childhood cancer.
Lynn Heimbruch, assistant director of strategic philanthropy, said the project had a lot of moving parts including a 50-person team. She added that it was emotional to see the exhibit finally come to life.
“We value giving back with time, treasure and talent historically and into the future,” Heimbruch said.
“But, to be able to showcase the story of the foundation through the impact our partners are having is ultimately rewarding.”
Once artists and non-profit foundations were paired, they had around eight months to brainstorm and build a story that represented their work in the community. Heimbruch said the exhibit was also a way to encourage people to volunteer in their communities.
Some of the non-profits included: MPS, Sojourner Family Peace Center, Boys & Girls Clubs of Greater Milwaukee and Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee.
Local furniture craftsman and business owner, Jordan Waraksa, was paired with the Ronald McDonald House of Eastern Wisconsin (RMHC). Northwestern Mutual Foundation has supported the RMHC’s healthy food program since 2013.
The RMHC is located directly across the street from Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. The RMHC houses families whose children are undergoing cancer treatment.
“We have families stay anywhere from a few days to many months at a time,” said Ann Petrie, President and CEO of RMHC Eastern Wisconsin. “So, it really becomes their home-away-from-home as long as they need it.”
Waraksa went to visit the RMHC firsthand to experience it firsthand, and listen to the many stories.
Out of all the furniture Waraksa has crafted, he said a round table was the most symbolic piece he could build. He said the round table represented unity and togetherness, and all of the different pieces of wood that were in the tabletop came together to create one shape.
“There are patchwork and butterfly joints that cover imperfections, but those imperfections end up being jewels, the most beautiful facets of the piece,” Waraksa said.
The metal table base represented the non-profits, Northwestern Mutual Foundation and the artists uniting to create a circular relationship meant to balance and protect the community.
“This was one of my biggest opportunities to give back, show respect and give honor to these things that are bigger then myself and the work I do,” Waraksa said.
Ultimately, Heimbruch said she hoped people recognized the great work the non-profits were doing to help make change in Milwaukee, and maybe even get inspired.
“We hope people walk away from this experience being inspired to volunteer, donate or advocate for these non-profits or others that inspire them because this is going to take all of us to make the community what it could be,” Heimbruch said.
For more information and to view a list of all the artists and non-profits visit https://nmgivinggallery.com/