Gingrass Gallery: History And Closure After 37 Years

Milwaukee’s historic Third Ward is not only listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it’s also known as the city’s Arts and Fashion District. Located a few minutes south of Downtown Milwaukee, the neighborhood is home to over 450 businesses, including restaurants, specialty shops, art galleries, spas, theaters, and cafes, all situated in historic warehouses. As this unique neighborhood continues to thrive, one of the first art galleries to take a chance on this community closed its doors on July 2017, after 37 years.

Milwaukee Map
Map of Milwaukee

The Katie Gingrass Gallery was a contemporary art and fine crafts gallery that opened in 1980 and was a pioneer in converting the former warehouse district into a vibrant, multi-cultural, entertainment and artistic hub. Gingrass represented a wide variety of different artist, including local, national and international, giving many an opportunity to display their works for the first time. The gallery’s displays was ever changing and featured a wide range of works, including lithographs, landscapes, contemporary still-lives, cityscapes, figures, oil paintings, abstract pieces, pastel drawings, sculptures, watercolors, photographs, fabric, enamel an glass.

Katie Gingrass
Katie Gingrass

Katie Gingrass, who was born in Galesburg, Illinois, in 1933, opened the first Katie Gingrass Gallery at 241 N. Broadway and then relocated a short distance away to 207 E. Buffalo St. in 2013. At the time, she was married with Rudy Gingrass, a plastic surgeon. Although they didn’t have any kids of their own, they adopted five kids; three girls and two boys. One of their daughters, Sarah Gingrass, told OnMilwaukee that the gallery was “a gem in the community.”

Although Katie Gingrass had a master’s degree from the University of Michigan for language and speech development, art was her true love. Gingrass owned three art galleries at one point, located in New Mexico, California and Milwaukee. The Katie Gingrass Gallery also played host to many special artist receptions and was a leader in the region in providing art related services to corporate clients, including commissioning original works of art to meet the needs of the clients.

The Katie Gingrass played a major role in helping the Third Ward neighborhood become the hub for artistic exhibition and activity in Milwaukee.

“I’m not an artist myself, but I always appreciated art very much and have many artist friends,” Katie Gingrass said during an interview with OnMilwaukee’s Senior Writer Molly Snyder.

Gingrass has since divorced and married with another man, Charlie Bay. The two have moved around a bit in on the East Side. At 84-years-old, she decided it was time to close the gallery so she could spend more reading and going out with friends. She admitted that she was sad to see the gallery closed but appreciated the many good memories it gave her with over the years.

“I got to meet so many wonderful people and see so many beautiful works of art through the gallery,” she says.

The Katie Gingrass played a major role in helping the Third Ward neighborhood become the hub for artistic exhibition and activity in Milwaukee.  It has grown over the years and is now home to over 20 art studios and galleries, including Art Upstairs Gallery and Studio, Frank Juarez Gallery, Gallery 218, J. Nikolal Art, Portrait Society Gallery, San Remy Gallery, Timothy Cobb Fine Arts, and Tory Follard Gallery, just to name a few. But the Third Ward’s art culture features more than just art galleries and studios, it’s also home the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and the Broadway Theatre Center, where you’ll also find the Milwaukee Chamber Theatre, Renaissance Theatreworks, and the world famous Skylight Music Theatre.

Third Ward Art Festival
Third Ward Art Festival

You’ll also be able to enjoy several events and festivals throughout the year in the Third Ward that celebrates its artistic culture. Over 5,000 art lovers flock to the neighborhood quarterly to enjoy one of the Midwest’s top art events, Gallery Night and Day. The Third Ward Art Festival, which is held annually in September, attracts over 140 artists, many of which are local artist. Attendees enjoy the interactive environment where they can talk to the artists and find a wide variety of works, including mixed media, glass jewelry, drawings, paintings, printmaking, photography, ceramics and woodworks, all available for purchase.

The Katie Gingrass Gallery had a great impact in the art world of Wisconsin and beyond and will surely be missed. But the legacy it left behind will always be felt as it helped transform a neighborhood of old abandoned warehouses into a thriving cultural and artistic environment.