MILWAUKEE- Last December, the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts gained a new director. Marcela Garcia attended the center’s after-school arts programs when she was a child, and now she is leading the center to become a more inclusive place. Garcia moved to Milwaukee from Guadalajara, Mexico when she was young, and wants to make sure that the center continues to be a positive place for immigrants and refugees.

Sarah Hauer, writing for the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, reports:

Tacked onto a bulletin board behind Marcela Garcia’s desk at the Walker’s Point Center for the Arts is a picture of a girl painting a poinsettia on a red clay pot.

Garcia guesses she was 11 years old then, participating in after-school arts programming at the organization she now leads. She took the helm in December 2016, marking a new era for the organization. WPCA is celebrating its 30th year in 2017 with a director who experienced its programming firsthand.

In that youthful photo, Garcia wears a turtleneck sweater printed with flowers and hearts and a big white bow atop her head. Her eyes are locked on the pot. As a child, Garcia came every week to the center, then at S. 9th St. and W. National Ave.
She remembers learning how to manifest ideas, sketch them out and share them with others.

“We’d paint and we’d be speaking in Spanish about what we were doing and excited that we were all at different schools but here we are painting a pot for a plant,” she said.

Garcia’s family moved to Walker’s Point when she was five years old from Guadalajara, Mexico, and soon began to attend programs at WPCA. For Garcia, creating art at the center allowed her to imagine a world different than the one surrounding her. In the early 1990s, Walker’s Point was far from the corridor of restaurants and breweries it is today. The center offered a safe space away from violence and gang activity.

WPCA started in 1987 at W. National Ave. and S. 5th St. The idea was to provide a quality art experience through its gallery and arts education programs to people in Walker’s Point. More than 1,000 kids come through the center’s activities each year; most live in the neighborhood.

The community’s needs are different today than when she was growing up, Garcia said. Issues of poverty and inequity continue to exist, but she’s looking for ways WPCA can reinvent itself to be relevant for another 30 years.She wants the center to be a safe space for conversations, especially for refugees and immigrants.

Read more at the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.