By Julie Nondorf
Even though we’ve never met, I know Jessica Zalewski as soon as I walk into Dunn Brothers Coffee in Racine. She is easy to spot in a khaki coat and patterned tights. Not only is she dressed completely cute, she is completely cute. A short, sassy cut and green rimmed glasses frame her face. She smiles warmly at me. We decide to take our drinks upstairs.
We are just blocks from the Racine Art Museum (RAM) where Jessica has been the Marketing Specialist and Publications Designer for over seven years. In that time, as well as before it, a lot of transformation has taken place for the museum. RAM’s fact sheet states that in 1938,
“Jennie E. Wustum donated her house, its property and a small trust fund to the City of Racine to establish an art museum and park in memory of her husband, Charles. From its founding in 1941, the Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts grew from a small collection of 1930s art from the Works Progress Administration’s Federal Art Project, to an impressive contemporary craft collection. Eventually, it outgrew its campus until it could only exhibit about 10% of its collection to its 50,000 annual visitors. Thanks to the museum’s success and generous gifts from donors like Karen Johnson Boyd, the Wustum Museum has relocated its collections to the new Racine Art Museum. Designed by the award-winning Chicago architecture firm Brininstool+Lynch, RAM is an environmentally sound and visually striking reuse of an existing structure that properly houses and presents the collection. The newly expanded two-campus museum continues to host regional exhibitions and studio art programs at what is now called RAM’s Wustum Museum of Fine Arts.”
While the museum has undergone transformation, Jessica’s position has changed as well. When she started, she took the baton from the public relations firm from that launched the grand opening of RAM’s newly renovated building.
“From that point forward, I developed the marketing and advertising strategy for the museum and for each new set of art exhibitions,” she says. Her duties have evolved a lot in the last seven years though. “Today I plan and design all advertisements, and most print publications including at least two 20-page full color catalogues about the museum’s collections each year.”
And art is not only a part of her job; Jessica is a photographer, creates collages with found items, and enjoys fiber art, particularly needlecrafts. In many additional ways she shows her love of the visual arts:
“I support the regional arts community by volunteering as a Board Member and Communications Committee Chair for the Coalition of Photographic Arts (CoPA) in Milwaukee, as well as working as a volunteer for a number of other arts organizations in the region including the Milwaukee Film Festival, Milwaukee Artists Marketplace at Milwaukee Art Museum, Art Matters in Racine and Kenosha, and more recently, as a contributor to JSonline.com’s Art City blog.”
Jessica is truly someone to whom art matters.
And art takes a front seat in every part of her life, from her attire to her work to her volunteerism all the way down to her hobbies. Jessica is happy that her job at RAM has ignited her own creative pursuits outside work. “Publications design has led me back to a greater interest in images and creating my own fine art photography.” She sips her tea and continues, “My inner artist is driven by balance and form—seeking to frame my own snapshots of the world we live in. I hope and seek to share my vision of moments of brilliant beauty in every day scenes.”
With art present in every aspect of her life, it’s no surprise that Jessica Zalewski speaks with excitement about the Racine Art Museum and its exhibits. “The typical visitor will see something new at RAM on nearly every visit,” she says. “The museum changes exhibitions every three to four months, including shows curated from RAM’s collection of over 5,000 objects and internationally traveling exhibitions organized by other museums and galleries. The collection focuses on both contemporary crafts and works on paper. A walk through the museum is a doorway to new perspectives, capped off nicely with a visit to our Museum Store, which offers unique handmade items, gifts and wearable arts with a range of prices to fit every guest.”
Perhaps it’s time for you to take a walk through this amazing gallery. The Racine Art Museum, located at 441 Main Street in Racine, is open Monday through Saturday from 10 to 5 and on Sunday from noon to 5.