Our Story Arts

12 Jun, 2013

by Dustin Zick

As part of her residency, Stephanie Barenz, our 5th Artist-in-Residence has developed a mentoring program, “Our Story Arts” along with her husband, Zach.  Stephanie and Zach dreamed up the program shortly after Stephanie began her residency in April of this year as a way to encourage, enlighten and explore ways for children to explore self expression through the arts.

Zach, who teaches writing for 5th and 6th grades at Milwaukee school, St. Marcus, saw the program as another way to encourage his students to express their goals and dreams, and Stephanie, who had already been teaching art a few hours a month at the school, saw the program as an opportunity to bring a new dynamic and purpose to her residency.

Our Story ArtsThe program, in which presently seven 5th to 7th graders from St. Marcus are enrolled in, sees them visiting and attending classes with Stephanie and Zach twice each week in the AiR Studio on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons.

Stephanie and Zach’s mission for “Our Story Arts” is “to focus on the needs of the individual, to start a junior art community in Milwaukee, and tell the story of our city’s children through creative self-expression.

The seven students are divided into two groups – Junior Artists-in-Residence and Junior Narrators, modeled after the Pfister programs. The kids have been working on the theme of identity, and are producing work based on this concept. In the last two months the children have developed their voice through creative writing assignments, video interviews, poetry, brush and ink calligraphy, portraiture, and gesture drawing. In the future, they will be working to develop their own zines with Pfister Narrator, Molly Synder and her husband, Royal Bravvaxling, who is a writing instructor at MIAD.

While the kids enjoy their art, they highly enjoy being part of the Pfister experience.  The kids are enthusiastic, hardworking, creative, funny, thoughtful, and inquisitive.

Joel loves Michael Jackson and drawing comic books. Gavin wants to be an architect and recently enjoyed selling his first work of art out of the Pfister studio. Kayla is dedicated to being an artist and told me yesterday she now loves art more than basketball or any other activity. Astashia writes beautiful poetry and enjoys that challenge that art brings to her day. Joanna, is a wise soul and honest, aspiring writer. Tania likes graphic novels and has created over 44 characters. Nikayla has a rare wisdom for someone her age and wants to be a journalist.

You can view their work on the Our Story Arts Facebook page, which is updated regularly. In the coming months, the students will also have some of their artwork on display in the Stephanie Barenz Gallery at the Pfister. The children will receive 50% of their sales to purchase more of their own art supplies. The other 50% will go towards fees for their field trips and program expenses.

If you would like to support a child in their journey of self-expression please make donations payable to Stephanie Barenz and send to:

“Our Story Arts”
c/o Stephanie Barenz
Suite 600, 207 E. Buffalo Ave.
Milwaukee, WI 53202

About the author

Dustin Zick

Dustin Zick is the Social Media Manager for The Pfister Hotel (along with Marcus Hotel's other two Milwaukee properties - InterContinental Milwaukee & the Hilton Milwaukee City Center). He's an avid writer, and experienced online marketer with over 3 years in the Social Media field. He's also a lifelong Wisconsin resident, a die-hard Brewers and Packers fan, and a proud member of the Milwaukee community at large.

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