Artists Reveal "The Human Spirit"

“The Human Spirit” is the theme of the exhibition by the juried member organization League of Milwaukee Artists on display at the Cedarburg Art Museum January 15 through May 10. Artists have created works that depict how the inner resiliency of the soul buoys the spirit, leads to innovation, and provides inspiration for everyday life.  The uplifting message of this exhibition is appropriate for Wisconsin’s colder months when the human spirit guides hearty souls into survival mode, whether it is embracing our landscape, immersing oneself in the arts or technological advancements, or serving others. 

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More than 80 artworks by 41 artists fill two floors of the museum in a variety of media that reveal the human spirit. At the opening reception on January 18, Wauwatosa impressionistic plein air artist Tom Smith spoke about the transformational power of creating art.  Fitting to the theme of this exhibition, Smith shared how painting brought light to a dark area of his adult life, fulfilling childhood dreams and driving away depression.

In this exhibition, some artists have depicted the inner spirit of humans in a material way.  Artist Tim Spransy portrays Milwaukee ministry project Hope Street that helps people rebuild their lives in his oil painting Hope in the Heart of the City.  This painting, shown left, won Best of Show Award as juried by Ric Hartman. 

Tim Spransy, Hope in the Heart of the City

Cedarburg artist Jack Pachuta demonstrates the art of oral tradition that weaves history, ideas, and family lessons for the next generation in his mixed media collagraph, The Storyteller (below).  In Mike Gundlach’s painting Mel Tess, My Invisible Friend (shown right) the artist pays homage to one of the founders of the League of Milwaukee Artists who through his spirit and influential artwork is still a guiding force for Gundlach. This painting earned an Honorable Mention Award.

Other artists chose subjects from nature as their topic for uplifting the human spirit. In fact, landscape works offer a counterpoint throughout the exhibition to artworks that are more people-oriented. 

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Mike Gundlach, Mel Tess, My Invisible Friend


Audrey Dulmes’ soft pastel landscapes (Phosphorescent Morning, shown left) express her awe with the beauty and serenity of nature.  Mequon artist Lynn Rix expresses her awe of the resiliency of 5th generation dairy farmers having to switch to crops and cattle for their livelihood in the era of mega-dairy farming in Wisconsin.

Other award-winning artworks include David Kurtz’s First Place photograph Enchantment (right) that includes stunning detail in a compelling and joyful portrait; Erin Blum’s Second Place watercolor Hugs (below) captures a loving embrace of family members with their favorite canine member in the middle; and Julie San Felipe’s watercolor on cut paper reveals her angst in a dead-end call center job for Third Place.  Besides Gundlach’s award mentioned above, other Honorable Mention designees were Cherie Burbach for her joyful, mixed media This Child is Free and Jerry Steingraeber for his The Bus Ride, an oil painting that captures and elevates an unposed, everyday moment.


Audrey Dulmes, Phosphorescent Morning


David Kurtz, Enchantment

A variety of programming complements the The Human Spirit: League of Milwaukee Artists exhibition. 


Free programs include:

  • March 7: Talk with Jack Pachuta on monoprinting

  • April 11: Demonstration on plein air painting with Tom Smith

  • April 25: Demonstration on soft pastels with Audrey Dulmes


Workshop (fee):

  • April 18: Watercolor workshop on painting people led by Erin Callahan Blum.  (See Blum’s image of Hugs at left.)

Erin Callahan Blum, Hugs


We had the pleasure of speaking with artist and League of Milwaukee Artists President Judith Gahn Murphy. 

Check out the recording to learn more about her work, the League, and the Human Spirit exhibition!

League of Milwaukee Artists -
Judith Gahn Murphy -


Artists in exhibition:  Cyndy Baran, Erin Callahan Blum, Diane Boer-Henke, Bonita Bruch, Cherie Burbach, Jolie Collins, William Davis, Audrey Dulmes, Jim Edlebeck, Mike Gundlach, Arthur Horn, Dawn Jacobus, J.J. Joyce, Barbara Kelsey, David Klein, David Kurtz, John Lockwood, Terri Lockwood, Paul V Madura, Jim Maki, Deb Mortl, Mary Ellen Mueller, Judy Gahn Murphy, Gloria Olson, Jack Pachuta, Julia Pagenkopf, Mary Prince, Cherie Raffel, Lynn M Rix, Julie San Felipe, Tom Smith, Carolyn Simpson, Tim Spransy, Donna Staats, Jerry Steingraeber, Susan Steinhafel, Michelle Savas Thompson, Chuck Weber, Kathryn Wedge, Marcelline Weinsheim, Peter Zielenski, Diane Zeni.