Faythe Levine

Curator Faythe Levine is Providing a Place for Artisans to Showcase Their Individualism

Faythe Levine

By Lane Florsheim

Faythe Levine moved to Milwaukee in 2001 after visiting an old pen pal who took her to a party in an empty building downtown where a number of artists had received permission to do temporary installations. She was impressed by the event; it was just the inspiration she needed to leave Minneapolis where she lived for the previous three years.

In Milwaukee, Levine found a community of younger working artists who blended together performance, music, film, and visual art. “It was the perfect place for me to establish myself as a curator since there was so much local talent to work with,” she says. “The art community I know is vast, but there is still a small Midwest vibe that sets our community apart from somewhere like New York.”

Though Milwaukee has not evolved into the artistic center many residents had hoped it would become after the debut of Santiago Calatrava’s addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2001, the same year as Levine’s arrival, the city is still home to a dynamic and blooming art scene.

An important part of that scene is the do-it-yourself craft movement, in which Levine has played a central role. Since moving to Milwaukee, she has curated both her old gallery Paper Boat and her new space Sky High Gallery. Part of what keeps Levine in Milwaukee is her partner Aaron Polansky who owns the Sky High skateboard shop where her gallery is located. Levine also founded Milwaukee’s Art vs. Craft fair after participating in the first Renegade Craft Fair in Chicago in 2003.

“[The Renegade Craft Fair] changed my life,” she explains. “Selling my goods to the public gave me a sense of empowerment as a designer that I hadn’t experienced before.” Levine’s fair is an incredibly vibrant mix of makers who sell jewelry, clothing, housewares, prints, stationary and cards, and ceramics, among many other unique finds. Today, she strives to keep a balance between new work and old favorites as Art vs. Craft continues to experience significant growth. The show also found a new home this year at the iconic Harley Davidson Museum.

Art vs. Craft led Levine to direct and produce a documentary on the craft movement called Handmade Nation: The Rise of D.I.Y. Art, Craft, and Design. She started work on a second documentary entitled Sign Painters in 2010, with a book under the same name released this past October.

Levine attributes the recent boom in interest in handmade products to a desperate cry for individualism. “[It’s] a need to connect with the objects in our daily lives and sometimes forced by economic desperation,” she says. “Regardless of why handmade has become a trend, I think once people try making something, they realize it may not be as easy as they thought or that the time involved is much more in depth than expected.”

Alongside the rest of her impressive curriculum vitae, Levine gives workshops and talks on how to lead a creative life. The common message through all of her talks? “There is always the theme of honesty and integrity with one’s work,” she says. “And the necessity to keep moving forward by setting personal goals for oneself.”

Art vs. Craft 2011 Photo Gallery

Art vs. Craft iamhome

Art vs. Craft rar rar press

Art vs Craft Douglas Ruschhaupt

Art vs. Craft Michelle Brusegaard

Arts vs. Crafts Dirtyard Designs




Lane FlorsheimAbout the Writer

Lane Florsheim is a senior at Tufts University where she is studying International Relations. She loves writing and reading about culture, politics, and women’s issues. Lane delights in jewelry making, captivating novels, and travel and exploration. Her personal website is available here. Follow Lane on Twitter @laneflorsheim.



Photos via Faythe Levine


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