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Urban Art at the Funky Art World Gallery

by Peter Schmidtke

A smiling Eddie Davis greets his visitors warmly as they step into his fire-engine red Funky Art World gallery and studio on the corner of Locust and Fratney Street, the location of the old Vinyl Locust record shop. Davis’s main gallery houses a variety of art and sculpture including a hand-painted African drum; a life-sized, full-body wooden cutout portrait of the musical group Destiny’s Child; and a futuristic portrayal of downtown Milwaukee in the year 3000. In one of the near corners is a colorful painting by Davis of a summer block party in Milwaukee, the same image that was featured on the front cover of last month’s edition of The Press. The Funky Art World officially opened for business last month. Davis has been drawing and painting for as long as he can remember. “I wanted to go to art school, but my life took a different turn. I was married and I ended up a single parent. I had to work; I couldn’t spend time off just going to college.” But he never gave up on his dream of being an artist. “I said, ‘I’m going to train myself regardless.'” He picked up some classes in graphic design from MATC, read a lot of books on technique, and “practiced, practiced, practiced.” Davis said he has been looking into opening up a shop for the last three years, and he credits longtime Riverwest resident Lisa Daniels with contributing her business savvy. “No person is an island,” he said. Funky Art World consists of a main gallery, a portrait production room, a workroom, and an office in which Davis creates digital prints and graphic art. Davis charges ten dollars for a basic watercolor portrait, which takes him about twenty-five minutes to complete. “I have a lot of options available for customers. I’m very customer friendly,” he says. Davis stressed that buyers of his portraits can specify which sizes they desire. He also offers a variety of custom options for prints of his own paintings. Funky Art World also features art by other Wisconsin artists, including Doug Hoffman, Shanna Goetsch, Tamara Natalie Madden, Julie Worman, Jeff Worman, Renee Nettescheim, Ammar, and Bethanie Wyatt-Ngom. Although several of these artists are nationally renowned, Davis pointed out that he is receptive to featuring works from unknown local artists. “I want to be very accessible to the kitchen closet artists in the neighborhood.” Davis says he would like to join together with other neighborhood artists to paint a mural on the brick wall outside of his shop. “Having several artists put their mark on that wall would be a showpiece of Locust Street and the whole art community in Riverwest.” While opening an art gallery takes a large commitment, it’s just one aspect of the busy life of Eddie Davis. During the school year, Davis is a full-time security employee at Walker Middle School, a profession that at first glance seems like it would have little to do with art. But as Davis explained, “I take a bunch of students and mentor them in art. If I’m keeping them out of trouble, then that’s part of security. Even the toughest kid in school will respect the fact that I am an artist.” The school administration has scheduled separate periods for him to mentor, during which time he also helps the students publish their own magazine, the Walker Press, which includes drawings, poetry, and articles. Davis would also like to start an after-school art clinic for kids. “They could come in here, maybe eight or ten kids for two hours. I think that’s very healthy for young people. They see other people doing art and having galleries, they will be more inclined to express their imagination.” Later this summer Davis will be conducting a four-week art class for kids at the South Division School. You can reach Eddie Davis at 218-2093 at his shop on 800 East Locust St., or through a link from his home page at www.funkyartworld.com. Riverwest Currents – Volume 1 – Issue 7 – August 2002
by Peter Schmidtke