Kari Couture & Kim Loper

We’re in for a special  Tuesday Tours today, because we have not one, but two fabulous artists! Kari Couture and Kim Loper share their studio in the Walker’s Point area of Milwaukee. In addition to being an artist Kari, manages the Milwaukee Public Schools Partnership for the Arts and Humanities program. Kim, a collage artist, also works as an art educator with several non profits throughout the city. Both artists admit that working in the same space seems to influence one another’s work and it also makes for a playful work envioroment. Between the tarot card readings by Kari, the snack shelf full of mustard and pretzels, and Kim blasting Beyonce music, it seems it could be more of a party than a work space. But, this fun vibe ads to their art, giving real meaning to the belief that when you love what you do, it’s never really work.


Kari at workKARI COUTURE
Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.
I moved from Eau Claire to Milwaukee in 2000 to go to school at MIAD where I studied printmaking. When I graduated, I entered the Public Allies program which validated my thoughts about and empowered me to start doing community, youth, and non-profit work. I have met and worked with some really amazing artists and arts organizations in this city that have all played a part in my formation as a socially conscious artist, community arts administrator and arts education advocate. My “day job” is managing the MPS Partnership for the Arts and Humanities and MPS Arts Internship programs, both related to engaging children and youth in out-of-school time arts experiences. In a lot of ways I consider this an art form just like my studio practice!

Kari’s corner

In the studio, I have moved away from printmaking and more toward drawing, collage, mixed media type of work. Since moving into this studio, I am really just getting back into a regular art-making practice so I’m enjoying doing things that are a bit more immediate. I use a variety of drawing materials and I like to layer and play with how they interact with each other both physically and visually.

Yes, you’re right. I think the community work is one of the best kinds of art forms!

by Kari Couture

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
Kim and I moved into this studio in February 2014 and it has been AMAZING. This is my first studio outside of my house. I consider it a great privilege to be able to have this space!  It has encouraged me to make art more regularly and allowed me to work much bigger and much messier than when I was working at home! I also LOVE that I don’t have to finish things in one sitting. At home I have two cats and my studio space didn’t have a door so if I left anything out and unfinished, they would walk on it, lick it, lay on it – you name it! So when I got to just leave my first few studio projects unfinished and lying out at the end of the day, I was so thrilled!!

Tarot Cards

Kari uses a set of tarot cards made by her artist friend Rebecca Schoenecker, which can be found at: http://rebeccaschoenecker.com/tarot.html

It also provides me with a place to just be. Sometimes I come here and just listen to music or relax on the couch or have friends over or read. I’ve also been practicing reading tarot a little and the studio has been a great space for that. My work is a lot about human interaction and relationships and how we navigate through knowing ourselves and each other. Tarot has an interesting way of opening up people’s stories.

That’s so interesting! I’m in the middle of writing a young adult novel that uses tarot as a way of telling stories. I find the cards to be an amazing tool for connection.  

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
I’m actually a very social person so I love the buzz of having other people around. The times when I know I can spend all day at the studio are the best. I like to bring food and be around Kim or invite other people to stop in and visit. I love to talk about life or art or about what’s happening related to my work in the community. I really enjoy when others bring projects they are working on and we can just work simultaneously. Or when kids come and visit! This winter my nieces spent an afternoon there with me and we totally destroyed the place and danced—it was fantastic!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
What I listen to varies a lot depending on my mood and what I’m working on. When I know I’m going to be in the studio for several hours at a time, I like to settle in with some podcasts, usually Radio Lab or Savage Love. As far as music goes, I had a lot of friends ask me what I might want for “studio-warming” presents when I moved in and I said make me a music mix or playlist so I have a good variety! Left to my own devices, I’ve mostly been listening to Estelle, Common, Mos Def and Raphael Saadiq.

Kari's grandma's reproduction of 'The Gleaners'

Kari’s grandma’s reproduction of ‘The Gleaners’

What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Honestly, I don’t know. I feel like I would have to just say the space itself. It is very empowering to be able to make a mess or not make a mess, to start something new before finishing something old, to hang stuff and take stuff down, to play loud music or just be quiet, to really push myself or give myself a break, to gather people or to just be alone – all these options really allow me to create exactly the kind of atmosphere I need in the moment.

Studio pets

Studio pets

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
We are snack-aholics! Seriously, I think the mini-fridge and the “snack shelf” where probably the first areas of the studio to get truly established. There are a lot of pretzels and mustards, nuts, anything spicy and always a little candy. Ginger beer and coconut LaCroix are staples.

What are the three best things about your studio?

Kari's desk

Kari’s desk

I love the big window! The southern sunlight is really nice, we’ve got a bunch of very happy plants and we have a great view of the Allen Bradley clock tower.

The location! We are right near the train tracks and I love to hear trains going by. At night I like to watch the Amtrak because if passengers have their lights on you can see in and it feels like you’re watching a movie (I hope that doesn’t sound creepy!). I also like that we’re within walking distance to an art supply store, coffee shops, frozen yogurt, great Indian food, some nice bars, and the lake—everything you could need.

The building. There are a lot of really cool artists in this building! Between my dear friends Val Tatera, Eric Koester and Mary Osmundsen down the hall, the musicians next to us, the Alphabang Collective, a photographer, woodworkers in the basement, Live Artist Studio upstairs and Continuum Architects (who I rarely see in the building but I have seen them out at meetings around the community), its just a really diverse and creative place to be.

It sounds like a very cool place to work!

If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
I think we could use better lighting, maybe a new table that isn’t so wobbly and a good stereo to bump our music on! But mostly any “extra” funds I might come across I would probably put into supplies!

Robes of Gold by Kari

Robes of Gold by Kari

What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I am definitely going through a gold phase right now, well, I guess I have been for a couple of years. I can’t even think of a piece that I’ve made recently that doesn’t have gold or a golden yellow color in it. I just like its warmth and its reference to things that are sacred.

The main wall on my side was blue when we moved in and I really wanted to paint it red, but we spent a whole day priming it, going up and down this HUGE ladder and after that, we decided to just leave it white!

Kari's altar shelf also featuring work by Rebecca Schoenecker and Della Wells

Kari’s altar shelf also featuring work by Rebecca Schoenecker and Della Wells

What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Do it!! Whether it is a corner of a room or a whole room in your house or a separate studio space—do it! Give yourself space where you can focus and be away from everything else. A place where you can make a mess and be free.

Kari just messin’ around with marigold seeds

What are you working on now and where can we find out more?
I will have a piece in an upcoming show on November organized by the great Jeff Redmon! Along the lines of the recent Culture Jam MKE show, Easily Discarded will be a show of work that challenges dominant notions of the relationship between human beings and their physical and mental environment. One night only: Saturday November 22nd, 2014 from 7:00pm until 11:00pm at 228 S. 1st St, Milwaukee, WI.

I don’t have a website! Maybe that’s what I should spend my “couple hundred dollars” on!!

Thanks, Kari! Good luck with your upcoming show!

Kari and Kim

Kim Loper and Kari Couture

Tell us a little bit about yourself and your creative medium.

I’m a youth worker and art instructor with several non profits in the city.I work with cheap materials that are easy to get ahold of—magazine and paper collage on large wood surfaces. There’s a very fine line between my work and my play, I learn things from my teaching practice that influence my personal fine art practice, and conversely, learn things from my fine art practices that influence my teaching.

Kim's corner

Kim’s corner

I’m a painter by trade and currently call myself a collage artist. And actually, the move from paint to collage happened accidentally. When I came back to Milwaukee after college, I didn’t have any space to paint in, so I literally just substituted magazine paper for paint. I map out my images on a wooden board, and fill in those parts, like a paint by numbers, with color coded swatches of paper. Currently I’m really interested in people, human anatomy and biological configurations and I explore this by cutting strips of paper and reassembling them to create muscular structures.IMG_6907

How long have you had your space and how does it affect your creative process?
This studio came to me at the most perfect time, when I needed a space of my own to unload some emotional messes I was going through. It was new and sort of served as my creative fairy godmother. Consoling me, nudging me to go deeper into my practice, letting me know everything was going to be ok, giving me confidence and courage. The studio saved me. The work that I produced during this time was survivalist and is some of my most prominent and proud work to date.

What a great metaphor—I love the idea of a studio being a creative fairy godmother!

Kim's corner close up

Kim’s corner close up

Please tell us about a time you had the most fun working in your studio.
Most fun? I think it was when I first got the studio and was cranking out work that totally impressed me. For like the first time ever. That’s fun. Oh, and also, parties with Kari! She has the best food, best tunes, and best tarot card sessions.IMG_6904

Yeah, that sounds like fun!

Does music influence how you work? What’s on your playlist now?
My work is really meticulous—cutting swatches/strips of color from magazines and working large scale on wooden boards often over 4×4 ft, so I listen to a lot of podcasts to pass the time. Lots of Savage Love, TED talks, Planet Money, The Read, This American Life. And when I really get serious is when the music comes out. Currently: the new Flying Lotus Album—You’re Dead and Kelis’s most recent album—Food; both have been playing exhaustively on repeat. Also, lots of SBTRKT, Kendrick Lamar, The Internet, etc.. and Beyonce. Always Beyonce. Always.

IMG_6910What would you say is the most useful tool in your studio?
Glue. Nothing would happen without the glue.

Is there a favorite drink or food that you have while you work?
Kari has become recently obsessed with mustard and pretzels and so I always eat all of her food. We have a snack shelf that we try and keep stocked with delicious treats. What’s on there now…. Old popcorn, pretzels (what’d I tell you!), candy, sriracha cashews, chili lime pistachios… We eat pretty good in here. We’re also a big fan of whiskey gingers and wine ‘round these parts.

Kim books

What are the three best things about your studio?
Our beautiful plants (mine’s dying, but lets not talk about that).
The amazing nap couch that will swallow whole you in one bite. With no remorse.
My studio mates advice.

IMG_6905If you had a couple hundred dollars to improve your space, what would you do?
Probably a bear skin rug (faux bear of course, Kari’s a vegetarian so I’m not too sure she’d be thrilled if I brought back dead animal skin).  Really, something to cover the floors because it feels a bit bare at times, especially when it’s cold.

Better shelving or organizational structures for my materials. I have lots of paper clippings and other small items that could use some discipline.

And actually, I’d buy as much glitter as I could afford. How much glitter do you think I could get for a couple hundred dollars? Enough to change my life I bet.

DSC_0401What colors inspire your creativity. Are those colors incorporated in your space?
I’ve been working with bright colors—black, teal, peach/pink, red, and gold. Lots of flowers and patterns in my work. It’s pretty bubble gummy right now. Very playful and light.

Kari’s side has a different feel, with different colors and is reflective of the type of work she does. I guess one common strain in both of our work, is our use of profiled, bald figures. Subtly, I think I’m definitely influenced by having her work up. We both kind of explore human relationships and interactions but use totally different color palettes. There is a lot of gold in our studio though, throughout. It’s mysterious and magical in here.

IMG_6912What advice do you have for people who want to make a personal space where they can be creative?
Don’t get the internet. Create a space that have your studio be a mystical space that doesn’t look like anything else you’re forced to deal with in the outside world. Allow yourself to sit in it for hours, sans actual work. Make sure the nap conditions are optimal. Have other smart creative people in it often to talk about art and gossip. Oh, and probably get some books. Make it safe so you can play and explore as freely as possible.

Great advice! Especially about the napping conditions and the lack of internet. 

Kim's piece 3

Where can we find out more?

Thanks, Kim for sharing your space!

Join us next Tuesday when Caldecott Honor-winning artist Molly Idle will share her lovely studio in Arizona!


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