Meet Theresa Abel, activist and owner of the Artisan Gallery and Creamery Cafe in Paoli
Where are you from and what is your background?
I grew up in a strict Catholic family in a small farming community in west central Wisconsin. My father was a milkman and my mother, a janitor. I moved to Madison to attend the University and received a Bachelor of Fine Art is in 1992.
And what do you do now?
Since graduating I have had a job in the arts and been a professional artist selling my paintings regionally. In 2004 I took over the ownership of the Artisan Gallery and Creamery Cafe in Paoli with my partner in life and business, the artist, Timothy O’Neill.
How does that connect you to social justice?
Artists are hardwired to consider the historical context of what we do. Where does my artwork fit with what has come before, is it significant? How will it be interpreted in the future? We begin to view every aspect of life like that. Can I make a difference? How will this time be looked upon in the future? I’m quite certain that discrimination against the LGBT community will be unfathomable to a different generation.
How did your LGBT activism start?
Shortly after taking over ownership in 2004 we were approached by a customer who was active in what was then Action Wisconsin about hosting a fundraiser. I said yes without hesitation. I have always held strong political beliefs about social justice issues and LGBT friends and loved ones. Without many financial resources, it seemed like a good way to contribute. This September we will be hosting our third, and I think best, fundraiser to date for Fair Wisconsin. The evening will have a festive feel, with good wine, beer, hors d’oeuvres, a terrific art auction and lots in attendance.
What makes the Artisan Gallery unique?
The location in little Paoli and the builidng itself, the old creamery is wonderful and unusual. Since we have such a large space we’re able to exhibit an array of work, in both size and media. Combining “fine art” along side “fine craft” is unique. The American Fine Craft Movement is very exciting right now with artists creating both technically challenging and conceptually interesting and relevant work. Placing this alongside contemporary painting and sculpture, I think one gets a full idea of the current art scene.