The ABK Weaving Center is located on the lower level of the Frederick J. Gaenslen School and is accessible by both elevator and stairs. We are a fully-equipped weaving studio run almost totally by a staff of volunteers, many of whom are from the Wisconsin Handweavers’ organization. In addition to classes, the Center has developed and participated in outreach programs at Gaenslen School, as well as other schools in the area. You will find our volunteers out at the Wisconsin State Fair, as well as demonstrating and educating the public at cultural programs around the Milwaukee community. Other programs include exhibitions and sales at various venues in the area as well as fiber arts displays.
In 1912 the Division of Municipal Recreation and Adult Education of the Milwaukee Public Schools was formed as a result of a law passed by the Wisconsin Legislature which permitted school boards to use school facilities for adult evening classes, vocational schools, reading rooms, clubs, and accommodations to meet the needs of the entire community. Milwaukee then became known as the “City of the Lighted Schoolhouse,” thus establishing community-based education.
By 1934, weaving centers were created all over the city, mostly in the public schools. These centers eventually consolidated, forming a single All-City Weaving Studio located at Wisconsin Avenue School. Looms at the studio were created by workers from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and it was run by the MPS Recreation Department. Arts and crafts flourished during those years and the Weaving Studio was the largest in the Midwest, with 64 looms in operation.
During the late 1980’s Wisconsin Avenue School needed the space occupied by the Weaving Studio, so it was moved to Lincoln Center’s basement. Things started to fall apart—support dwindled and classes were not even advertised. That was when Alice Bertschy Kadish got involved.
Kadish had been a kindergarten teacher for Milwaukee Public Schools. She started weaving at Wisconsin Avenue School in the 1970s, after retirement. A remarkable woman, she was also an avid traveler and benefactress of the UWM Science Brown Bag program, the COA Youth and Family Centers, the Boys and Girls Clubs, the Milwaukee County Zoo, and several area museums. Kadish wanted weaving in Milwaukee to survive. She and her husband established the Halbert and Alice Kadish Foundation and a fund was set up to help with the Center’s finances.
The Alice Bertschy Kadish (ABK) Memorial Weaving Center was dedicated in 2000 as a collaborative agreement among Weaving Studio students, Wisconsin Handweavers, Inc. (WHI), Milwaukee Public Schools and the MPS Recreation Division. The Center exists to make weaving and fiber arts education available to people of all ages.
Our Center houses many of the original records and books from the old Weaving Studio as well as the WHI Fiber Arts Library, which serves as a resource for inspiration and education. We currently have over 100 looms of various sizes, including floor, table, rigid heddle, and inkle looms. We have a classroom area for classes, workshops and off-loom teaching such as dying and braiding. This area is also used for finishing projects woven on the looms.
Weaving classes are available for beginners and those who wish to enhance their skills. Beginning Classes: teach the basics of weaving, from warping the loom to weaving a sampler of different weave structures. Intermediate Classes: allow students to work on projects of their own choosing with the assistance of the instructor. Other classes and workshops include dyeing, basketry, multi-media jewelry, knitting, felting and other fiber arts. We are always open to suggestions.
Our classes are offered through the Milwaukee Public Schools Recreation Division. For additional class information, visit the MPS Recreation Division catalog on line at www.MilwaukeeRecreation.net , call 414-475-8811, and watch for the Recreation Guide which is delivered to all Milwaukee households 4 times during the year.