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Bridge Work Program

Initiated by Jason S. Yi and Leah Kolb, Bridge Work is a collaborative endeavor focused on providing recent art school graduates with opportunities to sustain artistic momentum and transition into the realm of a professional studio practice.  Acknowledging the nuances inherent to the contemporary art world, our interest centers on helping emerging artists navigate this uncertain terrain by broadening the scope of their professional connections and experiences.

The Cultivate Bridgework program is made possible by the Michigan Arts & Culture Council and Lowell Arts. 

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The Bridge Work program at Cultivate is a mentorship program to support artists in bridging the gap between art school and the professional art world.  It is a partnership program with colleges and galleries across the Midwest.  Bridge Work is a nine-month hands-on and academic art program where selected artists will be invited to create a new body of work and share in a group show exhibition with fellow Bridgework artists across the region.

Participants of this program will work hand in hand with the Director, Director of Exhibitions, and Curatorial Team to do the following - 

  • Professional documentation of the body of work created in the program

  • Mentorship and professional support through the Cultivate Curatorial board

  • Regular studio visits and critique 

  • Professional development practices such as grant writing, website development, marketing, and proposal writing

  • A personal critique and mentorship meeting with an established guest artist or curator whose work relates to or inspires their work, or offers connection to advance their medium or work.  

  • Invitation to the annual art fairs, networking opportunities

  • The Cultivate staff and board will facilitate relationships with artists, curators, gallery owners, collectors, and dealers around the country.  

History of Bridge Work Program


Initiated by Jason S. Yi and Leah Kolb, Bridge Work is a collaborative endeavor focused on providing recent art school graduates with opportunities to sustain artistic momentum and transition into the realm of a professional studio practice.  Acknowledging the nuances inherent to the contemporary art world, our interest centers on helping emerging artists navigate this uncertain terrain by broadening the scope of their professional connections and experiences. 

We plan to achieve the above-stated goals in each of our respective communities (Milwaukee, WI; Madison, WI; Grand Rapids, MI) by carefully selecting two to four emerging artists who express energy, commitment, and a willingness to benefit from additional resources and guidance. Selected participants will be invited to create a new body of work, and have the opportunity to present the completed work in a professionally curated exhibition at a vetted and respected local art space. Throughout the duration of the project, the facilitators in each area will act as mentors to their region’s program participants—conducting studio visits with the artists, offering critiques and advice as new work emerges, assisting with the development of resumes and artist statements, and gently guiding them through the steps necessary to prepare for a small group exhibition.  

In addition to helping sustain artistic practice, encourage the creation of new work, and provide exposure for the work, the final exhibition will also serve as a platform for professional development and relationship-building. Facilitators from each region will mobilize their professional connections and resources to ensure serious attention is paid to the exhibition. Invitations to stakeholders within the arts community will facilitate an exhibition attendance that will support crucial networking opportunities for the exhibiting artists to establish meaningful connections.

Although each locale will maintain autonomy over which artists they invite to participate, how they offer support throughout the process, and where and how the final exhibition will be presented, the ultimate goal in creating Bridge Work “outposts” in a variety of locations is to forge a more interconnected arts community throughout the Midwest. We hope this kind of broad-reaching program will facilitate meaningful artistic exchanges and dialogs among artists and art-centered organizations and professionals.  

Partners within the Regional Bridgework Program: 

Josh Hintz, Bridge Work Facilitator
Josh Hintz is the owner and director of Var West Gallery and Var Gallery and Studios and owner of Hawthorne Contemporary. The Var Gallery's primary focus is to support emerging, and established artists of all mediums. The gallery exhibits two and three-dimensional work on a monthly basis. Each exhibition is carefully considered by the quality of works, statement of intent, and overall cohesion with the years of programming. In addition to the proposed, the gallery also has annual exhibitions including our Emerging Artist, Figure, 30x30x30, and Collective Exhibitions.

Learn more about Var Gallery and Studios

Leah Kolb, Bridge Work Co-founder and Faciliator
Leah Kolb served as the Curator of Exhibitions at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art where she programmed and oversaw the museum’s special exhibitions and installations. At MMoCA, she has curated or co-organized over twenty-five exhibitions, largely focusing on contemporary artists who address
complex sociopolitical concerns and offer alternative perspectives to dominant narratives. With Milwaukee-based artist and educator Jason S. Yi, she co-founded Bridge Work, a professional development program for Wisconsin-based emerging artists. Bridge Work aims to forge a more interconnected arts community throughout the region by facilitating meaningful artistic exchanges among emerging artists and arts-oriented leaders and organizations. Additionally, she serves on the Wisconsin Arts Board as Chair of the Accessibility Committee. 

Learn more about Madison Museum of Contemporary Art

Riley Niemack, Bridge Work Project Manager and Facilitator
Riley Niemack received a BFA in integrated studio arts from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) in 2016. Since graduation, Niemack’s practice has grown to include art advocacy as well as an interdisciplinary practice. Elevating the everyday using video performance and sculpture, Niemack strives to connect with a wide audience. Niemack’s recent invited and selected group exhibitions include Riverwest Femfest 2018’s exhibition at Ski Club, Riverwest Femfest 2017’s exhibition at Groovy Dog Gallery, and Var Gallery’s Material & Var Gallery Collective Exhibition. Her arts administration postions include, Project Manager of Plum Blossom Initiative’s Bridge Work series, Studio Manager for artist Jason S. Yi, Project Coordinator and Events Associate of Facilitating Situations, and Admissions Representative at MIAD.

Learn more about Riley Niemack 

Jason S. Yi, Bridge Work Co-founder and Facilitator
Jason S. Yi works across artistic disciplines: photography, video, sculpture, drawing, multimedia and interactive installations. The expanded notions of culture, time and history play a critical role in the creation of his work. He has exhibited nati
onally and internationally at the Asian American Art Center in NYC, Platform China Artist in Residence Program in Beijing, Moran Museum of Art in Seoul, Kamiyama Art Museum in Kamiyama, Japan, Hotel Pupik in Schrattenberg, Austria, Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, and Milwaukee Art Museum, among other galleries and museums. Yi has been awarded the Joan Mitchell Foundation's Painters & Sculptors Grant (2014), Mary L. Nohl Foundations Fellowship in the established artist category, and Kamiyama Artist in Residence Fellowship, supported by the Japan Foundation. He was selected as the Milwaukee Artist of the Year in the year 2006 by the Milwaukee Arts Board. His works are included in the permanent collections of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Kamiyama Museum of Art in Japan, Korean Cultural Center in Los Angeles, and the Edward F. Albee Foundation in New York.

Learn more about Jason S. Yi

Jolynne Roorda, Co-Director at Arts and Literature Laboratory 

Arts + Literature Laboratory is a community-driven contemporary arts center in Madison, Wisconsin. Our 10,500 square foot space in Madison's downtown Capitol East District houses art gallery and performance space, a writing center and small press library, artist studios, and a dedicated education studio. Our over 200 events and programs per year include:

Visual Arts: Visual art exhibitions, film and video art screenings, professional development programs;

Literary Arts: Literary readings, writing workshops, the ALL Review, a lending library, the Midwest Video Poetry Fest, and opportunities to connect with other writers;

Performing Arts: Live music, city-wide jazz events, theater, jazz artistic development program;

Arts Education: Year-round arts education programs for youth and adults across the visual, literary, and performing arts.

Learn more about Arts and Literature Laboratory 

Cultivate Curatorial Board 

The Cultivate Curatorial board is composed of curators and artists. Together they curate rigorous exhibition programs featuring the work of emerging and mid-career artists whose work contributes to cultural dialogue domestically and abroad. They firmly believe in using the creative process as an entry point for challenging conversations and understanding empathy. Dedicated to cultivating collectors and working with artists from around the country, they work with a range of partners across the Midwest and the United States.  

"I got my first big exhibition with mentorship from Cultivate.

- Emerging artist based in Grand Rapids, Michigan

"Your gallery is a breath of fresh air.  I've gotten so much good information and it was all explained so clearly.  I could not have gotten as far as I have without you."

-Emerging artist based in Chicago, Illinois

Stories and News 

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