The art of giving

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Her Fox Point home, decorated and filled with her eccentric art, became her show piece.

But to others, Mary Nohl’s home was an oddity. Generations of teenagers who drove past the home and yard filled with strangely shaped figures of people and animals, dubbed it “The Witch’s House.”

But she didn’t care. Nohl was an artist. She was clear about what she liked and the central core of her life was her unique art. She enjoyed taking stray objects from the beach or her yard and transforming them into mobiles or sculptures. Shaping a lump of clay into a mug for a friend brought her satisfaction. And she found pleasure in the idea of turning a blank canvas into a painting that told a one-of-a-kind story.

Nohl was also very clear about what she wanted her fund at the Greater Milwaukee Foundation to do: offer arts opportunities to children and provide support for local established and emerging artists. After her death in 2001, Nohl left her personal estate, valued at $11 million, to the Foundation. The Foundation developed a competitive grant program that allows schools and other youth-serving agencies to apply for needed funds to expand arts opportunities for youth.

Working with the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts, the Foundation developed the Mary L. Nohl Fund Fellowships, which provide needed financial support for new and emerging artists. A Suitcase Fund assists artists invited to exhibit their work outside the metropolitan area.

Since her death, Nohl’s fund has made a total of more than $7 million in grants to support visual arts and arts education. We think it’s clear that Nohl would be pleased her fund is creating new arts opportunities for a new generation.

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