On the Wing

$2,560 of $10k goal

Raised by 35 people in 28 days
Debra Brehmer  MILWAUKEE, WI
On the Wing

We launched this project in October 2016 with a small fund raiser at Portrait Society Gallery that included a talk by architect Jim Shields.

On the Wing will provide sketchbooks and pens/pencils to homeless individuals who are invited to fill the sketchbook with anything they want -- drawings, notes, lists. When they complete the entire sketchbook, they bring it back and it will be purchased for $50 (cash). The intent is to give voice and visibility to the homeless, a population often maligned, misunderstood and feared. The invitation to fill a journal is fully open-ended, on the terms of the participant with no goal or directives in mind.

Eventually, the series of sketchbooks purchased through the project will be part of an exhibition and will be auctioned to raise money for the next and continuing phase of the project.


We need an initial budget of $10,000 to do this in a meaningful way with a designated part time staff person overseeing the process. The beauty of it is that once it gets going, it should be self-generating with little or no additional need for financial support.

In conjunction with our spring exhibition, Drawn Out , we are hosting a collaborative epic doodle installation in the gallery's Project Space. All of the doodles will be for sale for nominal prices in an effort to raise funds for On the Wing. 

Anyone who donates here, will receive a surprise doodle in the mail. It could be by a well-known artist...or maybe not, who knows?



The money raised will go toward purchasing sketchbooks and pens/pencils, arranging collaborative relationships with homeless shelters and other non-profits who serve diverse populations, administering and promoting the project via a part-time gallery employee, and, most importantly, funding the purchase of the finished sketchbooks from those who participate. The money will also fund an eventual essay about the project and a catalog.




-A $10 donation purchases a sketchbook.
-A $20 donation purchases sketchbook and pen set.
-A $50 donation pays one participant for their sketchbook. 
-A $100 donation is life support and inspiration for the project.
-More than $100 will get this project up and running as soon as possible. 
-A $1000 donation or more says "YES!" Make this happen. Great idea to integrate the art world and marginalized homeless populations in a shared endeavor to tap the power of authorship and invention. Sometimes, the simplist gesture, like signing your name, underscores a sense of self. Think what a whole sketchbook might do!

Thank you so much for participating in this project! You will be invited to the exhibition of the completed sketchooks and become an integral part of the project.
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Update 8
Posted by Debra Brehmer
2 days ago
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The first sketchbook was completed and returned to the gallery. Very exciting. The goal is to put 100 sketchbooks into the world, get them back and have an exhibition/auction to raise money for round-two of the project. We'll be meeting with St. Ben's meal program this week to hopefully set up a partnership there. Any size donation helps put more sketchbooks into the world. Please participate in this project if you can.
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Update 7
Posted by Debra Brehmer
3 days ago
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We have seven sketchbooks out in the world but we are getting some feedback that people would like a larger size. We had opted for pocket sized ones, the kind I carry in my purse at all times. From now on we will give people the choice of either size. If you can contribute anything to the campaign, it would mean a great deal! We will be sending all donors thank you sketches that numerous artists have donated to this project. The first person to donate $500 today will get this one by Michelle Grabner. Thank you Michelle!!!
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Update 6
Posted by Debra Brehmer
7 days ago
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It is Monday, so I am going to post another On the Wing request for funding. If you can help a little, please do.

This is a rather complex project that Portrait Society decided to launch and then commit to for a year. By next spring, we hope to have 100 sketchbooks distributed to marginalized or at-risk individuals. We aren't asking anything specific from those who choose to participate. They can use the sketchbook in any way. When it is complete, we buy it back for $50.

One inspiration for this project was Dave the Potter, (David Drake) a slave in South Carolina who had, against the law, learned to read and write. While making large ceramic vessels for his owner, Dave sometimes wrote short poems on the pots, leaving his mark and identifying himself as an author. Chipstone Foundation did an amazing show about Dave the Potter in collaboration with Theaster Gates a few years ago and recently the Milwaukee Art Museum support group -- African American Art Alliance -- hosted a talk about Dave. The On the Wing project has a number of ideas at play, but one is how so few of us 'leave a mark.' In the art community we are used to making things and putting them in the world, which essentially anchors our material presence on earth. But most people, especially those who have experienced trauma or addiction, might not even consider that their lives would be worth any kind of 'mark' or legacy. Invisibility seems like such a dangerous force. The question of how to make someone visible, as an individual, on their own terms, even in a small way, is one concern of this project.

On Saturday a 20-something guy walked into the gallery and spent a long time looking at the current exhibitions. I was mostly distracted with other people. Finally, he came up to me and asked how one would get someone at the gallery to look at an artist's work. I said, make an appointment. He said, would now work. I said, do you have art work with you? We sat down and he pulled piles of drawings out of his backpack -- portraits of rap artists and basketball players and compilations of multiple images, mostly done with pencil. He said he did a drawing a day. I asked him if he wanted to participate in the On the Wing project. I gave him a sketchbook and pens and a small watercolor kit, etc. He said he'd come back when he finished the sketchbook. The transition from a blank book to a full one is an exciting part of this project.

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Update 5
Posted by Debra Brehmer
8 days ago
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We sent our first sketchbook into the world yesterday and have these three going out to teenagers in Foster care and one mom recently released from prison tomorrow. Thank you all for contributing and getting this project on its feet. We still have quite a bit of fund raising to do to complete our year goal. If you can help out, please do. Teens get cool metallic cover sketchbooks. Adults get nice black pocket sketchbooks.
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$2,560 of $10k goal

Raised by 35 people in 28 days
Created March 27, 2017
$50
Kay Johannes
1 day ago
PM
$100
pam miller
1 day ago

This is such a great project!! I love what you do!!! Maybe Elizabeth and I could help in some capacity at the time when you may need volunteers. :)

$300
Anonymous
2 days ago (Offline Donation)
SJ
$50
Stefanie Jacob
8 days ago

What a wonderful idea! More than happy to contribute!

JM
$500
Jill McCurdy
8 days ago

I was so touched by your story of the young man contributing to this amazing effort, I had to donate again!

AH
$5
Alexa Hollywood
8 days ago
DS
$50
Dori Frankel Steigman
15 days ago
$100
Anonymous
16 days ago (Offline Donation)
KH
$250
Katie Heil
16 days ago (Offline Donation)
CR
$100
Cam Roberts
16 days ago

I can't wait to read my sexy private message!

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