Meet the Artist: Shelby Keefe

Shelby paints in a bold brush style that is uniquely her own. She became a full-time artist in 2005, and since then has traveled around the country painting in plein art competitions and teaching workshops. She was the 2011-12 Artist in Residence at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee and is a signature member of the American Impressionist Society and American Women Artists. She earned her Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in 1981.

The neighborhood organizations provide so much to residents that it seemed oversimplified to choose just one thing each does. I created visual montages of services that struck me as especially important and left the greatest impression on my imagination. I drove through each neighborhood and photographed dozens of everyday scenes in an effort to capture the reality of those who live there.

Dominican Center: The Dominican Center’s focus on education for adults and safe places for children is what inspired me to create this montage, representing the Center’s tutoring program and the recent improvements to Milwaukee’s Moody Park. Education is the cornerstone to uplifting people in Milwaukee’s Amani neighborhood and beyond. In this culture of fear and widespread poverty, we can see how necessary groups like the Dominican Center are to inspire hope and create economic self-sufficiency.

Metcalfe Park Community Bridges: There is a great need in this inner city Milwaukee neighborhood, Metcalfe Park, for safe places for children to play. Butterfly Park is pictured here to reflect the joy children have when provided with such simple things as swing sets. Well-maintained and safe parks are essential and provide safe passage to and from school. Crosswalks and governed intersections are necessary to slow down traffic and make it safe for young people to cross the street.

Milwaukee Christian Center: This organization has been around for 95 years and has many services in place to help residents of Muskego Way and other south side neighborhoods. Their Senior Adults and Youth Build programs stood out as exceptional services that help so many people. I found it comforting that the elderly population has a place to come for meals and recreation – a kind of refuge from what can often be a lonely time of life.

Why art?
Art is a universal language that speaks to people without the use of words. A picture truly is worth a thousand words.

What do you hope people will feel when they see your work?
I paint what gives me joy, so I hope my work gives that joy back.

Who or what is the biggest influence on your art?
My grandmother, Lucille Ellsworth, and my teacher, Sister Thomasita Fessler from Cardinal Strich College, come to mind. Also, every painter I currently admire on the plein art painting circuit – there’s a lot of talent out there.