A Nonprofit Finds Its Way In Madison

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by Stephanie Richter

Some of the art on display at the Black Light Valentine Event at Segredo on February 10.
“A constructive program that celebrates community
through collaborative creativity”

A new nonprofit organization is taking the Madison arts scene to the next level.

GESWERK, founded by Brent Gerlach at Edgewood College in 2010, is an organization that works with artists, local businesses and the community to raise money and awareness through the art it creates.

The program has its beginnings started when Gerlach and his band decided to do their first and final show before he moved to Portland, Ore. as a benefit for the Make-A-Wish Foundation.

“We decided to have a bunch of artists display there, thinking that they would invite their friends to the event, which they did,” said Gerlach. “The event went so well that I didn’t end up moving, and some of the people that were involved thought it would be a good idea to do something with the concept of collaborative creativity for a cause. So we did.”

The nonprofit organization chooses organizations to help out around the Madison area by gaining donations from local businesses, as well as the community. Recently, GESWERK is starting to collaborate with student organizations at high schools to get them involved with the organizations in the Madison community.

“One of the newer things we’re going to be implementing is that GESWERK will establish the relationships with three different organizations, and the high schools get to choose from those who they’d like to help,” said Gerlach.

Currently, GESWERK is working with the Dane County Humane Society, the Boys and Girls Club, Community Service Network and the East Madison Community Center.

One of GESWERK’s latest events was the Black Light Valentine event at Segredo on Feb. 10 to raise money for the East Madison Community Center. GESWERK wants to raise money and awareness on behalf of the break dancing program that happens every Thursday at the center. The event featured art from about 15 local talents with headliner DJ Benzi, who is Mike Posner’s DJ.

“While we broke even for the event, we learned a lot and everyone had a blast,” said Gerlach. “One of the beautiful things that we do in addition to raising money and awareness for a charitable cause is we bring people together through creativity.”

So far, GESWERK has raised $300 for the East Madison Community Center, with a goal of raising $2,000. In the past, GESWERK has contributed over $4,000 to organizations and charities in Wisconsin including Porlight, Inc., Extinction Exhibit and Make-A-Wish Foundation.

In the fall of 2010, GESWERK created a program, which is now an annual festival, called the Windows of Worlds. It featured hundreds of empty frames around the Edgewood Campus, which give different perspectives for what is seen in each of the frames. The program shows that each one of us is a frame and it’s perception that makes us unique. To fully understand what GESWERK is all about, check out this video.

One of the main goals for GESWERK, beyond raising money, is building a brand around a cause. The nonprofit organization wants to create a social platform where artists, local businesses and the community can thrive and focus their energies in a way that promotes a positive and creative environment.

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