The donation drive for Radical Jewelry Makeover: Wisconsin is on, and the Wilson Center is thrilled to have been selected as one of the designated drop-off locations!

Radical Jewelry Makeover: Wisconsin is a community jewelry mining and recycling project that encourages people to look at their habits of consumption through the lens of jewelry and adornment, examines the stories behind our collections, and breathes new life into unwanted or discarded jewelry. 

Bring us your unwanted or broken jewelry, anything and everything from Mardi Gras beads and costume jewelry to heirloom pieces between January 2-February 16. Participating artists will be challenged to use the donated materials to make new work. A kickoff symposium on February 24 will take place at the Kenilworth Square East in Milwaukee that will include a local artist pop-up, featured speakers from RJM, and an adapted performance of the stories collected with the jewelry donations. 

The resulting pieces will be exhibited at the Union Art Gallery at UW-Milwaukee April 13-May 11, as well as at the Wilson Center as part of our Creative Collective Pop-Up on April 20. Donors of jewelry will receive a credit that may be used towards the purchase of one of the new pieces.

To donate jewelry of any variety, quality, quantity, or material type, please submit the official project donation form in a sealed plastic bag along with your items. The form is available at all donation sites and is available for download here. Be sure to make and keep a copy of the form for your own records.

Radical Jewelry Makeover: Milwaukee is a project of Ethical Metalsmiths, the Union Art Gallery, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, and UW-Stout. For more information, please continue reading about RJM below or contact Wilson Center Visual Art Manager Jim Charles at 262-373-5022 or jcharles@wilson-center.com.

 
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Wisconsin is proud of our rich history of jewelry production and metalsmithing. Today, the EPA estimates that hard rock mining is the most toxic industry in the United States. Additionally, Earthworks reports that an estimated 50% of the gold mined each year is used for jewelry, and that a single gold ring leaves 20 tons of mine waste. Ethical Metalsmiths, an artist run non-profit organization seeks to galvanize mining reform efforts by staging an "alternative supply chain" and is working with the Sharon Lynne Wilson Center for the Arts, Union Art Gallery, UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, UW-Stout, Racine Art Museum, RAM’s Charles A. Wustum Museum of Fine Arts, Lynden Sculpture Garden, 3rd Ward Jewelry, Walkers Point Center for the Arts, Tasha Rae Jewelry, and Yours Truly among others to bring their successful project, Radical Jewelry Makeover, to Wisconsin this spring.

Radical Jewelry is a project sponsored by Ethical Metalsmiths, a non-profit organization whose mission is to encourage social change that values jewelry made with ethically sourced materials. They do this by educating people about irresponsible mining, promoting transparency in jewelry supply chains and highlighting the collective efforts of jewelers actively changing their practices. Ethical Metalsmiths’ vision is a world in which people can create and enjoy jewelry made with materials from responsible sources that protect and sustain the earth, its peoples and cultures. 

Radical Jewelry Makeover: Wisconsin draws attention to the creativity and skills of local jewelry designers, reveals the stories behind our personal collections and encourages re-consideration of our habits of consumption. Currently, materials used in jewelry production are sourced from some of the poorest countries in the world, sacred lands and disputed territories. Often this sourcing comes at a great cost to the environment. In Wisconsin, RJM will bring together volunteer “miners,” who dig out and donate their old jewelry, with volunteer jewelers and students, working together as refiners and designers to collaborate on an exhibition of re-made jewelry. Radical Jewelry Makeover will offer an informed and creative alternative to traditional mining practices and jewelry production. You can help by donating some of the smallest items in your home, jewelry, for reuse and recycling.

Those tangled chains, unmatched earrings, and banged-up bracelets sitting at the bottom of jewelry boxes around Wisconsin are exactly what jewelry artists participating in RJM want to get their creative hands on. Donations of old, unwanted jewelry will be accepted at designated drop-off locations through February 16. Donors will receive discount coupons to apply toward the purchase of a new piece and sales will benefit UW student scholarships and Ethical Metalsmiths' efforts to educate and connect people with responsibly sourced materials.

Radical Jewelry Makeover has been traveling nationally and internationally to communities since 2007, educating jewelers of all levels about mining and material sourcing issues involved in jewelry making through a fun, fast-paced, month-long project. Jewelry students at UW-Milwaukee, UW-Madison, UW-Stout, and professional jewelers from the regional community will be transforming donations into radically fresh and responsible jewelry. The project will culminate in an exhibition of these wearable creations displayed at UW-Milwaukee's Union Art Gallery in April along with smaller pop-up exhibitions in the Milwaukee area.