KENOSHA — The Gallery of Trees is back this season at Kemper Center.
And officials there couldn’t be happier.
“It feels fantastic,” said Ed Kubicki, Kemper’s executive director. “I can’t wait for it to open.”
It’s a feeling, he said, the community shares.
“I think people are ready to be out, enjoying the holiday season. It’s so festive here, it’s wonderful to see.”
As we talked in Kemper’s Ambrose Hall, surrounded by boxes of ornaments and garlands, Robin Ingrouille, Kemper Center’s administrator, said she’s “so thrilled to have volunteers set aside their time for us. This is a wonderful event, filled with camaraderie and fun.”
The Gallery of Trees will feature 20 different trees, decorated by those volunteers, along with wreaths, centerpieces and mantelpieces.
Themes for the trees in past years have included the Grinch, antique dolls, snowmen and even a silver robot tree. This year’s trees include an “ice queen” theme with snowflake and icy blues and what Ingrouille calls an ultra chic “chi chi girl” tree with an elegant theme.
In 2019, the Gallery of Trees moved from the Anderson Arts Center to Kemper’s Conference Center during the art center’s renovations and — after skipping 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions — the event has returned to its new home.
“We got a lot of positive feedback from 2019,” Robin said. “It’s handicapped accessible here. If you have a walker, you can just pull up in the archway and be right at the entrance to the Gallery of Trees. We also have elevators here.”
The Gallery of Trees kicks off with a Gala Opening event Saturday night, Nov. 27, and having the event on two floors “allows us to spread out the crowd,” Kubicki said. “Also, during the gala, the Durkee Mansion will be open for a ‘sneak peek’ of its holiday decorations. The Durkee is right next to the conference center, so it’s all connected.”
The gala opening features hors d’oeuvres and desserts, a hot cocoa station and a holiday gift shop. Homemade cookies (made by “the Kemper Center elves”) will also be sold.
During the gala, a cash bar is on the second floor, near the former school’s chemistry lab — “it’s a beautiful setting for a bar,” Kubicki said — and, this year, drinks can also be purchased in a souvenir “Christmas at Kemper” champagne flute.
Beyond the gala
After Saturday night’s Gala Opening, the Gallery of Trees is open — with free admission — through Dec. 5.
“So even if you miss the gala, it doesn’t mean you’ll miss the event,” Kubicki said.
Trees and other items are raffled off, and those raffle sales continue through Dec. 5.
As much as he values Christmas at Kemper for its festive atmosphere, Kubicki also said the celebration “is a very important fundraiser for us. And we are very grateful for all of our staff, volunteers and our donors.”
As Ingrouille got ready to return to duty — an urgent call went out for 19 extension cords — she laughed when asked if all this Kemper decorating means her home is bare for the holiday season.
“Oh, no, I’m a Christmas lady,” she said. “I get inspired by all the decorators here. I get a lot of great ideas from them.”