Alumni profile: Sandi Van Sistine

With an adventurous and artistic spirit, Sandi Van Sistine, of Green Bay, has turned an unlikely space into a home for a mosaic of northeastern Wisconsin’s artists.

The ARTgarage—located in a 100-year-old former cannery—brings together artists of all types, ages and abilities in a creative community that also serves to revitalize the city’s downtown as part of the Olde Main Redevelopment District.

“It’s a garage,” said Van Sistine, who studied elementary education and art at the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh in the mid-1960s. “We wanted to keep it rugged and messy and keep that feeling of the funky studio space.”

The ARTgarage began seven years ago when two local art students who were graduating from UW–Green Bay wanted to find a studio where they could continue to make art. Because the community was “thirsting” for such a space, the idea soon expanded to include events and art education programs.

With a strong background in advertising and marketing, Van Sistine worked to establish a board and obtain nonprofit status. She also served as the first non-paid site director. “There were nights I slept here,” she recalled.

Early on, the ARTgarage community had the opportunity to give back to their founder. Just as they were set to open the doors in 2006, Van Sistine found out she had cancer. “The artists said they would cover for me, and we became such a family,” she said.

These days, with two part-time staff members and a 21-member board, Van Sistine no longer runs the day-to-day operations and has more time for her own pursuits. She even took her oil painting supplies along on a recent trip to Mexico, where she got to make a little of her own art while enjoying time with her daughter and grandchildren.

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  • Sandi is a remarkable woman who does so much for everyone without seeking the limelight. I am very proud of my Alpha Phi sister.