Raffle of customized Harley to benefit UWM Athletics, Peck School of the Arts

When the Panthers baseball team visits Miller Park on May 12, they’ll be doing so with a broader goal in mind than winning the game.

As UWM battles Horizon-league rival Wright State, a customized Harley-Davidson motorcycle will be awarded to a raffle winner. Proceeds from the raffle will benefit the scholarship funds of UWM Athletics and the Peck School.

The idea for the 50-50, collaborative scholarship came to life during the Fall 2017 semester. The House of Harley-Davidson donated a decommissioned police cruiser to UWM’s Athletics Department, and the idea to join forces with the Peck School for a potential scholarship-generating opportunity snowballed from there.

A student works on a metal motorcycle part in a workshop.
Graduate student Amber Van Galder was chosen to customize a donated decommissioned Harley-Davidson police motorcycle for the raffle. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

Working with the UWM Foundation, the decision to hold a raffle along with presenting sponsor Educators Credit Union emerged as the ideal option to benefit the scholarship fund, said Robert Grame, the associate dean of the Peck School. The Peck School held an arts call open to undergraduate and graduate Art & Design students with a theme of service and community in Milwaukee.

Graduate student Amber Van Galder was selected by the jurors to customize the motorcycle’s design. Van Galder, who grew up immersed in car and motorcycle culture, said her passion for working with “something with wheels” has always overlapped with art and design.

“It was a small pool (of submissions), but a good pool,” said Grame, “and Amber was chosen as the jurors’ choice. It’s really a stunning customization that she made.”

The arts call sought to incorporate Milwaukee’s cultural and industrial history in the motorcycle’s redesign. Van Galder found inspiration for the design in traditional patina, or aging, processes, Les Paul’s classic Sunburst guitar and the rusty, orange tones of foundry and manufacturing hubs such as Allis-Chalmers.

It took a little over one month of work to take the motorcycle from retired police cruiser to a reimagined, drivable, custom piece of art.

“Custom car culture is huge in my family. It’s almost like something that’s inside of me, and I relate art with cars,” said Van Galder. “With my program and my personal work I’ve wanted to bring in custom car culture and motorcycle culture into that. This was a really great opportunity to do that.”

The motorcycle will go on tour across Milwaukee, making stops at the House of Harley-Davidson, Peck’s Kenilworth East Gallery and Educators Credit Union before the culminating display at Miller Park. Anyone interested in entering the raffle can do so at each of those locations during the tour or by contacting UWM’s Athletic Department or Peck School directly.

Motorcycle parts lie on a table as a student works in the background.
Van Galder says she found inspiration for her customized design of the Harley-Davidson in traditional patina processes, Les Paul’s classic Sunburst guitar and the rusty, orange tones of foundry and manufacturing hubs such as Allis-Chalmers. (UWM Photo/Elora Hennessey)

House of Harley-Davidson has a contract with the City of Milwaukee to provide and retire police cruisers, so the opportunity of doing a similar scholarship event in the future remains a possibility.

“We really see this as a first-year chance to create a buzz around our Black & Gold tailgate, which we want to become our signature event for the athletic department,” said Chris Roche, UWM’s associate athletic director.

The first-ever tailgate scholarship fundraiser will take place inside the first-base concourse of Miller Park prior to the 5 p.m. UWM-Wright State game – doors open at 3 p.m. Events scheduled for the event include a meet-and-greet with coaching staff from all UWM sports, a silent auction and a chance to enter the raffle for the custom Harley-Davidson before the winner is announced that day.

Admission to the tailgate is $25 for adults and $10 for children 10 and under, which includes a tailgate-style buffet and cash bar. Anyone interested in attending is encouraged to register in advance through the UWM Athletics website. Reservations can also be made for tables of 10 for $250.

If the event proves to be a good catalyst for generating student scholarships, both Roche and Grame said, they’d love to join forces again in the coming years.

Said Van Galder: “To me, it’s really important to bridge the gap between arts and athletics. It was a really neat project and creative and generous. I hope they do it again.”

Raffle tickets for the custom motorcycle start at $25 for a single ticket, $50 for three and $100 for eight. Anyone interested in entering the raffle can purchase tickets at the House of Harley’s Milwaukee location at 6221 W. Layton Ave. or by calling the UWM Athletics ticket office at 414-229-5886.

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