It's a Saturday night film screening in the Third Ward and the standard elements are all in place: trendy hipsters with well-placed scarves and purposefully mismatched accessories, austere gallery walls with bright lighting, a step repeat backdrop for the who's-who to have their photo taken and then, there's the tortoise. Yes, as in a live reptile, amidst the gallery-goers.
Studio Deep End, 315 N. Plankinton Ave., hosted an event centered on the local reptile sensation, Freddie, a tortoise recently featured on National Geographic's series, "My Dog Ate What?" After being pursued by the producers of the show for some time, the Franklin-based pet owners agreed to share the story of their tortoise's misadventures with over 50 non-edible items as well as his recovery following several unprecedented veterinary procedures.
Upon entering the gallery, all guests were invited to pose with the lucky tortoise, who seemed more than content to crawl along the floor and mingle with the crowd. Freddie is just over 20 pounds, which I wasn't prepared for when taking my turn in front of the camera. According to his owners he is only a fifth of his potential weight. I smiled for the snapshot and quickly passed him off, fearing I'd be the klutz to accidentally drop the star of the evening.
Following the photo shoot, homemade wine and beer was offered to guests as they lingered near the DJ, who spun classic funk. I sampled the strawberry rhubarb wine while sitting on handcrafted benches made of planks of wood and milk cartons.
Before long, one of the pet owners introduced the clip of the National Geographic program with an explanation of how Freddie became a member of his family. Following the screening, the vet technician who worked on Freddie's case held a short question and answer session about the surgery and its historic relevance for modern veterinary medicine.
The ardor this family has for their pet shone through the presentation and visibly wore off on the attendees of the event. The crowd shared a sigh of relief following the news that Freddie has now regained his health and is destined to be passed on through the generations of his family as his species tends to live over 100 years.
It was my first time at an event dedicated to an animal outside of a petting zoo, but definitely a pleasant step out of the norm to say the least. And now I can say I have officially met the most famous reptile in Milwaukee.
Studio Deep End is orchestrated by a group of individuals devoted to their passions, whether they are the traditional arts, design, architecture or music. Most are from the local art schools and have discovered that upon graduation finding a pleasant and affordable space to work and showcase their creations is a difficult challenge.
The founders hold the mission of constant learning and provoking creative interaction with each other and their community. The group regularly puts on events, lecture series and project viewings that are open to the public.
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