Friday, November 21, 2008

Milwaukee Cultural Alliance

I think the Milwaukee Cultural Alliance is a prime example of why Milwaukee will fail to become a genuine "Art City".

Jonathan West's discussion of this topic got me interested. To summarize: it seems that donors are giving money to the cultural alliance, who are doing nothing with it ("The Cultural Alliance folks talked about how in their initial impact as an organization could be characterized as inert.") Then the donors aren't giving to other more active artist-led groups like MARN, leading to Mike Brenner's great frustration and eventual "retirement".

This creates an environment of inaccessibility for new artists and organizations. New groups or individuals are unlikely to connect with a viable support structure when The Alliance has a monopoly on what is considered "legitimate professional art". If the Cultural Alliance groups were making art, this wouldn't be such a problem, but what they produce is generally more of a bourgeois status symbol than a meaningful artistic expression, a mirror for our society, or a currently relevant cultural object or experience.

That these groups are the only ones getting funding leads me (and others) to believe that the donor base in Milwaukee do not actually support or beleive in art, they only want to look like they do. As a result, the big organizations live in a very inefficient closed loop, where donors give them the money needed to maintain the appearance of legitimacy, they waste most of the money on administration and fancy new buildings and occasionally squirt out incredibly safe inoffensive art. It's like a feedback loop for crap, and the press dutifully plays their part.

When a city has this sort of self-perpetuating deadly arrangement sitting on top of its art scene, that city's audience, talent, and entire art community are negatively impacted. This kind of feedback loop for crap reinforces the anti-art mentality in audiences, who then reject all art or any cultural event because they associate it with the snobbishness that accompanies bourgeois status symbols. It stunts the growth of new art organizations who are unable to access support from philanthopists because they've already given to do-nothings. It also encourages artists to leave Milwaukee in droves, and those who stay, stay with very limited expectations, and with a tendency to spend more time drinking than art-making. Which drives me crazy.

I need to point out that I'm not whining here. I know that the responsibility for fixing this problem is mine, Mike's and everyone else's in the art community. We need to do a better job of inspiring people to look through the smoky alchoholic haze of the bars, past the Cultural Alliance's deadly offerings, and focus on the talented artists who are producing worthwhile challenging work. I'm not asking the Cultural Alliance to do better, or even for the bourgeois donors to get real. I'm encouraging the people who are real, who are genuinely interested in supporting art to not let their donations be lumped in with all the frauds and fakers who support the Cultural Alliance, UPAF and similar groups.

Maybe the best way i can do that is to get out of the way and leave the job up to others who are more charasmatic, positive, friendly, tolerant and otherwise just plain more attractive than Mike and I. People like Peggi Taylor, MIGA, or Cedar Block. If Milwaukee is going to become an Art City it will be through the efforts of those kinds of groups, not the Cultural Alliance.

But, i happen to think that every movement needs an uncompromising asshole to demand more and tell it like it is, regardless of toes stepped on, or bridges burned. I seem to fit this role naturally because when i look at things like the Cultural Alliance, i get really angry, and i'm no good at hiding it.

But more important than my anger, or my sanity (at least to anyone but me) is the future economic health of the City of Milwaukee. Which brings me to the subject i really want to talk about: The Cultural Alliance's report on Milwaukee's cultural assets. This report doesn't say anything new or unexpected, but there are some indications here of just how far the Cultural Alliance's heads are up their asses.

Somebody somewhere convinced Milwaukeans that we should want to be an Art City. This should be a good thing. Unfortunately when the task of actually becoming an art city is trusted to organizations that run like The Cultural Alliance (or UPAF, or MAM, or Visit Milwaukee, or The Journal Sentinal) the project is doomed to be a boondoggle.

The Cultural Alliance's report is an excellent example of this. It discusses the importance of the creative sector to economic growth, but it completely misunderstands what it's talking about. The leading voice for "creative class cities" is Richard Florida. If Milwaukee genuinely wants to be an Art City, and genuinely wants to attract the economic benefits of a thriving art scene, we need to look closer at what Florida has to say.

The creative class can be thought of in two different ways. A broadly defined creative sector and a "super radical core" of the creative class. The broadly defined creative sector includes, to quote the Cultural Alliance's source "* The core creative industries include R&D, publishing, software, TV/radio, design, music, film, toys/games, advertising, arts, museums, architecture, crafts, video games, fashion. Source: John Howkins, The Creative Economy: How People Make Money from Ideas, 2001." These people are highly valued, have lucrative jobs, and create much economic growth. The super radical core, is a much more limited group of more purely creative people, that is: artists. Artists are starving, scraping by, working day jobs, living under the radar and not making money from their art. As such, they do not directly create economic growth.

The goal according to Florida is to attract the broadly defined creative sector to your city. This is where the super radical core comes in, the best means of attracting innovation and growth-causing creatives is to encourage the super radical core to cultivate a "street level culture". To put it simply, punk rock bands and starving artists don't make economic growth, but they do attract good software designers who do make economic growth.

The most important cultural assets to look at for Milwaukee's art city growth are assets creating "street level culture" and this is where the Cultural Alliance drops the ball. When their report says "In depth surveys... including the largest and best known... as well as medium- and small-sized nonprofits" they are totally out of touch with the meaning of the word "small". I know Milwaukee theatre better than other cultural areas, and the smallest theatre companies on the list of those surveyed by the Cultural Alliance are Chamber and the now defunct Milwaukee Shakespeare. From my perspective, those are two of the biggest theatre companies in this city. If you're standing on the "street level" The Rep and Skylight are giants. Chamber, Mke Shakes and other UPAF members are "big" companies. Groups like The Boulevard, Off the Wall, and Windfall are "medium sized", and folks like the Alchemist, Pink Banana, Insurgent Theatre, and Dead Man's Carnival are "small". The Cultural Alliance is unable to recognize the value of even medium sized companies, let alone the small ones, and it's the medium and small companies who produce the most street level culture, who are most likely to attract anyone other than retiree's to Milwaukee.

Now, i personally have a problem with Florida's ideas, he's encouraging cities and communities to use starving artists and punk rockers as bait for creative sell-outs who are more willing to be exploited by corporations. But that's a tangent. The more important point is: The Cultural Alliance, whose job it is to "strengthen, advance and represent the arts and culture sector as an essential asset for growing a vibrant, attractive region" is either unwilling to challenge Milwaukee's obsolete establishment or else they aren't even aware of how the creative class relates to economic growth. They focus all their attention on UPAF members and big organizations, as though these are the only existing relevant cultural assets, when, in reality from the creative class perspective, they are the least relevant.


Matt R said...

I think that this is a very poignant look at the city of Milwaukee's current state. Whether in or out of the city, this seems to be recognized by most people outside of the established system. It is extremely unfortunate that a city which is considered to be liberal is led by individuals unwilling to change the status quo. Milwaukee is plagued by the "chicken or the egg" syndrome, and until a leader breaks that cycle I think this city will continue on its mediocre path. Perhaps someone who reads this will be inspired to do so, or to take up action to change things.

Mike Brenner said...

well put.

but all we need is ONE, one funder to believe in edgy work. think if the $1.1M spent on those LEDs on the Marcus center would have been given to all the young art producing groups with budgets UNDER $100,000. $10K to 20 groups for 5 years? now THAT would change the arts scene in milwaukee.

but i guess, it's not in vogue to help poor, dirty artists.

Alice said...

Well said, er written, Ben, er Rex! :-) As a figure model struggling to support my theatre habit I completely understand and agree with the obvious, well to us at the "street level", that you have stated here. I modeled at a school a few times where I had to wear a bathing suit. When I asked why, I was told that this was because some of the donors would pull there money if nude figure models were used. The more I thought about this, the more I was outraged! Students' art education is being negatively affected at this institution because of money!!

Anonymous said...

Um, well, um - isn't this the same gripe over and over again - year after year. Darn those unenlightened donors who only give to the big guys, darn those bleepin' fat-cat arts organizations who suck up all the money and only dole it out to the big guys.

Maybe it's time the street-level art guys start their own organization and 'cultivate' an new breed of donors. How about starting with all those software designers people who like the edgy stuff and have a few extra bucks to give.

I know, I know, that's kinda hard. It's so much easier complainin' instead of going out and knockin' on doors with hat in hand.

Mary Dally-Muenzmaier said...

Hey Rex,

Good stuff, man. Really well written and thoughtful.

I gave you a shout out on my and my husband's blog:


Anonymous said...

I will keep trying to wade through this commentary, but I keep coming back to the question, well, then, why aren't you asking this directly of the Cultural Alliance? And do you attend the workshops that the Cultural Alliance has organized to take part in their offering and tell them DIRECTLY what Milwaukee (and the other counties of Southeastern WI) need?

Funding organizations and Foundations very often entrust their monies to established organizations because they have thousands of requests, and need some benchmark for finding out if it is being put to good use. Organizations, like the Cultural Alliance and even UPAF for that matter, attempt to do this.

And before you think so, I'm not any sort of representative for the Cultural Alliance, I just have been involved in workshops and meetings and brainstorming sessions they have held. Because they have invited and welcome the voices of every and all arts organization in Southeastern WI. In fact, they want the synergy and energy of "radical" or whathaveyou artists and arts groups to direct and influence their efforts.

So, what I'm saying is, radical or no, the way to get funding, recognition and attention is the same in the art world as anywhere else, good business sense, good PR, good word of mouth. Sad, but true, if: a gorgeous sculpture, punk band or small theatre group is in an abandoned desert/forest, no it probably doesn't exist. Nor will it be funded.

Rex Winsome said...

Hey Anon,

Did i not say: "I know that the responsibility for fixing this problem is mine, Mike's and everyone else's in the art community"?

For myself, I and my comrades have been out hat in hand (literally) attempting all kinds of unconventional fundraising strategies, from street theatre to dance competitions. I've also been developing low-capital methods of production that require less fundraising. Really, this problem isn't my problem. i'm trying to solve it by figgering out how to make art without needing donations at all.

This problem is the city of Milwaukee's problem. This city (as in government and community) seems to have committed a lot of resources to cultivating an "art city" image, but is unwilling to go beyond the image and actually embrace local art and artists. This half-effort will fail in the hands of organizations like the Cultural Alliance, and the resources already committed will be wasted.

Rex Winsome said...

Hey second anon,

I'm not asking it directly of the CA (though i did email a link to Catherine Harris, who kindly responded) for a couple of reasons:

1st: as stated above, i don't have direct personal stake in this. I don't want money from the people the CA associates with. It is essential to me that my art projects manage to survive without dependency on these large donations.

2nd: i do have indirect personal stake in this. I'd like to live in a city that is flourishing with economic and cultural growth. I don't think the CA's approach is going to make that happen, and by making my opinion public i'm giving others a springboard, and encouraging a public response from the CA, and also from artists and donors who may want to form an alternative to the CA.

In my opinion the art community is a public enterprise and decisions and tensions within it should be transparent, not kept behind closed doors.

3rd: being an artist with a day job, it's very difficult to attend every workshop and meeting offered, especially when what i am doing is a fairly unconventional approach to art and the conventional workshops (especially from someone like the CA) probably won't be incredibly valuable to me.

Mike Brenner said...

i posted another long rant here if anyone's interested. i didn't want to monopolize the space.

David HB Drake said...

I'm really torn on this issue-
I agree that the Cultural Alliance will naturally pay attention to the large groups first and that not much has happened in the last couple years. However, they do have new leadership now and I've seen more movement in the last six months than the last two years. For whatever it's worth, right now it's the only game in town trying to support the arts (if you're not in UPAF,etc) so my inclination is to attend, speak up for the small arts groups, and try to focus the Cultural Alliance more on the needs of the individual artists and small group. The ONLY way to do that is to show up. I would also encourage all artists (perhaps thru MARN) to support eachother and make connections, perhaps by creating a "barter" exchange where we share our knowledge and assets to help eachother meet our needs in exchange for recipricol assistance each within their own skill set. If we don't look out for eachother, who else will?

Rex Winsome said...

David- you raise some good points. One response i have is that, while the CA is the only org of it's type getting big bourgeois donations (other than UPAF) it's not the only org working to promote arts and artists in Milwaukee. There's another group that will always be more responsive to artist's needs because it is artist-led, that is MARN.

If every artist in the city put in some time working with and for MARN instead of petitioning or begging the CA to help us more, MARN would quickly eclipse the CA as the best organization for philanthropists to donate money to (especially since the companies the CA supports are mired in an obsolete business model and will probably be croaking in the next 10 years).

But that requires artists getting smart, active and self-help oriented, and Mike's post (linked above) discusses the problems with trying to get that done.

Anonymous said...

Okay, so you don't want to depend on their stinkin' money, "thanks you very much but no thanks."

But they're not including cutting edge, street-level organizations in the master plan so the Milwaukee art scene is destined for the dung heap.

Sorry, don't buy the conclusion. Just a lot of blather and dust kickin', fer cryin' out loud.

"i'm trying to solve it by figgering out how to make art without needing donations at all."

How about producing theatre (and art) that people WANT TO PAY MONEY FOR! or donate money too. I see a lot of crap art that I wouldn't pay money for - and considering the amount of artistic wailin' and gnashin' of teeth, a lot of other folks don't want to either. Norman Rockwell, where is ya when we needs ya!

Of course, on the other hand, some fat cat, Cultural Alliance type of person seems more than willing to pay millions for a giant, cutting edge aquarium filled with formaldehyde and a taxidermy project.

Damn those fat cats! Anyone know where I can get 100 gallons of formaldehyde?

Rex Winsome said...

Anon- if i wanted to see more Norman Rockwell, or live in a community that produced more Norman Rockwell, i wouldn't have any complaints. I'd just go to the cineplex, or to the mall to buy prints. I know it might seem like it when you look around, but not EVERYONE likes the same things as you. There's no need for the Milwaukee art community to produce more of what you like, Hollywood and WalMart have that covered.

The rest of us are watching our entertainment options dwindle as they are replaced by more and more of the crap you like.

k said...

coincidentally, this is in the NYTimes today -

the current business model, such as it is, has layers of the historical patron at its core. MilShakes' demise demonstrates some of the problems therein.

I don't know if these are your people or not, but at least they're not depending on the kindness of oligarchs.

Rex Winsome said...

K- thanks for the article.

Those arent' exactly "my people" whatever that means (they look much cleaner and probably don't smell as bad as we do) but they are good examples of artists recognizing that success on your own terms is most likely to come from leaving the obsolete art institutions behind, and working hard to do it yourself.

DBlankPrints said...

So who wouldn't like Norman Rockwell? It's really hard makin' those paintings and stuff. Takes a lot of talent and skill and intelligence and years of experimentation and practice and knowledge and a big artsy mentality. Way harder than most of the slap-dash, 'street level' crap I see around. And way better too I wish to add. Real investment quality stuff I gotta tell ya.

Jeepers, it seems like anyone who slaps some paint on a Utrecht canvas or knows a bit about Photoshop thinks they're an artist and should be paid handsomely because they said so. And everyone who computes some wordy blather onto a piece of 20# bond and calls it a script should be recognized for their brilliance and should get paid a livable wage because they are, after all, a playwright - don't-cha-know already.

"If you're standing on the "street level" The Rep and Skylight are giants."

Well, ya know, there was a time, years ago, when these guys were awfully small. kinda "street level" you might say. Took a lot of years and a lot of hard work, financial and personal risks, broken hearts, broken spirits, broken friendships, depleted bank accounts, buckets of tears and barrels of laughter to reach the point where dozens and dozens of talented, creative people can earn something approaching a livable wage working together to make those theatres survive today. AND, BTW, struggle every year - year after year - to keep it all going. And yes, that means a "Christmas Carol" every Xmas and an annual Shakespeare too.

So now here you come with all your "uncompromising asshole", pseudo-inellectual blabber; posturing and railing and ranting about the "great frustration"; the alliance's "monopoly"; "bourgeois status symbol" artistic endeavors; a donor base that "do not actually support or beleive in art, they only want to look like they do; the "inefficient closed loop, where donors give them the money needed to maintain the appearance of legitimacy, they waste most of the money on administration and fancy new buildings and occasionally squirt out incredibly safe inoffensive art"; the "feedback loop for crap", the philanthopists who give to "do-nothings"; and on, and on, and on, and on.

Oh p-u-l-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-as. Give me a break. Might play well with the 20 year olds and the disgruntled, self-proclaimed "artists" around, but for the people who have seen the "big guys" as they struggled to grow up - Sorry Dorothy, there really isn't anything in the black bag that will take you home to Kansas. You'll just have to trade in your ruby slippers for some sturdy hiking boots, get off your ass and start the hard hike to the top mountain.

But I suspect that will be a bit too tough for you. Just a lot of bother, eh? So instead, you can slap-dash together some "cutting edge", world-premier, blah, blah, blah street theatre or whip off a few "abstract" paintings and then vociferously complain because those dirty, rotten, bourgeois, do-nothings don't take you seriously.

BTW - People who seriously use the words "bourgeois" or "oligarchs" should NEVER be taken seriously.

Rex Winsome said...

DBlank- First, thanks for putting your name on your comment.

Second, if you've read a demand for entitlement in my statements, you've misread them. I do not think i deserve anything for my work. I'll admit that many artists do take this attitude, and I often encourage artists to be more business saavy and self-sustaining. That's what DIY is all about.

But, if we're talking about the cultural alliance, then we're talking about giving people handouts. If these handouts are justified because they stimulate economic growth, then we oughta give them wisely. Recent research has found that investing in street level culture tends to have the best return-on-investment for this type of thing. Instead, Milwaukee is investing in new sports stadiums (a high cost investment that is proven to have a relatively low return) and is being advised by the cultural alliance to invest in giant, obsolete, overspent and inefficient arts organizations, who are going to piddle away any money they get on the old business models, old work, and dying patrons that have got them facing bankruptcy in the first place.

And, yeah, that pisses me off, a lot. The part about the stadiums pisses me off even more. I'm not angry because i want free money, I'm angry because i'm living in a town that's so fucking scared of art, and so resistant to the changes that are working for many other post-industrial cities, that the city is basically burying their heads in sports memorabilia and old dead theatre. Oh, and beer, don't forget about the sea of beer that Milwaukeeans nightly drown themselves in.

DBlankPrints said...

First, I think it is important to acknowledge the thought and work the MCA has put into the project. They should be applauded for their effort. Why? Because they and the "giant, obsolete, overspent and inefficient arts organizations" in this city are people. Hardworking, intelligent, creative and insightful people.

They are not deserving of your shallow, mindless, ill-mannered, invectives. Your use of language suggest you are nothing more than a moron. Are you an moron?

"i'm living in a town that's so fucking scared of art, and so resistant to the changes that are working for many other post-industrial cities, that the city is basically burying their heads in sports memorabilia and old dead theatre."

"That these groups are the only ones getting funding leads me (and others) to believe that the donor base in Milwaukee do not actually support or beleive in art, they only want to look like they do."

This is simply shallow, ill-informed, mindless, idiotic commentary.

For instance, take a look at AWE (Artists Working in Education - AWE is a nonprofit organization that "sponsors artists to work creatively with children to enhance human potential, advance learning and cultivate community. AWE accomplishes this through its Truck Studio and School Studio programs."

They take art-making opportunities to the community; into parks and schools.

This organization is not included in the Cultural Asset Inventory, yet the many donors of this worthwhile program ( are also part of the donor pool you are so quick to mindlessly condemn. I think the people who provide funding for this and the hundreds of other worthy people programs not mentioned in the Inventory are giving their money for reasons far more nobel than simply to LOOK like they care. They really do care.

So I repeat...They are not deserving of your shallow, mindless, ill-mannered, invectives. Your use of language suggest you are nothing more than a moron. Are you an moron?

Perhaps once you stop railing against fellow artists, organizations and art funding sources, you might consider spending some time promoting or developing a valuable addition to the Cultural Asset Inventory - An assessment of the hundreds of other organizations like AWE and the value they provide to the Milwaukee Metro area; the status of their funding and suggestions for how that funding could be improved. This would provide a more complete picture of our worthy cultural assets.

BTW, the MCA has already provided a framework from which one might undertake such a study. It is pretty much spelled out in their 232 page Cultural Asset Inventory Report (

Mike Brenner said...

i don't think anyone is arguing that AWE is anything but a great organization. but the Cultural Alliance is not giving AWE (or anyone i know) any support (as far as i can tell). so what the fuck is your point?

the Cultural Alliance was formed because funders wanted to consolidate the administrative functions of Milwaukee's struggling nonprofit sector. funders were sick of donating money so that every single arts group in town could all hire their own PR person and build their own ticket selling website and create their own online calendar of events.

but those key functions have been forgotten. isn't that why the CA started? isn't that why the GMF, Bader and Hertzfeld Foundations got involved and invested that initial $280,000?

being a partner to the Milwaukee Seven, the MMAC, Visit Milwaukee and UPAF is important for the CA and valuable to our community of local artists (in a Reganomics, trickle-down sort of way).

BUT if the CA is simply a political organization or a research organization... don't waste our time with "listening sessions." just be straight with us, tell us what you are and be that.

we don't give a shit if there's another bullshit organization rubbing elbows and shaking hands and kissing babies in town. it's when you pretend that you give a shit and give us hope that we get pissed.

it's the equivalent to having your kids take the time to write letters to Santa and then buying them underwear and socks. it makes for a lot of half-smiles and one-armed hugs on christmas morning.

DBlankPrints said...

Thank you for answering my question.

Rex Winsome said...

Mike, thank you for your well informed contributions to this conversation.

DBlank- if AWE isn't associated with, and wasn't surveyed by the CA, then any virtues of that organization only bolster MY POINT: that the CA survey is ignoring some of the most valuable contributors to Milwaukee's cultural assets.

You suggest that I: "consider spending some time promoting or developing... An assessment of the hundreds of other organizations."

Just who the fuck do you think i am?

I work a day job and run a theatre company almost single handedly. I live for a month on a fraction of what the CA probably spent on the banquet you see in their videos of this meeting. You expect me to do the work that these "Hardworking, intelligent, creative and insightful people" were hired to do but didn't? And i'm a moron if i don't? Give me a fucking break.

DBlankPrints said...

"Just who the fuck do you think i am?"

I think you are an ill-mannered, bombastic, mean-spirited, venomous, short-sighted, dimwitted, egocentric, blowhard who's main contribution seems to be displaying a penchant for spewing poisonous, clumsy invectives amid a lot of blither.

In other words - Oh dear. Another one of those awful people.

Mike Brenner said...

DBlank, the problem is... screaming, swearing and stomping feet is a behavior continually reinforced in milwaukee. when anyone attempts a logical debate or dialogue in this town they are ignored or dismissed.

when i ran JUST a nonprofit, alomost nobody gave a shit what i had to say. i was just another whiney nonprofit director begging for money and complaining about things i hadn't worked hard enough to change.

if you don't like what Mr. Winsom has to say, you can certainly stop coming to his blog. OR you could ask him to meet you for coffee to discuss your differences. he's a really nice and smart guy. when people start coming into your house (your blog, your gallery, your email box, your voicemails) and start insulting you, it generally doesn't calm anyone down.

Peter J Woods said...

I'm starting to like the current art situation Milwaukee is in. Its a cheap ass city that doesn't give a fuck about art, so the "high level" art just doesn't live up to needed expectations (despite people working hard- I give all my love in the world top the people at the rep, but still think they're organization is a notch above useless). So what happens? It eaves this huge gaping hole that DIY punk rock schmucks like me get to fill. Hooray!

From my standpoint, donor programs are completely useless. They are creating art I don't care about on a scale I don't care about. They create art that tries to speak to everyone and while that is an admirable goal and one that I would love to see enacted, the fact of the matter is it will never happen. So instead I patronize art that speaks to me. I will watch 8 million horrendous noise acts before I step foot into a present music show. If other people want to, by all means go, I just don't need it.

And this is why I love DIY- its people stepping up and makign the music/art/theatre/whatever that they need. Its not about an organization funding what the city needs. I have no use for UPAF and CAM. This isn't about money. Its about art. Its about communication. Its about making the most goddamn beautiful you can day in and day out, and if you need money to do that, personally I think you're doing it wrong.

DBlank- Are you a moron? Didn't you get the memo? Art is dead (in fact it was never born). I suggest the following replacement:

1. Build a submarine big enough for everyone in the world to ride in it.

2. Invite everyone to ride in it.

3. Don't let anyone ride in it.

In conclusion- The art community in Milwaukee should pool its resources and get into submarine building.

Rex Winsome said...

Peter, i tend to agree with you.

except for this: "Its about making the most goddamn beautiful you can day in and day out, and if you need money to do that, personally I think you're doing it wrong."

You need money to create what you create, everyone does. You and I need a shit-ton less money than The Rep and present music, but we still need money, from merch sales or the audience, or from our day jobs. It's a precarious balance, the more you need to draw on personal income to create your stuff, the more time you need to spend earning that personal income, which means less time spent on art.

I think you and I and DIY producer in Milwaukee would benefit from a more responsive donor base. Not necessarily direct donations from these people, but if the money that's going to create exclusive bullshit theatre at the rep were instead going to smaller theatre companies (In Tandem, Windfall, the alchemist, etc etc etc) companies whose actors or techs might lower themselves enough to work with or even come see DIY theatre then we'd have a much healthier scene.

I don't expect the CA to survey, list or give a shit about little DIY groups like Insurgent Theatre, but the fact that they can't even recognize anyone smaller than Chamber is fucking gross.

Peter J Woods said...

I admit to their grossness and the necessity of money to create shit, but then it gets in to a debate on approach and how people are spending their time.

Personally, I think spending time trying to get money out of donors is way more frivolous than spending time evaluating how to more efficiently make art. So many people worry about how they will fund projects instead of how they can do projects with the funds they have.

And no, my inevitably successful quest for a nohl fellowship does not count. Why? Because I said so and I said it first.

Rex Winsome said...

I'm not concerned so much about your Nohl fellowship, which i don't think is as inevitably successful as you want to beleive, as i am concerned about what happens afterward. If you get that pile of free money are you still going to focus on how to do your shit cheaper, or are you going to go sniffing for more free money. Cuz that's when you'll be in a comparable position to other groups.

In international relations it's called dependency theory. Where small nations (primarily in Latin and South America) are kept marginal and controlled by getting them addicted to easy money and trade deals.

Peter J Woods said...

Rex, I'm getting that nohl fellowship, trust me.

And hells yeah I'm going to! Free money for DIY musicians/label is pretty much non-existant. The cash from that just means I get to put on a couple of awesome shows or put out some sweet cd's.

But if I had more...


DBlankPrints said...

Yawn, Yawn, Snooze, Snooze, Snore, Snore

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!
Talk trash, Talk trash.
Same 'ol, Same 'ol

Look at me! Look at me! Look at me!

Damn it!

Rex Winsome said...

Sorry to bore you DBlank.

Let's see, i could talk about the ways that a stagnant change-resistant society will maintain their faulty position well into obsolescence by childishly attacking and marginalizing any and all of it's critics. How this marginalization often takes the form of ignoring any points the critic raises and attacking the critic as an individual, often by calling them an attention seeking ego maniac.

But then you've already demonstrated such behavoir so well that there's nothing more i can say about it, is there?


DBlankPrints said...

Yawn, yawn.

Pseudo-psycho-social babel

Blather, blather, blather.

Mike Brenner said...

i wish people had the balls to use their real names when posting comments :(

Rex Winsome said...

Oh! DBlank, do i continue to bore you? Gosh... lets see another topic of conversation... how about borish short-attention span anti-intellectuals who are too fucking apathetic to engage in real conversation or debate. Whoops! You've already covered that topic as well. Damn!

Mike- I already congratulated DBlank for finally using a name, which if you google it and "milwaukee" you'll find what i presume is his etsy page:

Mike Brenner said...


my apologie, Dave.

DBlankPrints said...

Just a little -- uncompromising assholeness, demanding more, telling it like it is, regardless of toes stepped on, or bridges burned -- coming back at ya' Rexey.

Sometimes a little poetic tell-it-like-it-is can by thought provoking and stimulating too. They jail poets, don't they?

Hurns??? Are you back on the beer thing?

Christine Harris said...

So, where is the post I left this morning?
Christine Harris, Cultural Alliance

Christine Harris said...

I’m sorry that what I wrote this morning seems to have evaporated into cyberspace! With so many arrows being slung at the Alliance, I thought it was time to respond. I moved into the Executive Director position in March of this year and I care passionately about our artistic community, despite what some of you think.
What concerns me about this dialogue is how mean-spirited it is. Can’t we have spirited debate and challenging discussion without foul language and being mean to each other? How does ratcheting up the anger on and on help heal anything in the long run or make things better? Thank you David Drake and Anonymous for putting forth some comments on what the Alliance is doing to create a better environment for artists. David, you should tell them all about the Cultural Alliance’s artist educator directory that can help them make more money.
Blogs and Twitters give people great opportunity to say what they want to say in the privacy of their computer and not care about the reaction of who may be reading. There are artists out there, some on this blog, who are very willing to rant and rave in writing but when invited in an open meeting to ask questions or comment won’t do it. It is being a chicken to stay silent in company and then sound off all alone.
I even invited Rex to a cup of coffee and made the point that if we keep shouting at each other across a river of anger we won’t build any bridges but he wasn’t interested – said he had given up on building bridges with organizations such as ours. What a pity – blind anger unwilling to move the conversation constructively forward is a waste of creative, artistic energy and other people’s time. Not that we don’t benefit from something or someone that gets under your skin and provocates the status quo – we do – but when it is neverending bitching it soon becomes ineffective noise. By the way, Rex – my name is Christine, not Catherine.
If you take the time to read the full GMC report you will see that we do reference the fact that this particular study did not survey individual artists ( I even quoted MARN as saying there are about 1000 in the area) but that does not mean we aren’t planning to do that inventory as part of the work for the GMC’s ‘creative summit’.
Also, with respect to hearing your voices, you will soon be seeing an invitation from MARN to a community conversation with me. I hope you will take the time to join us. I really do listen – honest.
Let’s take all of the passionate energy out there and focus it on making this a better community. I understand the frustration with the status quo, and I understand your concerns about being too ‘mainstream’ but stop killing the goose before it has had a chance to lay some eggs. Get real, keep in the conversation respectfully, and take the high road. Otherwise, you deserve to wallow in the mud.

Rex Winsome said...

Hi Christine, I don't know what happened to your morning post, and i appologize for being too hasty and messing up your name. I'm a notoriously sloppy blogger, always in a hurry to say as much as i can.

I'd like to first state that my response to your invitation for coffee was not a rejection. I was only pointing out that it wasn't likely to be fruitful for either of us. I'm still open for it if you'd like to waste an hour or so of your time talking to someone who doesn't share your grounding assumptions, your interests or your ambitions.

I've never been personally directly interested in what the CA is about. When you and i say "art" we're saying almost completely opposite things. I'm a communist, i see art as a path to a revolution. I need art to be critical, unemotional, and completely without mystery, soulfulness or wonder.

Considering these ambitions, I've always had a problem with philanthoric support. The flyer for the first show i ever produced said "proud not to be sponsored by UPAF" on it. My art is in the organization of an truly INDEPENDENT theatre company as much as it's in what we put on stage, if not more. That's what i'm passionate about. Over the years i've considered compromising on this, at least to get started. i've looked at grants and funding programs, but everything i found re-confirmed my initial distaste for it.

My posts shouldn't be read as bitching, or wanting anything from you or the CA. They are more like observations from an outside party. If i am bitching, it's about defeated artists as much as about ineffectual arts organizations, and about how the two mutually reinforce each other.

Also, most importantly, when i said "...leads me (and others) to believe that the donor base in Milwaukee do not actually support or beleive in art, they only want to look like they do" i certainly was not talking about you. I was talking about the donors who chose the "inert" CA over MARN repeatedly back before you were invovled, who consistantly choose frills and buildings, bronze fonz's and pastel light shows over art and artists. Their actions clearly support my conclusion.

Your actions, on the other hand, from what i can tell, are very different. You've taken on an often thankless and very difficult task. I imagine that your job has got to be damn near impossible, getting the above decribed donor base to give anything at all, let alone any support for authentic challenging artists? That requires a definite unquestionable commitment to your kind of art.

But, it's not my kind of art, and it never will be. I'd rather carve out my niche, make it a reality. The reason i care enough about Milwaukee, and the art scene here to post half-baked misinformed mean-spirited rants is that carving out that niche is much easier when the art scene is made of something more easily carved than bronze, and when the city's economy isn't in a tailspin. If you can get the CA and MARN to work together and acheive what Mike Brenner fought for years to do (philanthopic support going to individuals and small organizations) then that's fucking wonderful. I don't want to be one of those individuals, but i'd love to be an audience member in that community, and i suspect such a community would hold many more opportunities to recruit people toward my very different ambitions.

I'm glad to hear of your future plans, and i genuinely hope that the art community accepts your invitation. I also hope that my vitrolic statements, graciously amplified by ArtCity and others, broke though some of the boozy haze that clouds the minds and ambitions of so many artists in Milwaukee. That can only open up an opportunity for you to build your bridges and get these people actively engaged.

Seriously, genuinely, i wish you good luck. You'll need it.

Christine Harris said...

Thank you, Rex. I truly appreciate your sensibility and I respect your right to be exactly the artist and community citizen you wish to be.
I like my job - even though at the CA and at UPAF someone hated what we were doing all of the time. As a native of Milwaukee, I care to leave this community in better cultural shape than what I grew up in.
I look forward to continuing dialogue - and perhaps even diatribes!

DBlankPrints said...

Christine: Hear, hear, Well said. Any organization that tries to better the cultural atmosphere and development in the Milwaukee area automatically deserves respect for their efforts. NOT insulted and castigated.

Rex: Hurns.

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