By Jimmy Theo
MILWAUKEE – For many involved with the Milwaukee art scene there exists a frustrating paradox; how is there so much talent with so little exposure? The city has a world renowned museum, and two major art schools, but seldom are local artists able to collaborate with each other.
However, Milwaukee artists of all disciplines got a chance to show off their talents last Friday at Moct Nightclub in the city’s third ward. Moct (pronounced most) hosted a celebration of art in all forms including music, video, food, painting, sculpting, and even skateboarding. (http://www.themoct.com/?url=/)
According to OnMilwaukee.com, the city has over 40 registered art galleries, but rarely do they hold exhibits with such a wide array of genres. Many local artists used this opportunity to show off their work to a group of other artists and curious residents alike.
Audrey Delany is a local artist and student at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. Delany believes that the reason Milwaukee isn’t thought of as an art hub is not because of the lack of artists, but the lack of outlets for them to show off their talents.
Delany thinks events like Moct’s art exhibition are exactly what the cities’ scene needs. According to Delany, “What we are doing today is the perfect thing to try to expand Milwaukee art and get more people involved.”
She shares the sentiment with many other local artists that Milwaukee is unfairly overlooked as an art city. Delany thinks Milwaukee should be recognized the same as San Francisco or New York. When asked about the disparity between recognition, Delany says, “I don’t think that people realize there is a lot of talent here.”
The exhibit itself was far from conventional. The dance floor at Moct was packed as live bands and DJ’s played everything from rock n’ roll to Jamaican Dancehall. The bar served colorful Hors d'œuvre’s prepared by up and coming local chefs. Outside, skateboarders put on a demonstration of their skills, sliding and gliding on obstacles outside the bar.
The more conventional art was located throughout club and featured carvings, paintings, and sculptures. On the main floor, live artists were doing improvisational paintings on the spot. Delany had a popular exhibit featuring brightly colored black light 3-D paintings which she described as, “Going along with the whole 3-D movie trend.”
Dave Lucas, dressed in a full body camouflage suit, was doing Tai Chi outside the club. Though Lucas himself is an artist, he came to Moct not to exhibit his own work, but to draw from that of others.
Lucas finds events like this both entertaining and inspirational. “I’m looking to just get inspired…I’m hoping to catch some ideas and a little bit of energy toward what I am trying to do.”
Lucas believes that the event is important in that it allows people a chance to see each other’s work in a more relaxed setting.
The event offered many like Lucas an outlet to promote their own endeavors to likeminded people. Lucas handed out flyers to other art gatherings to many of the people he met there.
According to artist and skateboarder Nick Mistele, this is why events like Moct’s Exhibition are so important. Mistele helped to organize the skateboarding demo and also had on display a wooden sculpture which included old skateboards themselves. He believes these events allow otherwise fragmented artistic communities to come together at a common place.
The benefits of this, according to Mistele, are that, “People can network; people can share what they are doing and why they are doing it. Here we got more than just paintings. We have food and music and the goal isn’t to try to outdo each other, it’s just fun.”
Mistele believes that the Milwaukee Art Museum is great for displaying prominent and famous artwork and gaining recognition for the city, however it “overshadows the local scene.” Recently, however, local artists have been banding together to put on “do-it-yourself” events like the one at Moct.
Organizations such as the Riverwest Artists Association have been created to promote local artists in neighborhoods such as the East Side, Riverwest, Harambee, and Bayview. Their goal is to support the exchange of ideas and talents throughout Milwaukee’s diverse cityscape.
Milwaukee’s underground art scene continues to thrive despite their lack of exposure. Many of the artists in attendance at the Moct Art Expo believe that more events like this will help unify the local art scene and therefore give Milwaukee more of a national presence.
They hope that the growing trend is here to stay and that Milwaukee will be recognized for its largely unknown talent pool.