University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee


APRIL 5 – MAY 19, 2013 - FREE (Note: exhibition has been extended one week)

Opening Reception: April 5, 5-9pm (includes live theatre and guitar performances)


This multi-faceted exhibition will include photography, ephemera, documentary video, sound recordings, and live performances by students in the UWM Finger-Style Guitar Program.

The collection of original audio recordings, photography, film, and other artifacts continues to grow, thanks to the involvement of and generous contributions from individuals closely associated with the Avant Garde. These materials provide the foundation for continuing research, development of critical pedagogical materials, and a deeper understanding of the emergence of finger-style guitar as art music.


From 1962 to 1968, the Avant Garde Coffeehouse, located at 2111 North Prospect, was the locus of the folk/blues revival. Not only did the coffeehouse host local and nationally known musicians, but it was also a hotbed for experimental films, poetry readings, and performance art. There were places like this in other areas of the country, but, in Wisconsin, none as important as the Avant Garde.

In order to examine more deeply the history and impact of this unexpected icon in Milwaukee’s underground art scene, faculty, students and staff in the UWM Peck School of the Arts Music Department/Finger-Style Guitar Program and the Department of Theatre embarked on the long-term, multi-departmental research, and community-engagement Avant Garde Coffeehouse Project.

The Finger-Style Guitar Program – the only university-level course of study of its kind in the world – encourages students to make contributions to the emerging academic identity of the genre through research, transcription, and engagement with broader cultural and historical themes informing the discipline. The Avant Garde Coffeehouse Project provided the perfect opportunity for students to connect with the roots of the creative community in which they work and live.

For Theatre students and faculty, this project complemented the Department’s mission to create new work in support of community engagement. They led the long-term process of integrating all the research and writing to bring the visual, musical and human narrative to life.

The work of our dedicated students, faculty, and members of the community culminates in three dynamic ways:

  • A retrospective installation & exhibition at INOVA - Institute of Visual Arts
  • Special student performances from our world-renowned Guitar program
  • A world-premiere performance written by a Peck School Alumna and performed by Theatre and Guitar students

For more information