In a neighborhood teeming with artists, a smart bar owner gives his clientele a place to drink and paint.
Proprietor Don Krause did just that when he created the Art Bar (722 E. Burleigh St.), a Riverwest venue that welcomes art lovers and artists alike. A bold undertaking both in concept and location, the bar has taken on the ever-changing qualities of the neighborhood itself, with innovative design and continually rotating exhibits.
No snooty gallery, the Art Bar is a community meeting place with a unique and comfortable feel. “I wanted to attract a creative class of people. I’d been creating beautiful places for everyone else, why couldn’t I have one for myself? A place where you didn’t stick to the furniture or it wasn’t so smoky you couldn’t stay there,” says Krause, an award-winning interior designer who was with Ethan Allen for nine years.
Beyond the allure of its hip and cozy atmosphere, the Art Bar draws patrons with its specials and events most nights of the week. “Local Mondays” honor residents of the 53212 ZIP code with free pool and $2 mystery beers. Tuesdays bring one of the best drink specials in town, when all libations are two-for-one from 8 p.m. to midnight. Wednesdays showcase live music by local artists; Milwaukee Area Songwriters perform the last Wednesday of every month. Founded by DJ Brian Smalls, “Mixed Signals” features rotating DJ crews spinning records to a common theme each Thursday.
Art Bar’s hallmark weekly event, though, happens Sundays with “Open Canvas Night.” Each week, a different artist paints over the previous week’s painting while patrons enjoy drink specials and watch the new work emerge. The artist gets a $50 bar tab for motivation (and to treat onlookers and friends), but don’t bother grabbing your paint tray: Artists are already booked a year in advance. After 52 weeks of paintings, the Art Bar celebrates with the “One Week Painting Show” and a birthday bash. The canvas is cut into squares and divided among the participating artists, while a slideshow offers a retrospective of the various paintings that graced the canvas over the course of the year. The next celebration takes place March 16, 2007.
If the nighttime isn’t your time, you can still enjoy the Art Bar. Now open at 6 a.m., the venue caters to early-risers with coffee, espresso drinks, bagels and pastries, plus free Wi-Fi.
Factionalism in any industry tends to deflect energy and resources away from the entire group, but the Milwaukee Electronic Music Organization seeks to build consensus on dance floors and in DJ booths city-wide. Comprising a dedicated group of DJs, promoters, journalists, dancers and club owners, MEMO’s mission is to educate the public and advance the positive side of the scene. “An official organization has a lot more pull and credibility when trying to put on public events than one person,” says Jessica Fenner (a.k.a. Fortune), one of the group’s founding members. A not-for-profit organization, the group meets monthly to discuss and plan the direction of our city’s music scene.