10 Arts & Culture Picks for February

Beat the cold this month by staying inside and enjoying the many performances and exhibits Milwaukee has to offer.

Highlights from this month include a new Milwaukee Art Museum exhibit about William-Adolphe Bouguereau and a play from the Milwaukee Repertory Theatre about the first female Chinese immigrant to the U.S.

Visual Arts

Alexis Rockman: The Great Lakes Cycle 

Haggerty Museum of Art – Marquette University
Feb. 8 – May 19

Organized by the Grand Rapids Art Museum, The Great Lakes Cycle explores Alexis Rockman’s findings during a 2013 research tour of the Great Lakes Region. The exhibit is a unique blend of his murals, field drawings and research findings. Be prepared to learn a lot about our Great Lakes and their incoming threats while also enjoying Rockman’s immense talent and brilliant use of color. The crowning jewel of this exhibit is five murals that explore themes from Rockman’s travels and research about the Great Lakes.

William Adolphe Bouguereau’s Orestes Pursued by the Furies; photo courtesy of the Chrysler Museum of Art

Bouguereau & America

Milwaukee Art Museum
Feb. 15 – May 12

Tanya Paul, this exhibit’s curator, thinks William-Adolphe Bouguereau is underappreciated — and for good reason. The last time a major show was done in the U.S. about the Gilded Age French painter was in 1984, which was just an overview and reintroduction to his work. Paul’s show instead delves deep into the art market the painter prospered in, showcasing his paintings’ different owners and the commissions they came from. But at the end of the day, Paul just wants exhibit-goers to appreciate Bouguereau’s work.

“The most important thing is that viewers enjoy what a fantastic painter he is and appreciate the beauty of his work,” Paul says. “We worked really hard to present different types of works that show his skill as an artist, from portraiture to genre paintings. Be prepared—these paintings do tend to evoke visceral reactions.”

Bouguereau is often remembered as a resistor of Impressionism, but Paul argues that he was not simply a traditionalist. She says that he was focused on exploring beauty and was more tuned into the notion of art as commodity than his counterparts. Many of his paintings, too, have long and tumultuous histories; one painting has been attacked with chairs multiple times. Paul recommends attending one of the exhibit’s gallery talks (Feb. 19, March 26, April 6 and April 23) to learn more about Bouguereau and the history of his paintings.

46th Annual Juried Show Exhibition

Union Art Gallery (UW-Milwaukee)
Feb. 22 – March 15

This free exhibit showcases the work of the best student artists from the Milwaukee area. Gallery owner John Hintz, artist and manager Symphony Swam and docent and teacher Rose Balistreri judge the students’ work, awarding cash prizes to the three best artists. The awards ceremony will occur on Feb. 22 at 6 pm, in the middle of the opening reception (5-7 pm).


Fiddler on the Roof

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Uihlein Hall
Feb. 12 – Feb. 17

Beloved musical Fiddler on the Roof has been given new life in the form of this traveling show from Tony®-winning director Bartlett Sherr (The King and I, South Pacific), featuring new choreography and an extremely talented cast. Although it is set in early 20th century Imperial Russia, the musical’s themes of navigating love, family and religion — and catchy tunes — remain relevant today.

The Chinese Lady

The Milwaukee Reparatory Theater
Feb. 13 – March 24

The Rep has always sought to put on shows that explore complex social issues and unearth hidden histories, and its production of The Chinese Lady is no exception. The play is inspired by the true story of Afong Moy, who was brought to the U.S. from Beijing in 1834 to be put on display in side shows as “the Chinese Lady.” Moy is known as the first female immigrant from China and is played by Lisa Helmi Johansan. Her performance and Lloyd Suh’s delicate writing bring Moy’s story to life.

The Chinese Lady’s lead actress Lisa Helmi Johansan


Genesis 2019

The Pabst Theater
Feb. 14 – Feb. 17

The worldwide dance competition Genesis is returning to Milwaukee in 2019. The competition’s three finalists, selected by the Milwaukee Ballet’s Michael Pink, will be premiering new work for the competition, and if they win, they will receive a commission. Although a panel of judges will decide the winner, audience members can pick a favorite for the Audience Choice Award.


The Pabst Theater
Feb. 16 – March 21

The Milwaukee Ballet’s younger cohort takes the stage for Momentum, during which they will perform George Balanchine’s Serenade, a work often used by the New York City Ballet and set to Tchaikovsky. The performers mostly are part of the Nancy Einhorn Milwaukee Ballet II Program, where young dancers work alongside professionals and hone their skills.


MSO Showboat

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Uihlein Hall
Feb. 1 – Feb. 3

Rob Fisher conducts the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s tribute to Jerome Kern, the Broadway legend behind “All the Things You Are” and “The Song Is You.” The performance is a concert version of the musical Showboat Kern made with Oscar Hammerstein II, which depicts racial prejudices and explores true love.

Alexander Shelly; photo credit: Thomas Dagg

MSO Regal Classics

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Uihlein Hall
Feb. 8 – Feb. 9

The MSO’s Regal Classics are focused on the British Isles, featuring Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture, Bruch’s Scottish Fantasy and the First Symphony of William Watson. The performance highlight the skills of Blake Pouliot on violin and is helmed by Alexander Shelley.

MSO Rachimaninoff Paganini Rhapsody

Marcus Center for the Performing Arts – Uihlein Hall
Feb. 22 – Feb. 24

The Macedonian pianist takes over the Marcus Center with his take on Sergei Rachmaniof’s Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini and a couple of works by Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev.



Since interning for the magazine in spring of 2017, Anna has contributed to both the print publication and website. She has covered topics from women in the workplace to communal gardens and also writes guides to life in Milwaukee. Outside of writing for the magazine, Anna is going back to school at UW-Milwaukee to work towards a career in genetic counseling.