Best of Milwaukee 2017: Art & Literature

The best Milwaukee culture has to offer

Best Gallery:
Green Gallery

The Green Gallery got its start in a Riverwest attic in 2004. And founder John Riepenhoff’s gleefully experimental approach to art dealing has paid off – the gallery represents internationally acclaimed artists like José Lerma, whose work has been featured in solo exhibitions at the Museum of Contemporary
Art in Chicago and elsewhere. Riepenhoff’s exhibition roster injects some edginess to the local art scene, and for that we applaud him.

Most Imaginative Installation:
The Shorewood Ghost Train

It’s not actually scary, just scary cool. The Ghost Train illuminates the Oak Leaf Trail Bridge twice nightly. How? Project designer and engineer Marty Peck uses lights and sounds to create the illusion that the decommissioned Twin Cities 400, once the world’s fastest passenger train, is again crossing the bridge.

Best Grassroots Art Project:

Looking for inspiration? Get yourself to an exhibit of the photos collected by ZIP MKE, ASAP. Dominic Inouye started the archive of professional and amateur photographs in 2016, organizing the images by ZIP code. Since then, Inouye and his team of “Zipsters” have collected some 1,700 photos, posting them on their website, at the Milwaukee Public Library’s main branch and in galleries around town. You can catch them at Pius XI High School through mid-November.

Best Street Art:
Wisconsin Avenue Sculptures

Already a contender for the city’s most bustling boulevard, Wisconsin Avenue attracted even more traffic this year, when 22 sculptures were installed along the avenue, from Sixth Street to O’Donnell Park. The sculptures – which include works by art stars such as Donald Baechler and Jim Dine – are on view through October 22. Our favorite? Conceptual artist Dennis Oppenheim’s “Safety Cones,” a cheeky installation of two 18-feet-high traffic cones at home amidst all the nearby construction.

Best Boozy Art Class:
Bay View Printing Co.

Who knows? Maybe Johannes Gutenberg indulged in a drink or two while playing around with moveable type. And in that spirit, we say cheers to Bay View Printing Co. for bringing printing and tippling together. At the BYO Drink & Ink class, have the opportunity to make your own poster, using antique wood type. Bring along a friend to help you spell-check your creation.


Best Book Club:
The Pfister Hotel

Thought your years of high school-style club participation were behind you? Think again. You can still get your extracurriculars in at the Pfister Hotel’s book club, led by 2017- 18 narrator in residence Nicole Mattke. Attend
and become part of a group that is (potentially) as diverse as this city. Another plus: The free events include wine, snacks and a special pastry inspired by the book. On October 12, readers discuss Forest Dark, an enigmatic novel by New York Times bestselling author Nicole Krauss. Let’s hope a Black Forest cake makes its way onto the menu.

Best Poetry Series:
Poets Read Some Stuff Someplace in Milwaukee

Poetry has a branding problem. Even though most of us can still quote lines from our favorite Dr. Seuss stories or Shel Silverstein books, we wrinkle our noses when we hear the phrase “poetry reading.” We commend local poet Sam Pekarske for her efforts to make what seems like a pretty stiff art form “compelling as hell” with her quarterly series. New talent takes the stage at Var Gallery on December 14.

Best of Milwaukee 2017


Best of Milwaukee 2017

Check out all of this year’s winners!


‘Best of 2017’ appears in the October 2017 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning October 2, or buy a copy at

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