Meet the Milwaukeeans Putting on Virtual Performances

Gatherings of more than 10 people are out. But virtual shows are very in. 

During times of crisis, most of us turn to the arts to keep our spirits up. We finally start reading the book that’s been sitting on our shelf for months. Or stream that new series all our friends have been talking about. Or venture over to our favorite concert venue for a live show.

Unfortunately, as this particular crisis unfolds, squeezing into a crowded concert hall or performance space is a terrible idea. 

That doesn’t mean, though that we’ve got to live in a world without live performances. Milwaukeeans have begun live-streaming concerts and other shows across their social media channels. On March 13, Imagine MKE and Mind Poolpool Live hosted an impromptu music festival – headlined by local faves Lex Allen and Zed Kenzo – through Facebook. People who tuned into the event were encouraged to donate what they could to a fund that Imagine MKE set up to provide relief to local artists affected by the pandemic. 

Nō Studios also plans to start hosting artist takeovers of its Facebook page, the idea being that its members can take turns sharing their work, and entertaining those of us stuck at home for the foreseeable future. 

And local creatives Howard Leu and Ed Makowski have created Virtual Open Mic MKE, a Facebook page open to performers across the city. “The idea is basically just to post videos, performances, poems, comedy bits, music, live painting, cooking—whatever you have in mind,” Makowski said in a video message that he shared with the group. Each Wednesday, from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m., local artists working across all disciplines are encouraged to livestream their work on the group’s Facebook page. 

For the first iteration of the event, on March 18, Makowski kicked the evening’s performances off with a reading of a poem he wrote a few years ago. Other artists soon uploaded videos of their own. Live guitar performances. Readings. A review of spicy Door County dilly beans. 

Many of the videos seem to have been recorded on smartphones. But they weren’t meant to look polished. They were meant to remind those of us stuck at home that there are still other people out there, that we’re all in this together. 



Lindsey Anderson covers culture for Milwaukee Magazine. Before joining the MilMag team she worked as an editor at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago and wrote freelance articles for ArtSlant and Eater.