Milwaukee Repertory Theater presents "In the Heights"

Milwaukee’s Arts & Culture Year in Review: The Highs and Lows in 2018

All in all, 2018 was a good year for art and entertainment in Milwaukee. Here’s a look back at the highs, and lows, of the year.


The Ignominious Exit of Florentine Opera General Director William Florescu

He left in May of 2018, when his colleagues learned that allegations of sexual misconduct had been leveled against him. His sudden departure forced the Florentine to scramble a bit to finish programming their 85th-anniversary season. But so far, at least, they’ve been doing an admirable job, and the quality of the opera’s output is just as strong as it’s always been. 

Reggie Baylor’s Much-Anticipated, and Much Delayed, Store Opening

One of the best painters in the city announced that he’d be opening up a home goods store in March of 2018. Many months later we were still waiting for a chance to buy his bespoke mirrors, textiles and prints. And when Baylor did open the space, we found out that it was more of a design studio than a boutique. Still cool, but not what we’d been hoping for. 

Stolen Artwork

In September, a man stole a piece of public art from a bus stop. It was eventually returned. But still! The work – by local artist Gloria Ruiz-Santos – brought a bit more cheer to the Walker’s Point bus shelter it adorned, and we missed seeing it at the corner of Sixth and National. 

In January of 2018, published a long essay chronicling a woman’s allegations of Ansari’s bad behavior. The story elicited a range of reactions from readers, some of whom believed that Ansari was unfairly excoriated. Still, many Milwaukeeans raised their eyebrows when he announced that he’d be trying out new material in August at the Pabst Theater and Turner Hall. 



In the Heights at the Rep

It’d be a bit of an understatement to say that the Lin-Manuel Miranda-penned play did well when it opened at the Rep this fall. It shattered the theater’s previous attendance records, thanks in large part to the efforts of the star-powered cast and director May Adrales. The show also brought younger, more diverse audience members to the theater in record numbers.

No Studios

In fall of this year, the Oscar-winning screenwriter John Ridley and his family members helped launch a creative incubator, called No Studios, in the city. Now that it’s open, it’s becoming a gathering place for local creatives and culture vultures looking for a place to host film screenings, talk-backs and other arty events. 


Speaking on incubators, the fine folks over at 88Nine launched one of their own this year too. Through Backline, they awarded $20,000 developmental grants to four of the city’s top musical talents: Zed Kenzo, Crystal Knives, Lex Allen and Abby Jeanne. We can’t wait to hear these musicians’ latest efforts this year.

Fiserv Forum Finally Opened

And while it was built primarily to host the Milwaukee Bucks’ home games, it also doubles as a stellar concert venue. We were wowed by its acoustics when we caught a show there earlier this fall and are hoping it’ll help lure more high profile acts (hello, Elton John) to Milwaukee. 



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.