The euphoria “Johnny Milwaukee” feels for this city and its burgeoning art scene can be best described as the “chilly-chills.”

Taken at Lyman’s woodworking shop in Walker’s Point.

WHO: John Lyman (aka @johnny_milwaukee) sold everything and moved to Asia after getting dumped by his band. Upon returning in the late ’00s, he got hitched and had a son. His 10-year-old is being raised in Milwaukee, and that’s exactly where Lyman, 52, wants to be.


The thing I love about Milwaukee most is how it makes me feel.

I’ve lived in the Shinjuku neighborhood of Tokyo. I’ve lived in Tibet, in Burma. I’ve lived everywhere, dude, and still Milwaukee can give me chilly-chills. Something about it still gets me.

I was driving to my wood shop one Sunday morning, and this girl was painting this mural at Café Lulu. It was super early and she was dripping with sweat in this huge lift, covered in paint, and I was like, “You’re rad. This is so awesome that you’re doing this.” Her name is Jenny Jo, and she was kind of blown away when I went up to her. The little teeny-tiny things matter so much. And now I’m super good friends with her.

There’s finally a market for people to use their talents. When I was a kid, nobody was paying artists to paint the roof of Fuel Cafe, and nobody could support one another on Instagram like we do today.

But now, if you’re a rad painter and you make rad shit, some business owner is going to find out about it. And then everyone in the city is going to know about it.

John Lyman, as told to Adam Rogan

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“Why I Love Milwaukee” appears in the June 2019 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.

Find it on newsstands beginning June 3, or buy a copy at milwaukeemag.com/shop.

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