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Brenner's gallery closing announcement draws threat


Hotcakes Gallery owner Mike Brenner, who first threatened to close the Riverwest gallery and leave town if the Bronze Fonz project went ahead and later announced a campaign to raise money for a Bronze Brenner, announced today via Twitter that he's putting his money where his mouth is.

"I give up," Brenner wrote. "The Bronze Fonze has been fully funded. I am announcing tomorrow my plans to close Hotcakes as of July 3. It's been fun. Thanks!"

There is no mention of the closing or the announcement on the Hotcakes Web site.

Late in December, Brenner closed the gallery in protest of what he called, "that stupid (expletive) Fonzie monument."

UPDATE, as of Friday, Jan. 25, 9:50 a.m.:

A few hours after this blog appeared yesterday, Brenner sent an e-mail to friends and media:

"It's official. In less than three months, Visit Milwaukee (Miwaukee's convention and visitors bureau) has raised the $75,000 it needs to erect the Bronze Fonz, a monument to the small-town Milwaukee of old. It's with great sadness, I announce that on July 3, Hotcakes Gallery will close its doors for good. I cannot see running a contemporary art gallery in a city whose "leadership" is so eager to invest it's limited resources in garbage instead of fostering it's burgeoning arts community.

"Feb. 6 marks Hotcakes Gallery's fourth birthday. It has been a wonderful four years. I truly appreciate everyone who showed up and supported me in my attempt to engage, excite and educate the general public with affordable, contemporary art and music. I made many new friends and had many incredible experiences I will never forget. I extend special thanks to those of you who put your money where your mouth was and invested in art.

"My plan for the near future is to focus on my role as Executive Director of MARN (Milwaukee Artist Resource Network). MARN has been working closely with the Eastside Business Improvement District to build an arts incubator on the East Side of Milwaukee, and I would like to see the project through to completion. I plan to spend the next couple years trying to raise the necessary funds to create a truly cutting-edge arts center that will nurture the next generation of artists and arts supporters.

"My goal is to put Milwaukee on the map and make it an international destination for creative thinkers and doers. I want the world to see what I see ... a city full of warmhearted, hardworking, creative individuals who deserve to be defined by so much more than beer, brats, cheese and Arthur Fonzerelli (sic)."

Brenner also told OnMilwaukee.com Friday that he received a death threat via telephone.

"(I) was called gay and gay boy several times in the message and told that if I ever link Dahmer and the Packers together again in the same sentence that I will 'end up like Dahmer.'"


Talkbacks

RexWinsome | Jan. 29, 2008 at 9:45 a.m. (report)

curly boy, i didn't ask what Mike did wrong. I asked if any of his critics had any authority or justification to condemn and harrass him, or if you're all just completely ignorant boobs. Seems the latter is true. If you aren't in the fight, then you have no frame of refrance by which to judge. The opinions expressed here seem to be the opinions of people who are anti-art in the first place, people who seek to block or stunt the growth of an arts community (and thus sustainable economic development in this city) those opinions are completely without value and only serve to discourage local artists from staying and working here. I've committed to staying and working here, and my sucess is contingent on there being a community for me to work within, if ignorant boobs are going to discourage, harrass and otherwise attack the community that i am seeking to build, then it's time for me and mine to come together and respond.

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DowntownRed | Jan. 27, 2008 at 11:04 a.m. (report)

I think Mr. Brenner is underestimating people's ability to tell the difference between "art" and "whimsy". Visit Milwaukee did promote the raising of the funds to build the statue but the statue is being built entirely with private donations. People will get a chuckle out of the statue and go about their day. They will never put it in the same class with the Calatrava or anything housed in the Art Museum. I am sure if Mr. Brenner's gallery was successful, he would keep it open. I highly doubt a statue of a sit-com star that is over half a year away from even being viewed was not the downfall of his gallery.

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curlyboy1978 | Jan. 25, 2008 at 6:25 p.m. (report)

Rex - I noticed you posted similar comments on JSOnline. Obviously you know him personally..which is fine. What he did wrong was make himself look like a little child from a pr standpoint.. He also made a fool out of the city and even Henry Winkler in his comments for the national ap story. It's sad someone called him w/ a "death threat" though that just shows crazy people are everywhere.

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EliCash | Jan. 25, 2008 at 5:38 p.m. (report)

...maybe he's just mad that his art and/or panties weren't sellin' like "hotcakes." (sorry, couldn't resist)

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Bricklayer | Jan. 25, 2008 at 4:02 p.m. (report)

Is there another city in the country that is as neurotically self-traumatized by its self-image as Milwaukee? For God's sake, some of you sound like angst-ridden teenagers, worried that all the cool kids will laugh at you. Grown-up cities ACT like it and don't constantly kvetch about "Does this make us look sophisticated?" "Does this make us look like rubes?" We should give the same advice to ourselves that we give to our kids... be yourself, stop pretending to be something you're not. Milwaukee is not going to be Seattle no matter how much coffee we drink. Milwaukee will never be New York or San Francisco no matter how many art galleries it has. The Fonz in Bronz will not "perpetuate lowbrow stereotypes" of Milwaukee as much as these art snobs perpetuate the negative stereotypes about art, artists and art galleries - that art is for the rich, pampered, snobby and conceited "cultural elite."

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