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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Thursday, April 17, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

Fatherhood and loss fuel local artist's fire


A month after Adam Nilson graduated from MIAD in 2003, his son Jackson was born.

"It sounds so clichéd, but Jackson has changed everything. He's a spark that keeps me going," says Nilson.

Nilson is arguably one of Milwaukee's most employed artists. Recently, he completed the Mona Lisa mural at Sven's Café in Bay View, a "comet/galactic mural" inside Avante Salon in Brookfield, all of the interior restoration work for Cans Canteen on the East Side (including restoration of the copper dome atop the building), an exterior mural for The Gig, formerly Barrel Riders, in Riverwest, and a full makeover for Hairy's Hair Bar.

"I gave it (Hairy's) a modern, urban feel with faux steel, rusted rivets, relief techniques and I-beams. I also painted the floor, walls and helped direct interior elements," he says.

Nilson's latest project is The Groove, a bar/restaurant opening soon at 3007 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.

"It will be modern yet nostalgic," says Nilson. "It will pay homage to pioneers in music, especially rock, soul and funk."

Nilson is particularly excited about this project because he shares a love for music with The Groove's owner. Nilson collects records and is an avid WMSE listener.

"The Groove will have a collaboration of photos, illustrations and murals pertaining to the love of music," he says. "I've brought together about five other artists and designers to contribute their work."

Nilson, who grew up in Beloit, says he's been an artist for most of his life but really decided on it as a vocation after taking time off from MIAD when his stepfather died from cancer and his Oakland Avenue apartment burned down.

"I soon decided to return rebuilt, with a new outlook on my art and life itself," says Nilson, who currently has studio space in the Hide House in Bay View. "I switched my major from illustration to fine art drawing under the life-changing guidance of instructors Paul and Polly Caster, as well as Waldek Dynerman."

Nilson says his dream is to be a guest designer/muralist on a home makeover show that helps families in need. But for now, he has plenty of work to keep him busy and just enough free time to spend with his son.

"I feel incredibly blessed," he says.

For more information, call (414) 324-2510.

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