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

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In Marketplace

Brenner hopes Milwaukee flips over Hotcakes


Mike Brenner practices what he preaches.

As the president of Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN), Brenner -- who once worked as a graphic designer at OnMilwaukee.com -- is hoping that his new art gallery in Milwaukee's Riverwest neighborhood will be an outlet for artists to display and sell their work.

Just as MARN opens doors for artists by creating channels to exhibit their work in community galleries, Brenner, and business partner, Susan Kriofsky, extend an invitation to artists to Hotcakes Gallery, located at 3379 N. Pierce St.

It's their way of networking artwork. "With MARN, I help new artists feel welcome in Milwaukee and introduce them to events," Brenner says. "For example, I tell them where certain events are held and when they are held so that they can show their work. Well, Hotcakes can be one of those events."

Hotcakes Gallery is the city's premier exhibitor of contemporary fine art by international artists but Brenner wants artists from around the country to network with the gallery.

"We'd like to bring people in from different areas," Brenner adds. "We believe we can develop relationships in other cities. Then maybe we can share works, trade local artists' work with other cities and visa versa"

The 29-year-old owner of ethericDesign says that he met Kriofsky, an artist through MARN when she was looking for an outlet to display her work. Together, they decided to open their own storefront and found the 1500-square-foot space, formerly a paint store, ideal for their needs.

"We refurbished the entire shop," he says. "We patched up and painted the walls. Even the neighborhood has been supportive. They can't wait for us to open. This space has sat empty and they love the idea of the gallery being here."

Brenner, who is constantly networking with artists across the country, says the first exhibitors, scheduled for December 5, are East Coast artists Jessica Robbins and Patricia Fernandes.

"I've already talked to two other artists from the Chicago area who are excited to show up here," he points out. "They have spaces there but would love to get in Milwaukee. They also would love to show Milwaukee artists down in Chicago. So, we'll work with them on that front."

But Hotcakes Gallery is also about educating buyers about art.

"We'll teach people that art is affordable," Brenner explains. "They pay $30 and buy something with a story behind it. They come to understand that it's a worthwhile piece. They'll get it home and say, 'wow, I like it so much I'll get more pieces.' That's what collecting art is all about."

Brenner says most artwork will sell for $150 and up, but he doesn't want to discourage those looking for something less expensive.

"We'll carry some work for under $50, too. We want art that is accessable to everyone."

Brenner is planning a sneak preview of Hotcakes Gallery on December 4.

"To kick things off, we are planning a fund-raiser for Frank Cumberbatch," he explains of the mayoral candidate's event on the eve of the galleries opening.

As for the name, Brenner just smiles and says, "We're hopeful that the artwork will sell like hotcakes."

For more information about upcoming showings, call (414) 961-7714, or visit the Web site at www.hotcakesgallery.com.

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