Every week in 2015, OnMilwaukee.com and local design company Too Much Metal join forces to introduce the latest member of the Milwaukee All-Stars – a team of unfamiliar winners living in the city who consistently and diligently make it shine. Each week, a new member will join the team – based on your recommendations – and at the end of the year all will come together in a Rally of the Raddest Milwaukeeans. We're not sure what that means quite yet, so for now, meet …
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: How long have you worked at this job?
Katharina Hren: I’ve worked in the Milwaukee non-profit community for more than 25 years.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: Where do you currently work? What roles have you had in this field?
Hren: I don’t usually like to tell people what to do – titles feel limiting to me and I prefer to work behind the scenes. I have been working the past eight years at Turner Hall as the Executive Director of the Milwaukee Turners, the organization that owns the building. Before that I used to be the Executive Director of Goethe House Wisconsin.
I also currently work as a counseling intern at the Healing Center with survivors of sexual assault and abuse, plus I’m a trauma-informed yoga and meditation teacher at the Gerald L. Ignace Indian Health Center and Milwaukee Secure Detention Center.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: What time of year / season is your favorite in Milwaukee and why?
Hren: I love autumn in Milwaukee. I’m not a big fan of hot weather, plus I think the trees on the nature trails and along the lake are the most beautiful at this time. It’s also harvest time in Milwaukee’s community gardens.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: What’s your favorite / least favorite smell in Milwaukee?
Hren: I love how Sciortino's Bakery on Brady Street smells.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: What neighborhood do you live in?
Hren: Washington Heights!
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: What’s your hope for Milwaukee?
Hren: I know I’m a dreamer, but my fervent hope is to see racism in Milwaukee eradicated, as well as see the school to prison pipeline disappear. I want to see more access to mental health services and healthy food for all. I also want to see more Milwaukee youth empowered, such as through the work local orgs like Running Rebels, Alice’s Garden, Walnut Way, Teens Grow Greens, Still Waters Collective and Urban Ecology Center do. I’m continually inspired by the work of local artists, musicians, teachers and gardeners to celebrate community; I think that Milwaukeeans are incredibly resilient and creative.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: When / how did you fall in love with Milwaukee?
Hren: To be honest, my love affair with Milwaukee took a while to ignite. I came here at the age of six because my father grew up here, and my mother decided we’d been living the Air Force life long enough. The kids made fun of me for being different, for speaking English with a German accent and for having lived in places like Germany and Iran. When I was in my twenties and on a graduate exchange year in Berlin, my birth city, I almost stayed because it is such an incredible city, yet I missed Milwaukee and came back. That’s when I knew it was true love.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: Why do you do what you do?
Hren: My son is hands-down my most important teacher, and seeing the world through his eyes inspires me to try to be a better person. For example, he believes that pennies are valuable and that the little things matter. Giving back to my community is what keeps me going. There is no shortage of things to be inspired if you keep your eyes, ears, and heart open. I went back to grad school a couple of years ago to study Community Psychology because I wanted to do more to help heal the trauma in our community, as well as share the tools of yoga and mindfulness in new ways. I love learning.
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: What is your one guilty pleasure?
Hren: Amaranth Bakery – anything in the bakery case!
OnMilwaukee / Too Much Metal: Name a Milwaukeean you would like to high five.
Hren: I’d love to high five Frank Zeidler if he was still living. I got to know him when I worked for Goethe House and thought he was such a cool guy for staying active in the community until the end of his days. Or Dan Grego, who started the organization that gave birth to my son Gustav’s amazing school, Escuela Verde.
Do you know a Milwaukee All-Star? OnMilwaukee and Too Much Metal are looking for true-hearted folks living in the city of Milwaukee who love what they do – and do it with zest and style. Email email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org with recommendations.