Scott Schwebel has worn a lot of hats in this town, leaving his mark on Colectivo, Hanson Dodge and J. Jeffers & Co. – among others – where he’s worked in marketing, as well as in other fields, including on the soccer pitch, where he was a UWM standout soccer player, and on stages around the country as the drummer for The Gufs.
In October, Schwebel was hired as the-chief experience officer (CXO) at the Milwaukee Art Museum, where he will focus on creating new visitor experiences.
“The Chief Experience Officer represents a watershed moment in the evolution of the Milwaukee Art Museum as a destination, one that puts the visitor experience at the heart of all the institutional endeavors we pursue,” said Marcelle Polednik, PhD., Donna and Donald Baumgartner Director in the announcement.
“It is a role entrusted with helping the museum tell better stories and build stronger relationships with our visitor community.
“Scott’s extensive expertise in the realms of marketing, retail, hospitality, and placemaking enable him to both truly appreciate the potential of this role and lend his talents to fulfill its singular and expansive mandate.”
Schwebel – who serves as an emeritus board member at Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) – was selected after a national search that included 125 candidates from around the U.S.
“In many ways, this opportunity is tailormade for my collective professional history,” Schwebel said in a statement announcing his hiring last month. “I’ve enjoyed leading and building local and global iconic brands and their experiential platforms.
“The museum offers the pinnacle of Milwaukee as an iconic symbol, creative institution, tourist attraction, event and hospitality venue, and cultural leader. What an amazing opportunity to join the Museum and fill this role with creative energy and steward the brand’s forward experience.”
We caught up with Schwebel to ask him a few questions about his new role.
OnMilwaukee: What role does a Chief Experience Officer play in shaping an institution like the Milwaukee Art Museum?
Scott Schwebel: The CXO role is designed to thread together all aspects of the museum’s brand and experiential platforms. It will bring a customer-focused perspective to our engagement, activities and storytelling as an organization.
This is a new position at the museum, which is exciting! Can you describe what attracted you to the role?
This role brings all aspects of my professional experience into play and I get to apply these skills to an already-iconic institution. And, at its core, the epicenter of the institution is ART and the amazing environment with which to experience that journey. How amazing is that for an opportunity!
Surely as a Milwaukeean, you are already familiar with the Milwaukee Art Museum. What elements of the guest experience are you most excited to tackle?
I want to enhance the already great work that is happening through how we tell our stories, how we define our brand for the visitors, and how the museum is perceived culturally – across our community and across the scale of its participation as a representation of Milwaukee and for Milwaukee.
Can you share a story about how the Milwaukee Art Museum has shaped your understanding of creativity and art?
There are a handful of instances. The Milwaukee Art Museum was the first museum I ever experienced as a child – a second-grade field trip – and subsequently, it is still my most familiar museum relationship.
Also, it’s hard not to be impacted by the world-class architecture and its prominence in the daily rhythm of our city life. It has impacted me in a manner that reinforces that great things are possible. It feeds my love of art on a large scale. But more importantly, it represents the power of creativity and high achievement.
What current or upcoming exhibition(s) are you most excited about, and why?
I have a lot to learn in this area of our “biz," there is so much happening inside the walls (behind the art on display) of this amazing place. That said, "50 Paintings" is an upcoming exhibition I am excited about. It opens to the public on Friday, Nov. 17. We – Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Art Museum – will be at the center of the contemporary painting world with this exhibition. Once again, how cool is that?
OK, pop quiz: What was/is your favorite all-time Milwaukee Art Museum experience, and why?
The “Walk-In Infinity Chamber” by Stanley Landsman. I remember this as a child. It was my first augmented reality experience – but very analog by today’s definition of the term.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.