By DeMar Walker Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service Published Nov 11, 2023 at 10:01 AM

Mitchell Street Arts is bringing new energy to the arts and culture scene on Milwaukee’s South Side.

“It falls at the intersection of arts education and community organizing,” executive director Rew Gordon said.

The organization’s goal is to serve as a hub where artists and residents can come together to create a vibrant space that provides a range of community programming.

From conversations to a grand opening

The idea for a South Side arts and culture collaborative originated from a series of conversations between residents, artists and community leaders in 2021. From those conversations, Mitchell Street Arts was born. 

“It was the product of two years of intense work, a lot of people contributing their thoughts and hands to it,” Gordon said.

The organization held its grand opening on Aug. 18, which marked the culmination of two years of hard work by volunteers who helped with everything from painting to electrical work.

Mitchell Street Arts is located on the first floor of the Kunzelmann-Esser building, a former furniture store.

The location, at 710 W. Mitchell St., serves as a multipurpose space and includes an exhibition gallery, public arts stage and co-working space.

A hub for artists and community

Gordon wants Mitchell Street to become an important arts and culture hub while also boosting the South Side economy.

“It’s about getting them (artists and creatives) in the door. It’s about opening the space to them, so they feel welcome to provide services or their offerings to the community,” said creative events director Nicole Acosta.

To assist with events, Mitchell Street Arts also offers sliding-scale rates to those who are interested in hosting events at their location

An initiative of Mitchell Street Arts is the TWIG artistic residency program. Now in its first year of operation, TWIG provides local artists with their own studio space to delve into their practices. The program also supports networking opportunities, as well as a gallery show for resident artists.

TWIG serves as an extension of the upcoming NEST residency program, which will provide national and international artists with an opportunity to live and work in Milwaukee.

“For local Milwaukee artists, we really want our residents to feel like Mitchell Street Arts is a part of their home in the larger city,” Gordon said.

The NEST program, which is scheduled to launch at a later date, will provide furnished apartments where international artists can live, create and engage with the city in various ways.

Nohemí Chávez, a local Mexican American designer, is one of TWIG’s resident artists. Chavez and her creative partner and photographer, Jovanny Hernandez Caballero, are the multimedia duo SOMOS, a Spanish word that means “to exist.”

Their practice documents their cultural influences in different locations throughout Milwaukee. Chávez designs, builds and models the pieces, while Caballero photographs the images. 

“I wanna showcase the area in a much more beautiful way,” Chavez said.

She believes Mitchell Street Arts is a space where she is cultivating a movement in which Black and Brown people can be at the forefront of fashion and photography.

It is her hope that their work will be an example of the amazing potential Milwaukee has to offer young creatives.

Gordon shares this vision.

“Mitchell Street will be a flower you’ve never seen before,” Gordon said.

For more information

Learn more about Mitchell Street Arts by checking out its website.