ART: Fringe Festival in Focus – Milwaukee Opens Up to Avant Garde
It doesn’t take long for a successful, eccentric art festival to get washed out by big money and corporate entertainment. Consider something like the Sundance Festival in Utah. Originally conceived as an independent art and film festival, it’s become entirely Hollywood now — flooded with the kind of very safe and traditional celebrity-driven art it was conceived to avoid.
Fortunately, no matter where it incarnates around the world, the Fringe Festival tradition remains fiercely independent. From its original roots in Edinburgh and across the world to more than 80 annual host cities, everything Fringe focuses on the most creative, unusual, experimental and groundbreaking work a given community of artists can forge.
One of the younger Fringe Fests will roll out its fourth annual edition August 24–25 in Wisconsin. The Milwaukee Fringe Festival showcases a diverse collection of local, regional and national artists to cook up a multi-disciplinary arts festival providing a platform for creators near and far to perform.
According to the Milwaukee Fringe’s own description: “The Milwaukee Fringe Festival is co-founded and ran by a team of enthusiastic Milwaukee artists and business professionals who believe in the transformative power of the arts. The event aims to invigorate Milwaukee’s culture, inspire artists, attract artists from outside of Milwaukee to our city, and create a sense of community for artists of all disciplines.”
According to MKE Fringe representative Karen Raymond, the festival’s entire team works toward only goal — curating a joyous celebration of art and artists.
“Founders of the Milwaukee Fringe Festival were brought together by director John Schneider,” Raymond says. “Many of the challenges in forming the first ever Milwaukee Fringe Festival were in organizing the team and finding local partners and sponsors to make it happen.”
“As we continue producing this event, we are ever grateful for the support of the local and regional individuals, artists and businesses that allow us to keep the festival going and growing. All members of the Milwaukee Fringe Team are volunteers and we run under the umbrella of the Nice Plays, Inc. non-profit.”
While major international culture centers like Edinburgh, London, Paris, New York or San Francisco are immediately identifiable with fine art and culture, smaller cities the like of Milwaukee and the talent within its borders are often overlooked. An event like the Fringe Festival allows those artists a chance to emerge.
“Artistic talents and endeavors are recognized in Milwaukee,” Raymond insists. “The Fringe aims to provide a platform to those talented individuals and companies who are looking for opportunities to share their work while also expanding the number of people in the community whom engage with the arts.”
Many Milwaukee Fringe Festival artists reveal their work to the general public for the first time at such events. The Ox (a Milwaukee painter and sculptor using a new pen name to distinguish his art from other professional work) will publicly show his pieces for the first time during the festival.
“I’m largely self-taught and make my art outside the professional and social circuits you’ll find in New York or Miami,” The Ox says. “Fringe Fest gives me an incredible opportunity to show my work to countless people.”
“More importantly, (Fringe) offers a chance to interact with the public — to talk with people who care about art and are legitimately interested in looking at what I do. I’m always grateful to the Milwaukee Fringe Festival for that.”