Tom Strini
Where We Are Now

TCD and the arts

By - May 6th, 2010 04:00 am
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No other media outlet in Milwaukee can match ThirdCoast Digest in arts coverage.

We have transformed the discussion from essentially a monologue coming from the Journal Sentinel to a conversation. If you care about the arts, you have to care about what we say at TCD. The arts have more of a presence in Milwaukee because we exist and we take them seriously.

I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished, and readers and advertisers are responding. We have more than tripled our audience, to about 40,000 unique visitors per month, since August, when I left the newspaper to join Jon Anne Willow and Mehrdad Dalamie in this brave little enterprise.

It helps to be doing this at a time when the arts are vibrant in Milwaukee.

The Skylight Opera Theatre shook off a nasty personnel and fiscal crisis to stage an amazing season. The Florentine Opera has transformed itself from routine to unpredictable and often thrilling. The Milwaukee Symphony, in the 27 seasons I’ve been listening, has never played better than it has under Edo de Waart this year. Present Music is a local and international beacon of progressive musical thinking. Can another women’s choir in the country match the Milwaukee Choral Artists?

Artistic director Joe Hanreddy left the Milwaukee Rep with a Seven Keys bang, and successor Mark Clements looks very intriguing. A raft of young, hungry theater people are doing great things. The Milwaukee Ballet appears to have stabilized and found a viable business model — tickets for the upcoming Peter Pan are flying out the door — and the company as a whole is more capable and flexible than ever.

Milwaukee’s modern dancers inspire with their creativity, resourcefulness and skill. Danceworks is a beehive of invention. Debra Loewen and Wild Space are on a creative roll. UWM’s dance department continues to crank out bright, daring dancer-choreographers and bring world-class mentors to town. (Garth Fagan! Next year Mark Morris, maybe the most important choreographer in the world!) Let’s not forget multiple film festivals and the thriving chamber music scene. The landmark Milwaukee Art Museum and a complex of galleries, museums and artists can put thousands of people on the street for Gallery Night.

Milwaukee is no sleepy backwater in Chicago’s shadow. The city boils with creativity that amounts to something, because we have the work ethic to go with it.

Right now, dozens of creative people are wondering why they didn’t get a mention in this column. It’s for the best of reasons: You are too numerous to list. (Really. Just look at this list.)

TCD and UPAF are throwing a spring party to celebrate all of this. Do come to our Arts Fever event May 13. For a mere $10 in advance ($12 at the door), you can meet many of our artists up close. Frank Almond, MSO concertmaster, will play the glorious Lipinski Stradivarius. Milwaukee Public Theater, Danceworks, the Florentine, Skylight, MYSO and Next Act will perform. The Peck School of the Arts will curate a group painting that you can help to create. Over 20 other groups will exhibit.  I’ll be the night’s emcee. We’ll serve food. It all happens, thanks to Marcus Hotels, in the beautiful Crystal Ballroom of the downtown Hilton. And all proceeds benefit UPAF, to further TCD’s mission to keep the arts alive and thriving in SE Wisconsin.

Milwaukee Public Television will be there, too, in large part to spread the word about its new Arts Digest show. Jon Anne Willow, my partner at ThirdCoast, and I will host this arts magazine program. The first show is done and set to premiere at 8 p.m. May 17, with repeats throughout the month of May (check MPTV’s schedule for more air times).

The second show, to air in June, is in progress. If you attend Arts Fever,  you’ll get a little preview. Arts Digest will be like nothing you’ve ever seen on TV here, commercial or public. We hope to find funding for a whole year of Arts Digest.

I hope we do, because I know that in Milwaukee we’ll never run out of great arts stories. We’re here to tell those stories, in person, on television and online at ThirdCoast Digest.

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