Michael Holloway

Milwaukee Arts and Culture Going Virtual

Google has added a number of Milwaukee institutions to its Arts & Culture page.

By - Aug 20th, 2020 03:18 pm
Giannis Antetokounmpo mural by Fred Kaems located at 3600 S. Clement Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Giannis Antetokounmpo mural by Fred Kaems located at 3600 S. Clement Ave. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

In 2018, Vogue published an article titled “Why Milwaukee Is the Midwest’s Coolest (and Most Underrated) City.” It ended up being one of the publication’s most popular travel stories of 2018 — further driving home the article’s point that Milwaukee is no longer the Midwest’s best kept secret. And now, with a new app developed by Google, people from all over the world can come experience what all of that hype is about from the comfort of their homes.

Google announced in July that it had partnered with 16 Milwaukee institutions in order to highlight the city’s culture, people and stories on its Google Arts & Culture platform and app. These partners include the Milwaukee Art Museum, Radio Milwaukee, Visit Milwaukee, the Grohmann Museum at MSOE, the Harley-Davidson Museum, Imagine MKE, Sculpture Milwaukee, the Haggerty Museum of Art at Marquette University, Milwaukee County Parks, Milwaukee Repertory Theater, Milwaukee Public Museum, Charles Allis Art Museum, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra, First Stage, the Chudnow Museum of Yesteryear and the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.

Google’s Arts & Culture platform started offering inside looks at various cultures and histories in 2011. Since then, over 2,000 cultural institutions from 80 countries have become just a click away. Milwaukee marks the first city in the Great Lakes region and the second in the United States — the first being Kansas City — to be featured on this platform.

“We looked at the cities that were less known on the global scale,” said Google Arts & Culture US Lead Simon Delacroix. “Everybody’s heard of L.A. or New York, so we wanted to move away from these cities.”

Food, art and music are at the forefront of Milwaukee’s Google Arts & Culture page, which welcomes visitors with the tagline “From custard to contemporary art, murals to Lake Michigan.” The home page acts like a hub for all of the Milwaukee partners, from which visitors can participate in a variety of virtual activities that range from 360 degree virtual trips to places like the Milwaukee Public Museum to an interactive search for Milwaukee’s first hip-hop song via a digital exhibit presented by Radio Milwaukee. Time travel is also an option — visitors can virtually explore past exhibits, such as the 2018 and 2019 Sculpture Milwaukee exhibits.

“Milwaukee has a strong fine arts presence, and you can really feel that all of these different institutions contribute to Milwaukee’s DNA,” says Delacroix. “That’s what we really appreciated by visiting Milwaukee and working on this project: seeing how the network was making a lot of sense when you look at the [Google Arts & Culture] page and see all of these different stories coming together to tell a broader narrative.”

The project isn’t limited to just the 16 initial partners. Organizations that are interested in becoming a part of the virtual Milwaukee experience can inquire on the Google Arts & Culture website. From there, each partner is responsible for updating their respective pages with new digital collections and experiences, but assistance from the Arts & Culture team is available and free.

Google Arts & Culture is a non-profit initiative, and the app is downloadable for free on iOS and Android, or can be accessed by visiting this page. It’s easy to navigate, and couldn’t have come at a more appropriate time, considering many museums and other Milwaukee landmarks remain shutdown or partially open during the pandemic.

“Sometimes you forget your own backyard, so it’s a good way to remember that it’s there and when things start to reopen, to pay attention to these institutions and visit them and support them,” says Delacroix.

And with the DNC pivoting to an almost entirely virtual experience and Stephen Colbert virtually (and satirically) visiting Milwaukee on the “Late Show,” the project is an accessible way for many to satisfy the curiosity that they may have about the “Midwest’s coolest city.”

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