Express Yourself Milwaukee
Press Release

Express Yourself Milwaukee Announces Daylong Farewell Celebration this Friday, December 13, 2019!

Farewell Celebration includes Six Pop-Up performances around Milwaukee and a Finale Show and Celebration at EXYOMKE Studio from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.

By - Dec 10th, 2019 01:03 pm

Milwaukee, WI – December 10, 2019  Express Yourself Milwaukee (EXYOMKE), a Milwaukee non-profit that has served low-income and at-risk youth in Milwaukee’s central city since 2003, is announcing a daylong Farewell Celebration to be held this Friday, December 13, 2019. The Farewell Celebration will be held throughout Milwaukee (see schedule below) and will conclude with a Finale Show and Celebration from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the EXYOMKE studio at 1300 W. Fond du Lac Avenue, third floor.

The Express Yourself Milwaukee Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cease their operations at the end of 2019 due to a lack of ongoing infrastructure to support the organization. Even with that decision, EXYOMKE wanted to have a day to celebrate all of their accomplishments working with Milwaukee youth through the expressive arts for the past 19 years, as well as show their gratitude to everyone who has contributed time, energy, ideas and financial support to their non-profit organization.

Executive Director Lori Vance reflected on the announcement: “I am forever grateful for the past 20 years of therapeutic work in our community through Express Yourself Milwaukee and the power of art to transform lives. I am also grateful for the many talented youth, artists, administrative staff and board members who have continually inspired hope and trust in the roll-up-your-sleeves and make-something-positive-happen brand that Express Yourself has become known for. When we collaborate together, we can make things happen! As EXYOMKE closes its doors, there are still many positive seeds of change and possibility that I see in our community that are supporting our youth to have a healthy childhood.”

Lori continued, “I am honored to have been a part of an organization that has created a climate that understands the depths of trauma in families and has responded with the importance of connection and safety, as well as provided a space to create and experience the healing power of the arts! I look forward to seeing those seeds of life grow in new ways as our community continues to expand our commitment to racial equity and inclusion, trauma-informed care and healing-centered engagement.”

In its 19 years of serving the Milwaukee community, some of Express Yourself Milwaukee’s biggest accomplishments have included:

19 years of collaborating with youth across the city, creating art that challenged young people to know themselves and their community through visual art, music, dance, poetry and theater.

19 annual performances in theaters across the city: Centennial Hall, Marquette’s Helfaer Theater, Scottish Rites Theater, Alverno Pitman Theater and Miller High Life Theatre.

In-depth commitment to changing the juvenile justice system, weekly groups in Detention, Milwaukee County Accountability Program, Shelter Care programs and Annual Therapeutic Art Camps at to Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake. Express Yourself Milwaukee has been a leader in the integration of trauma-informed care in all of its work since it began in 2003.

Studio Transformation of third floor of Running Rebels Building on 13th and Fond du Lac Avenue to a vibrant creative space for youth making it spacious, welcoming and light-filled with two-thirds of the building renovations in in-kind donations.

Bringing their work into the community including: Remembrance Tree: three renditions honoring the lives of youth lost to gun violence in Milwaukee in 2005; Award-winning pop-up galleries across the city (2013); Express Yourself Day Milwaukee: May 12, 2016; Being Seen Series of eight murals unveiled throughout Milwaukee, exploring various topics of inspiration, possibility, enlightenment and vulnerability (2016 – 18) and 1000 Bee Installation at Vel Phillips drawing awareness to mass incarceration and racial inequity 2018.

Ongoing collaborations with local, national and international Guest Artists including such performers as: Speech Thomas (Arrested Development); Cammie Griffin (STOMP); Justin Myles (STOMP/Tap Dogs); Desmond Mason (Former Bucks’ Player and visual artist); Amlak Tafari (Steel Pulse) and Jimmy Santiago Baca (Poet).

Express Yourself Milwaukee will be leaping to several locations throughout the city bringing art, music and joy in celebration of its 19 years as an organization serving the at-risk youth of Milwaukee. The daylong celebration will end with a special closing performance at the EXYOMKE Studio from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m.


Friday, December 13

9:00 a.m. – Vel Phillips Juvenile Justice Center

10201 W. Watertown Plank Road

10:00 a.m. – Milwaukee Public Market

400 N. Water Street

11:00 a.m. – North Division High School

1011 W. Center Street

12:00 p.m. – Fiserv Forum

1111 Vel R. Phillips Avenue

1:15 p.m. – MIAD/Catalano Square

near intersection of Menomonee and Milwaukee Street in the Third Ward

3:30 p.m. – Bethune Academy

1535 N. 35th Street

Finale Show and Celebration

5:30 – 7:30 p.m. at the EXYOMKE Studio

1300 W. Fond du Lac Avenue, Third Floor

Note: Performance times throughout the day are approximate! Follow EXYOMKE live on Facebook @ExpressYourselfMilwaukee to track their travel between locations. For more information on any of the above pop-up performances or the Final Show and Celebration, please call: 414-272-3498.


Founded in 2003, Express Yourself Milwaukee immerses at-risk young people in the arts, where they find powerful tools for self-expression, uncover inner strength and deepen connection with others. The young people they serve are ages 7 to 21, and more than half are or have been in Milwaukee County’s delinquency and court systems. 95 percent of their participants are low-income. To learn more, please visit

Express Yourself Milwaukee would like to thank: The Youth who have engaged with their process, opened their hearts, shared their ideas and taken the risk to be seen and heard through their art! Singing, dancing, reading, laughing, playing, making music, telling the truth about what they know and what they want. The Staff: Being on stage, or making things with youth is the outward expression of the many dedicated hours of behind-the-scenes work that goes into running an organization. Express Yourself Milwaukee has done this with minimal financial support for the underpinnings that make this work possible. The Artists: With the pool of Milwaukee creative talent, EXYOMKE has had the opportunity to work with the best. Besides their incredible commitment to artistic excellence and collaboration, they have also been talented in engaging youth with sensitivity and openness to sharing their talent and their humanness. The Guest Artists: Who repeatedly adapted to the EXYOMKE unique way of working, who brought their vision of talent, tenacity and shared their gifts with expansion of what might be possible as well as a trust in the power of the work of Express Yourself. The Board and Volunteers: Express Yourself Milwaukee became a non-profit as a vehicle to provide the quality of programming the model offered. In their 19-year journey, the Board has been served by many of Milwaukee’s distinguished, ethical, moral and thought leaders who figured out along the way how to navigate the challenges of fundraising, governance and guiding a small organization in a rocky climate of support for the work of attending with care the marginalized youth in the Milwaukee community. Third Sector Creative: A special thank you for their donation of numerous hours in the EXYOMKE branding process, marketing and communication strategies. Murn and Associates: For non-profit guidance. Express Yourself Inc.: The parent organization in Boston who has shared their model and for trusting the experiment of application of the model to youth in the juvenile justice system. For the ongoing guidance, support, staff development, vision and leadership offered through their organizational collaboration with EXYOMKE. Community Partners: The numerous organizations that trusted the EXYOMKE model as a bridge between their youth and the arts offerings of its teams, the organizations who joined EXYOMKE in collaborative efforts, the organizations who contributed through support and services. Running Rebels Community Organization, Milwaukee County (Division of Youth and Family Services and Wraparound Milwaukee), Milwaukee Public Schools, SaintA, Artworks for Milwaukee, State of WI Department of Juvenile Corrections, Boys and Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, Children’s’ Outing Association, Wisconsin Community Services, Mount Mary University, Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. The Funders: For the encouragement to articulate the work of EXYOMKE, how to do it and to discover their organizational impact. Bader Philanthropies, Forest County Potawatomi Foundation, Grainger Foundation, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Milwaukee Arts Board, MP Systems, MPS Partnership for the Arts and Humanities, Racine Dominican, Wisconsin Arts Board, National Endowment for the Arts, IMPACT 100, The Milwaukee Bucks Foundation, Brewers Community Foundation and Harley-Davidson Foundation. EXYOMKE Sponsors and Donors and Elected OfficialsMilwaukee Community at Large for showing up for the Express Yourself Milwaukee performances, supporting the work on stage and recognizing the impact of the individual on the greater circle.

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