Best Of Milwaukee 2021 Winners: Arts & Entertainment

Culture & Leisure

Art gallery (non-museum)

Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel
139 E. Kilbourn Ave.

As of 2019, the Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel has offered music, theater and food, from steak to pizza. But the galleries, one run by MOWA and the other by the hotel, are worth a visit on their own. (Blaine Schultz)

Dream Lab
Var Gallery
The Warehouse

Art Museum

Milwaukee Art Museum 
700 N. Art Museum Drive

With an eclectic collection as its base, spanning the ancient to modern worlds, MAM continues to host increasingly ambitious programming with multimedia aspects and contemporary relevance to Milwaukee and the world at large. The dizzying peaks of the museum’s Santiago Calatrava addition have become the symbol of Milwaukee – and you can’t beat this heated underground parking lot on a cold day. The year opens with a timely exhibition of American photographer of Vietnamese descent An-My Lê. (David Luhrssen)

Grohmann Museum
Haggerty Museum of Art
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Arts and Crafts Fair / Creators Market

Milwaukee Makers Market

Milwaukee’s maker community is thriving and Ryan Laessig’s Milwaukee Makers Market is one reason. From crafts and works of art to local cuisine, the regular market experience goes far beyond your typical craft fair. The Milwaukee Makers Market uplifts local small businesses with their events. (Allen Halas)

Cream City Creatives
The MKE Youth Collective Fair
West Allis Farmers Market

Choral Group / Music Education

Kids From Wisconsin

The Kids of Wisconsin are an extremely talented group of singers, musicians and dancers. Treat yourself and attend one of their shows suitable for all ages. These 36 “kids” will blow you away with their energetic renditions of classic tunes, Broadway hits, pop and country songs. (Susan Harpt Grimes)

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Finalists: Choral Group
Bach Chamber Choir
Bel Canto Chorus
Master Singers of Milwaukee

Finalists: Music Education
Isharai Artist Management
Milwaukee Jazz Institute
Music Together North Shore

Church feast

St. Gregory the Great Festival
3160 S. 63rd St.

This four-day late-summer event features rides, children’s games, raffle, fish fries, a chicken dinner, an open-air Sunday mass and a host of popular local cover bands. (Morton Chlabotnik)

St Mark's Episcopal Church
St. Dominic Catholic Parish
St. John Vianney Catholic Parish
St. Robert's Parish
St. Roman Parish

Classical music ensemble

Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra (MSO)

Things might never look the same again for this flagship Milwaukee arts organization. The Bradley Symphony Center is the completely remodeled Warner Theater, a great artifact of the Art Deco period hidden for decades as a great urban mystery. The venue now transports the MSO concert experience to an era of cultural splendor. This is most suitable for an organization which by its nature taps into a cultural treasure of the past, the classical music repertoire, while striving to attract a distracted audience with a myriad of 21st century entertainment possibilities. . (Kevin Lynch)

Bach Chamber Choir
Frankly Music
Present Music


Charlie Berens

In December 2020, the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum unveiled a limited edition Charlie Berens figure, an honor recognizing the spirit behind “Manitowoc Minute” and other Wisconsin-themed comedy videos. (Morton Chlabotnik)

Dana Ehrmann
John McGivern
Myron Jewel
Ton Johnson
William Krolowitz

Dance company

Milwaukee Ballet

The Milwaukee Ballet is among the best in the country in terms of quality and creativity. Able to train and perform safely for a year, the dancers are at their peak. The current “Inspiration Season” continues with a new iteration of the career-enhancing choreographic competition, Genesis. TO PUSH (as in limits) follows with a world premiere by 2019 Genesis winner Aleix Mañé, another by the choreographer in demand Stephanie Martinez, and a cover of the unforgettable Alejandro Cerrudo Extremely close, performed by the company in 2012. The season will end with the long-awaited return of Michael Pink’s deeply felt ballet of stories, The beauty and the Beast. (Jean Schneider)

Catey Ott Dance Collective
Danceworks, Inc.
Signature Dance Company

Local radio personality

Tarik Moody (88Nine Radio Milwaukee)

As the Director of Digital Strategy and Innovation for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee as well as an on-air personality, “The Architect” Tarik Moody has his eyes on the future at all times. His show “Rhythm Lab Radio” has gone syndicated beyond Milwaukee as it aims to redefine urban sound. (Allen Halas)

Bob & Brian
Dori Zori
Gene Mueller
Mandy Scott

Local TV Personality / Stage Actor

John McGivern

Off the stage, John McGivern is as kind a man you’ll ever meet. On stage, in any of his hugely popular one-man shows, he’s just as sweet but funnier. His Milwaukee PBS series “Around the Corner” won Emmys as an actor / playwright chatting with residents of another Wisconsin town while historian John Gurda explores the town’s history. (Jean Schneider)

Finalists: Local TV Personality
Mark Baden
Steve Chamraz
Ted Perry
Toya Washington

Finalists: Stage Actor
Andrew Varela
Lee Ernst
Norman Moses

Milwaukee Author

John Gurda

What other author has done more to awaken Milwaukeeans to our city’s unique history? His book, The making of Milwaukee, was made into an Emmy-winning PBS special that aired coast to coast. He continues to produce well-illustrated and well-documented accounts, such as City built on water and Milwaukee: the city of neighborhoods. (David Luhrssen)

Britney Morgan
Mikey Cody Apollo
Steven Binko

Movie theater

Oriental Theatre
2230 N. Farwell Ave.

Among Milwaukee’s many unique attractions are the handful of still-operating theaters that date back to Hollywood’s heyday. The Oriental is a true cinema palace with its eclectic Middle East-Far East decor. The monument underwent a costly renovation before reopening last fall as a location for independent and foreign films. (David Luhrssen)

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Avalon Atmospheric Theater
Downer Theatre
Marcus Majestic Cinema

Museum (Non-Art)

Milwaukee Public Museum 
800 W. Wells St.

The collections of the Milwaukee Public Museum contain over four million specimens. Visit the turn-of-the-century streets of old Milwaukee, the European Village, and ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Or take a giant leap back more than 65 million years to the third planet and see one of the largest dinosaur skulls ever to be found. (Harry Cherkinien)

Discovery World
Harley-Davidson Museum
Jewish Museum Milwaukee

Outdoor party

200 N. Harbor Drive

Milwaukee’s premier outdoor music and venue festival puts “summer” as part of the festival. The internationally known and renowned music festival literally presents all types of music and entertainment possible under the sun, moon and stars. In fact, this is the best way to take advantage of it. (Harry Cherkinien)

Irish Fest
Wisconsin State Fair

Radio station

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Few local radio stations have been able to make the progress in Milwaukee that 88Nine Radio Milwaukee has. While the station offers an eclectic mix of trendy music from around the world on a daily basis, the community-driven organization has also sought to showcase the city’s diversity with on-air and online programming. (Allen Halas)

Jammin' 98.3
Milwaukee's NPR 89.7 WUWM-FM
WMSE 91.7 FM

Theater actress

Laura Gordon

Decades of perfect acting in town, especially at the Rep, endeared Laura Gordon to audiences and her fellow theater performers. She is also celebrated these days for her perfect staging, here and across the country. That she’s honored as the best actress this year may well come from her. tour de force, performance before the January 2020 lockdown as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days at the Renaissance Theater. “With virtually uninterrupted monologues, Gordon gives a career-defining performance,” wrote the Shepherds Russ Bickerstaff. “His Winnie is so real, so three-dimensional that we forget his physical entrapment in the mound of dirt.” (Jean Schneider)

Gabriella Ashlin
Marcee Doherty-Elst
Marti Gobel
Laura Gray
Carrie Hitchcock
Sandra Hollander
Mary MacDonald Kerr
Isabelle Kralj
Rana Roman
Amber Smith
Samantha Sostarich
Jennifer Vosters
Tami Workentin
Anna Marie Zorn

Theater Company

Milwaukee Repertory Theater

The Rep is recognized as a premier regional theater in the United States. His ten-year commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion on and off stage sets a very high standard. So does its commitment to new game development, which has expanded during the pandemic. This season’s big productions are ahead: an adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As you like it with 20 Beatles songs; a new dramatization of Agatha Christie’s thriller, Murder on the Orient Express; the giant Titanic the Musical; two world premieres commissioned by Dael Orlandersmith; musical tributes to Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, and the genre-defying virtuosity of Piano Men. (Jean Schneider)

Next Act Theatre
Renaissance Theaterworks
Skylight Music Theatre

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