Five museums in Milwaukee have joined forces to draw visitors to a two-mile stretch of cityscape featuring diverse subject matter. It’s called Plein Air MKE, and it’s scheduled for May 7-14.
The participating museums are along a mile-long stretch of Milwaukee’s lakefront and consist of the Charles Allis Art Museum, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, North Point Lighthouse, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum, and Saint John’s on the Lake, a retirement home with an outpost of the Museum of Wisconsin Art in West Bend. Painters in the event will be asked to paint in that area, which contains bucolic scenes, dramatic vistas incorporating Lake Michigan, historic buildings, an Olmsted park system, and other landmarks — plus the bustle of city life. Best of Show earns an artist $2,000, and more than $2,000 in other awards will be given. Pamela Ruschman will serve as a judge. There’s a Quick Draw planned on Milwaukee’s famous Brady Street. A portion of sales will go to the five museums hosting the event.
John Sterr, executive director of the Charles Allis & Villa Terrace Art Museums, says it only makes sense for the five institutions to band together for initiatives in the current climate surrounding arts and cultural organizations. “These are challenging times for small and medium-sized arts organizations,” says Sterr. “The more we can work together to bring people to the Miracle Mile of museums, the better. Each museum stands on its own, for sure, but the effort of the smaller organizations on the historic East Side of Milwaukee to pool our resources and brand a part of the city is unique.”
Sterr says that the group hopes to make Plein Air MKE an annual event, but first they must get one edition under their belt. “We will learn a lot our first time out,” he says. “Taking on anything of this magnitude, you learn a lot in the trenches. Certainly, one of the things that we want is to build up our sponsor base for the event. We’re starting to do that.”
The event is limited to 75 artists. For more information, view the prospectus here.


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