Best Of Milwaukee 2021 Winners: Arts & Entertainment

Arts & Entertainment

Art Gallery (Non-Museum)

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

Since 2019, Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel, has offered music, theater and food from steak to pizza. But the galleries, one of them run by MOWA and the other by the hotel, are alone worth a visit. (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 world through the moderns, MAM continues to host increasingly ambitious programming with multi-media aspects and contemporary relevance for Milwaukee and the wider world. The soaring spikes of the museum’s Santiago Calatrava addition have become Milwaukee’s symbol—and you can’t beat that heated underground parking garage on cold days. The year opens with a timely exhibit by Vietnamese American photographer An-My Lê. (David Luhrssen)

Grohmann Museum
Haggerty Museum of Art
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Art & Craft Fair / Maker’s Market

Milwaukee Makers Market

The maker community in Milwaukee is thriving, and Ryan Laessig’s Milwaukee Makers Market is one of the reasons why. From crafts to artwork as well as local food, the experience of the regular markets goes far beyond your typical craft fair. Milwaukee Makers Market uplifts local small business 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 from Wisconsin are an extremely talented group of singers, musicians, and dancers. Do yourself a favor and check out one of their suitable-for-all-ages shows. These 36 “kids” will blow your socks off with their high-energy 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 Festival

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

This four-day late-summer event includes rides, children’s games, a raffle, fish fry, chicken dinner, an outdoor mass on Sunday and a raft of popular local cover bands. (Morton Shlabotnik)

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 may never look the same again for this flagship Milwaukee arts organization. The Bradley Symphony Center is the fully re-furnished Warner Theater, a grand artifact of the Art Deco period hidden away for decades like a great urban mystery. The venue now transports the MSO concert experience into an era of cultural splendor. This wholly befits an organization that, by its nature, mines a cultural treasure trove of the past, the classical music repertoire, while striving to attract an audience distracted by 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 bobblehead, an honor recognizing the mind behind “Manitowoc Minute” and other Wisconsin-themed comedy videos. (Morton Shlabotnik)

Dana Ehrmann
John McGivern
Myron Jewel
Ton Johnson
William Krolowitz

Dance Company

Milwaukee Ballet

Milwaukee Ballet stands with the best in the country in quality and creativity. Able to safely train and perform for the past year, the dancers are in top form. The current “Season of Inspiration” continues with a new iteration of the career-enhancing choreographic competition, Genesis. PUSH (as in boundaries) follows with a world premiere by 2019 Genesis winner Aleix Mañé, another by in-demand choreographer Stephanie Martinez, and a revival of Alejandro Cerrudo’s unforgettable Extremely Close, performed by the company in 2012. The season will close with the long-awaited return of Michael Pink’s deeply felt story ballet, Beauty and the Beast. (John 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 “Rhythm Lab Radio” show has become syndicated beyond Milwaukee, as he aims to redefine the urban sound. (Allen Halas)

Bob & Brian
Dori Zori
Gene Mueller
Mandy Scott

Local TV Personality / Stage Actor

John McGivern

Offstage, John McGivern is as nice a man as you will ever meet. Onstage, in any of his enormously popular one-man shows, he’s just as nice but funnier. His Milwaukee PBS series “Around the Corner” has earned Emmys as the actor/playwright chats with residents of a different Wisconsin town while historian John Gurda explores the town’s history. (John 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 the unique history of our city? His book, The Making of Milwaukee, was transformed into an Emmy Award-winning PBS special that aired coast to coast. He continues to produce lavishly illustrated and solidly researched accounts, such as City Built on Water and Milwaukee: City of Neighborhoods. (David Luhrssen)

Britney Morgan
Mikey Cody Apollo
Steven Binko

Movie Theater

Oriental Theatre
2230 N. Farwell Ave.

Among many of Milwaukee’s unique attractions is the handful of still-operating cinemas that date from Hollywood’s golden age. The Oriental is truly a movie palace with its eclectic Near East-Far East décor. The landmark underwent an expensive renovation before reopening last fall as a venue for indie and foreign films. (David Luhrssen)

Friends of the Shepherd

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Avalon Atmospheric Theater
Downer Theatre
Marcus Majestic Cinema

Museum (Non-Art)

Milwaukee Public Museum 
800 W. Wells St.

Milwaukee Public Museum collections contain more than four million specimens. Visit the turn-of-the-century Streets of Old Milwaukee, 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 found. (Harry Cherkinian)

Discovery World
Harley-Davidson Museum
Jewish Museum Milwaukee

Outdoor Festival

200 N. Harbor Drive

Milwaukee’s premier music festival and outdoor venue puts the “summer” in the festival setting. The internationally known—and renowned—music fest literally features every type of music and entertainment possible under the sun, the moon and the stars. In fact, that’s the best way to enjoy it. (Harry Cherkinian)

Irish Fest
Wisconsin State Fair

Radio Station

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

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

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

Stage Actress

Laura Gordon

Decades of perfect acting in town, in particular at the Rep, have endeared Laura Gordon to audiences and to her fellow theatre artists. She’s equally celebrated these days for her perfect directing, here and around the country. That she’s honored as best actress this year might just stem from her tour de force, pre-lockdown January 2020 performance as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days at Renaissance Theaterworks. “With virtually non-stop monologues, Gordon gives a career defining performance,” wrote the Shepherd’s Russ Bickerstaff.  “Her Winnie is so real, so three-dimensional we forget her physical entrapment in the mound of earth.”  (John 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 leading regional theater in the U.S. Its decade-long commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion onstage and off sets a very high standard. So does its commitment to new play development, which expanded during the pandemic. This season’s big productions are ahead: an adaptation of Shakespeare’s rom-com As You Like It featuring 20 Beatles’ songs; a new dramatization of Agatha Christie’s whodunit, Murder on the Orient Express; the giant Titanic The Musical; two commissioned world premieres by Dael Orlandersmith; musical tributes to Frank Sinatra and Judy Garland, and the genre-defying virtuosity of the Piano Men. (John Schneider)

Next Act Theatre
Renaissance Theaterworks
Skylight Music Theatre