2021 Best Of Milwaukee Winners: Arts & Entertainment

Culture & Leisure

Art gallery (not museum)

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

Since 2019, Saint Kate-The Arts Hotel offers 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 world through the modern, MAM continues to host increasingly ambitious programming with multimedia aspects and contemporary relevance to Milwaukee and around the world. The rising spikes of Santiago Calatrava’s addition to the museum have become the symbol of Milwaukee – and you can’t beat this cold weather heated underground parking lot. The year opens with a timely exhibition by Vietnamese American photographer An-My Lê. (David Luhrssen)

Grohmann Museum
Haggerty Museum of Art
Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Arts and Crafts Fair / Maker’s Market

Milwaukee Makers Market

Milwaukee’s maker community is thriving, and Ryan Laessig’s Milwaukee Makers Market is one of the reasons. From handicrafts to artwork to local cuisine, experiencing regular markets goes way beyond your typical craft fair. Milwaukee Makers Market elevates local small businesses with their events. (Allen Halla)

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

Choral Ensemble / Music Education

Kids From Wisconsin

The Wisconsin Kids are an extremely talented group of singers, musicians and dancers. Do yourself a favor and watch one of their shows suitable for all ages. These 36 “kids” will wow you 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 includes rides, children’s games, a raffle, fish fries, chicken dinner, outdoor 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 may never be the same for this flagship Milwaukee arts organization. The Bradley Symphony Center is the completely renovated Warner Theatre, a grand artifact of the Art Deco period hidden away for decades as a great urban mystery. The venue now transports the MSO concert experience to an era of cultural splendour. This is a perfect fit for an organization that by its very nature harnesses a cultural treasure from the past, the classical music repertoire, while striving to appeal to 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 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 one of the best in the country in terms of quality and creativity. Able to train and perform safely for a year, the dancers are in top form. The current “Season of Inspiration” continues with a new iteration of the Choreographic Career Enhancement Competition, Genesis. TO PUSH (as in limits) follows with a world premiere by 2019 Genesis winner Aleix Mañé, another by the in-demand choreographer Stephanie Martinez, and a revival of the unforgettable by Alejandro Cerrudo extremely closeperformed by the company in 2012. The season will close with the long-awaited return of Michael Pink’s ballet of deeply felt stories, The 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 always has his sights set on the future. His “Rhythm Lab Radio” show reaches beyond Milwaukee as he aims to redefine urban sound. (Allen Halla)

Bob & Brian
Dori Zori
Gene Mueller
Mandy Scott

Local TV Personality / Theater Actor

John McGivern

Offstage, John McGivern is as nice a man as you will ever meet. On stage, in any of his hugely popular one-man shows, he’s just as nice but funnier. His Milwaukee PBS series “Around the Corner” won Emmys as the actor/playwright chats with residents of another 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

Author from Milwaukee

John Gurda

What other author has done more to awaken Milwaukeeans to our city’s unique history? His book, The Creation of Milwaukee, was made into an Emmy-winning PBS special that aired coast to coast. He continues to produce richly illustrated and solidly documented stories, 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 movie theaters that date back to Hollywood’s Golden Age. The Oriental is a veritable palace of cinema with its eclectic Near-East-Far East decor. The monument underwent an expensive renovation before reopening last fall as a filming location for independent and foreign films. (David Luhrssen)

Friends of the Shepherd

Help support Milwaukee’s Free Local Weekly.


Avalon Atmospheric Theater
Downer Theatre
Marcus Majestic Cinema

Museum (non-artistic)

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, European Village, and ancient Mediterranean civilizations. Or take a giant step back over 65 million years to the third planet and discover one of the largest dinosaur skulls ever discovered. (Harry Cherkinyan)

Discovery World
Harley-Davidson Museum
Jewish Museum Milwaukee

outdoor party

200 N. Harbor Drive

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

Irish Fest
Wisconsin State Fair

Radio station

88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Few local radio stations have managed to make as much headway in Milwaukee as 88Nine Radio Milwaukee. While the station features an eclectic mix of trending music from around the world daily, the community-focused organization has also sought to showcase the city’s diversity with on-air and online programming. (Allen Halla)

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

theater actress

Laura Gordon

Decades of perfect acting around town, especially at the Rep, endeared Laura Gordon to audiences and fellow theater artists. She is also celebrated these days for her flawless directing here and across the country. That she is honored as best actress this year could well come from her tour de forceperformance before January 2020 lockdown as Winnie in Samuel Beckett’s play Happy Days at the Renaissance Theatre. “With virtually uninterrupted monologues, Gordon delivers a career-defining performance,” wrote the Shepherds Russ Bickerstaff. “His Winnie is so real, so three-dimensional that we forget about his physical entrapment in the dirt mound.” (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 one of the leading regional theaters in the United States. Her decade-long commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion on and off stage sets a very high standard. So does his commitment to developing new plays, which has grown during the pandemic. This season’s big productions are ahead: an adaptation of Shakespeare’s romantic comedy As you like it featuring 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 homages 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


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