Open View started emailing subscribers in the fall of 2015 with a concise but diverse list of recommended screenings, exhibitions, lectures, and other conceptual cultural events happing each month in Milwaukee. The lists are accompanied by a new interview conducted with select Milwaukee cultural supporters and authors. For insiders and outsiders alike, Open View makes it easier to connect with events and people celebrating this city’s conceptual art activity, and fosters perspective in relation to larger dialogs about conceptual art and design.
Milwaukee Record recently met up with the trio of twenty-somethings behind the project—Ashley Janke, Paul Oemig, and Nate Pyper—for a beer at Falcon Bowl in Riverwest. All three are artists with art- and design-related day jobs, and are highly active in the scene, hosting and visiting a wide range of events around town. They’re laid back, stylish, and smiley, and use terms like “in-kind” and “permission-marketing,” and talk about consensus and bridging generations in relation to their project. We talked to them about their motivation, what they value in Milwaukee, and why they decide to spend time and energy publicizing those things.
Milwaukee Record: Why did you start Open View, and what drives the structure of your “abbreviated arts guide”?
Open View: While it’s been exciting to watch Milwaukee’s art scene grow in the past few years, it was frustrating to regularly hear from people in the community who had missed great shows because they didn’t hear about them. Organizers tend to promote events through Facebook, but if you aren’t connected to the right people, it’s very difficult to stay informed about all the events happening across town. At the same time, there wasn’t an attractive, concise, and central resource designed to guide people through the breadth of cultural events, from underground to institutional shows.
We started Open View to create access to that scene and expose new points of view. As much as it was a guide we wanted to build and share, it was a guide we wanted to use ourselves, too. We send out a monthly newsletter that has an overview of upcoming events, including a featured event we’re excited about, as well as interviews and other original content. In time, we also hope that it will act as an archive of Milwaukee’s creative culture.
MR: You’ve each supported art in Milwaukee through hosting design lectures, and organizing art shows and public talks, but you’re also artists yourselves. Who’s all behind the View?
OV: We’re all from the Milwaukee area. Ashley has been running various curatorial projects since 2010 including nAbr gallery, Imagination Giants, six seasons of 00000 GHOOST $HOW and now BORDERLINE. Paul works as a commercial photographer and hosts and co-organizes the Milwaukee chapter of CreativeMornings, a monthly breakfast lecture series for the creative community. Nate works as a graphic designer at the Milwaukee Art Museum and also organizes a daylong residency and dialogue series called Designers Talking, now going into its fourth season of visits.
MR: You’re young, only four months in. How are you supported and do you have a plan to sustain your services?
OV: Open View is a grassroots operation, driven by a void we felt in the community. We are currently self-funded but are working to partner with like-minded businesses, organizations, and individuals to help cover operational costs and support new initiatives.
MR: It’s hard to keep up with all the arts events in town and to know which ones will be interesting. You do a lot of legwork finding deep cuts as well as big institutional events that add up to a well edited go-to guide. How do you decide what to include in your lists?
OV: Our process is similar to distilling hard liquor (excuse the comparison, we all love whiskey). We start by collecting together as much “grain” as possible—any news about openings, events, etc.—milling the information into different categories and then letting the details ferment until we are ready to make selections. When the time is right, we distill it down three times, with each of us voting individually on picks for the month. After selections are made, we pour them into the newsletter draft and, when the time is right, share it with subscribers.
MR: I think venues in town, artists, patrons, and more can benefit from the connective tissue you’re designing. Who do you see as your audience?
OV: We see our audience to be anyone who’s interested in participating in the local arts scene and wants to cultivate a critical creative culture in Milwaukee, whether they live in the city, in neighboring cities like Chicago, or beyond.
MR: There was a great arts calendar in Chicago that artist Karly Wildenhaus engineered called OnTheMake.org. It had a similar vibe but ended years ago. Did you look at other publications, websites, or art venues as models for ideas as your project was forming?
OV: There are a lot of great arts resources across the nation serving different communities that we appreciate. Minneapolis has a great calendar and archive, MPLSART, that’s survived a changing of hands. Chicago’s The Visualist, like Open View, is run by artists and designers, and is a spiritual successor to Karly Wildenhaus’s On The Make. San Francisco has a phenomenally organized and very well-designed arts calendar that also features original content called SF/Arts. The smart and sassy Unti-tiled New York arts guide is really well done too.
MR: How do you see yourself in relation to other media sources, listservs, or art venues in town or elsewhere?
OV: We see Open View as being different in that each of us has emerged from this scene having directly participated and invested in it. That said, we are not a be-all listserv, nor do we plan to be. We desire to act as a clean and concise guide that we hope people will genuinely enjoy engaging with.
MR: How can people support the documentation of what’s happening in Milwaukee’s art scene, or support what you’re doing?
OV: Keep us in the loop and share your events with us! Help spread the word. There are many facets of the Milwaukee art scene and we want to represent it as well as possible. We encourage those communities to connect with us: drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org, and if you’re organizing an event, fill out our submission form.
MR: What are you excited about in the Milwaukee cultural landscape that doesn’t make Open View? Food? Music? Film? Grubby corners of town?
OV: Seeing the food scene blossom with daring chefs like Justin Carlisle, Thomas Hauck, and David Swanson to name a few has been exciting to see. Watching other restaurants increasingly function as community event spaces like Company Brewing or Riverwest Public House has been great too. We’re also excited about the rise of social justice organizations like the Coalition For Justice and the local #BlackLivesMatter movement. And music, music, music.