Milwaukee’s “City Of Festivals” nickname is well-deserved. From the early weeks of spring through the arrival of autumn, the city plays host to dozens of fests, block parties, and celebrations of different heritages. Just when you think you have them all covered, another one pops up. Luckily, Milwaukee never seems to mind having a new reason to get outside and have fun.

Tuesday morning, a new festival was announced at a press conference. On Saturday, August 4, the inaugural Black Arts Fest MKE will take place at Henry Maier Festival Park. The new festival “will celebrate diverse aspects of African and African American heritage,” according to Patrice Harris, the Executive director of Black Arts Festival MKE.

From noon to midnight, the Miller Lite Oasis, Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, Children’s Stage, and the area east of the mid-gate will feature a variety of programs. There will be music, dance, educational activities, art, and food. There will be activities focused around African heritage and a marketplace featuring items produced by black-owned business.

The performers, programs, vendors, and other features will be announced in the coming weeks. In the meantime, keep August 4 open. You won’t want to miss the first Black Arts Fest MKE. Discounted advance tickets are on sale now.

Here’s the full press release:

Black Arts Fest MKE
Joins Lineup of Ethnic Festivals at Henry W. Maier Festival Park

MILWAUKEE, Wis. – May 8, 2018 – Summer in Milwaukee got more exciting with the announcement of Black Arts Fest MKE, a new cultural festival to be held at Henry Maier Festival Park The festival will celebrate and showcase African and African American culture from noon to midnight on Saturday, August 4.

Festival organizers, including respected African American business leaders in Milwaukee are placing an emphasis on highlighting different forms of artistic expression – music, dance, educational activities, art and food. “There is a wealth of African and African American talent in Milwaukee County and the state, we look forward to sharing it with the entire community, said Black Arts Fest MKE Executive Director Patrice Harris. “We are planting the roots of Black Arts Fest MKE at Maier Festival Park and look forward to growing it to its full potential in the years to come.

The Miller Lite Oasis, Johnson Controls World Sound Stage, Children’s Stage and the large grassy area east of the mid gate will feature a variety of programs. Various genres of music are on tap, performances and workshops for children, dance performances and activities focused around African heritage are in store. Market Square will feature wares and products aligned with the culture and produced by black-owned business. Attendees will also be able to explore an attraction at the festival that showcases talent that too often goes unseen.

Derek Tyus, Chief Investment Officer and Vice President of West Bend Mutual Insurance Company, serves as Chairman of the Black Arts Fest MKE Board of Directors. Tyus said, “We are very excited to see an African American focused festival returning this year. Black Arts Fest MKE is a wonderful opportunity to showcase the culture, traditions, values and talents of African Americans. We hope that the festival will inspire all attendees and strengthen pride in our ancestry.”

“We are proud to host Black Arts Fest MKE at Henry Maier Festival Park and showcase the arts, food, and culture, as well as the spirit of Milwaukee’s African American community” said Don Smiley, President & CEO of Milwaukee

World Festival, Inc. “It is exciting to welcome this new addition to our diverse line-up of events, further earning our reputation as The City of Festivals.”

Headliners, entertainment, programming, vendors and features will be announced in the coming weeks.

Advanced sale tickets are on sale now. Adult tickets (ages 12 and older) may be purchased for just $9, a 30 percent savings off the gate price ($12). Youth (ages 8 – 11) and Senior (60 and older) tickets are also available. Children (0 – 7 years of age) and Military and Veterans with a photo ID and proof of service will be admitted free at the gate. Tickets are on sale now through August 3 and may be purchased at

If you are interested in becoming a sponsor of the festival or making a contribution, or becoming a vendor, please inquire via the email [email protected].

Visit for more information and updates on entertainment, programming, activities and more at the festival or connect with us at Black Arts Fest MKE on Facebook.

BLACK ARTS FEST MKE Board of Directors/Staff

Black Arts Fest MKE is operated by Black Arts Fest MKE, Inc. The effort to reintroduce a festival in Milwaukee for the African and African American community was ignited by a small group of respected African American business professionals and community volunteers.

Board of Directors

  • Derek Tyus – Chief Investment Officer and Vice President, West Bend Mutual Insurance
  • Gregory M. Wesley, JD – Vice President, Strategic Alliance and Business Development, Medical College of Wisconsin
  • Cory L. Nettles – Founder and Managing Director of Generation Growth Capital, Inc.
  • Grady L. Crosby – Vice President of Public Affairs, Chief Diversity Officers and President, Johnson Controls Foundation
  • Jackie Herd-Barber – Community Volunteer
  • Mark Wade – Mark Wade, LLC
  • Marvin C. Bynum II, JD – Godfrey & Kahn
  • Barbara J. Wanzo – Executive Director, Black Arts MKE Staff
  • Patrice Harris – Executive Director, Black Arts Fest MKE

About The Author

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Co-Founder and Editor

Before co-founding Milwaukee Record, Tyler Maas wrote for virtually every Milwaukee publication (except Wassup! Magazine). He lives in Bay View and enjoys both stuff and things.