Milwaukee Artists Take Center Stage at This Weekend’s Black Arts Festival

Feb. 15, 2017
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Photo courtesy of Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce

Dozens of black artists and entrepreneurs will come together this weekend for Milwaukee’s inaugural Black Arts Festival at the Wisconsin African American Women's Center, 3020 W. Vliet St. The three-day festival, which will feature live performances, vendor displays, workshops and film screenings, is being thrown by the Wisconsin Black Chamber of Commerce.

Ruben Hopkins is CEO and chairman of the chamber, which for the last decade has advocated for the local black business community. Its membership is bigger than you might expect: Hopkins estimates its membership at somewhere around 450-500 members. That membership includes a lot of small businesses and home-based businesses, but also a lot of local artists who sell their work. The Black Arts Festival was created to showcase them, Hopkins says.

“It’s to get the word out about our members,” Hopkins says. “We have members who write books, members who do poetry, members who paint. We have an art crowd. So we decided, let’s do an art festival, since its Black History Month. It’s another opportunity for us to highlight the contributions of African Americans in this country because I feel a lot of times we don’t celebrate our culture the way we should. You see the Hispanic culture, the Asian culture, you see all these cultures celebrating themselves, so we wanted to take the opportunity to celebrate ourselves, too.”

“We have workshops that will be going on, and we have art work that we will be selling, and books that the authors will be selling and literary workshops,” Hopkins continues. “We have poetry, we have opportunity for young people who can do poetry to walk up on stage and do their poetry. So from 2-6 p.m. any young person who feels they have a poem in their heart they want to get out, they can go up there and get it out. Then from 6-8 p.m. we have live music on the stages, and then we’ll have the artists on both stages. It’ll be a mix of some blues, some soul, some R&B and some jazz. The first night we’ll do the soul lounge and that will be jazz and R&B, the second day we have the R&B and soul lounge, and the third day is the jazz and blues.

The schedule for the festival is below.

Friday, Feb. 17, 2017
4-10 p.m. Vendor Tables
4-6 p.m. Family Friendly Entertainment
6-8 p.m. Open Mic performances
8 p.m. - midnight Soul Lounge -- Hansberry Sands Theater

Saturday, Feb. 18, 2017
2-10 p.m. Vendor Tables
2-6 p.m. Family Friendly Entertainment
4:30-5:30 p.m. VIP Experience – Bobby Drake Living Room Tour
6-7 p.m. VIP Experience -- Poetry Unplugged Writer's Workshop
5-7 p.m. Midwest Productions Jazz & Blues Jam featuring Pierre
8 p.m. - midnight Poetry Unplugged Performances

Sunday, Feb. 19, 2017
1-5 p.m. Miss Milwaukee Area Pageant Workshop
2-10 p.m. Vendor Tables
2-3:30 p.m. Gospel performances
3:30-5:30 p.m. PENtastic Open Mic
5:30-6:30 p.m. VIP Experience -- Dasha Kelly Writer’s Workshop
7-8 p.m. VIP Experience -- Poet MVP Speak Life Workshop
6-8 p.m. Midwest Productions Jazz & Blues Jam featuring Mary Davis
8 p.m. - midnight Open Mic performances

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