At this time last year, in the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic, all MARN programming was completed virtually with only five staff members, and what is now the MARN ART + CULTURE HUB, or the HUB, was still under construction and in the middle of a rebrand.

In short, we were in the process of becoming.

We knew the HUB could be a central location for art in Milwaukee, synonymous with creativity, community and careers for local artists. We knew the HUB could feed our existing programming while also opening up new opportunities for our member artists to get paid and for us to fulfill our mission.

What we did not know was how exactly we would get there. But we knew we needed to start by bringing in creative people to make it happen. 

Building the HUB and moving into the future

Over the course of 2021 we hired additional staff to run our gallery and exhibition hall, manage events, run our programs and launch our new MARKETPLACE. Meet the full team here.

As COVID-19 rates declined in late spring, we started, slowly but surely, to hold in-person events and gallery exhibitions. In total, we would hold five exhibitions and 18 events involving collaboration with twelve community partners, just in the last five months.

We would be remiss if we did not mention our community partners  Interval, who manages the COFFEE + WINE cafe within the HUB, and Edessa School of Fashion, which now holds classes within the HUB’s conference center. 

After activating the gallery and exhibition hall, COFFEE + WINE cafe and HUB conference center, the HUB needed one more piece, something that would stand as a physical manifestation of our commitment to serving our members.

The final piece was the MARN MARKETPLACE, also available online, where MARN members at the CREATIVE or CREATIVE BUSINESS levels can apply to have their art listed for sale at the HUB. Whether it be paintings, woodworks, earrings and jewelry, coloring books, beer caddies or anything else, if our members made it, we’ll sell it.

‘Built by artists, for artists and those that appreciate their work’

With that final piece in place, a new reality was setting in for us at MARN. We still had the same mission, to serve member artists through increased visibility and marketability.

Not only would we serve our members through our longstanding MARNsalons and MARNmentors programs, which continued throughout 2021 both virtually and in-person, but through our assets at the HUB as well.

In just its first quarter, the MARN MARKETPLACE sold 484 unique items made from 40 MARN members, putting money directly into the pockets of our members.

The MARNsalons and MARNmentors programs utilized the HUB for in-person meetings and events, culminating in gallery exhibitions exclusive to both programs.

The HUB itself draws an average daily attendance of 130 people who roam around the gallery and exhibition hall, taking in visual art from both members and non-members.

We don’t exactly know what 2022 will bring, but safe to say we are excited. We at MARN have never had a platform like this to fulfill our mission to support our member artists and the greater southeastern arts economy. We cannot wait to keep building toward a future built by artists, for artists and those that appreciate their work.