Ten Hidden Art and Design Destinations

Milwaukee is famous for its long and illustrious brewing tradition, abundance of festivals, creamy frozen custard and beloved Milwaukee Brewers. But what tends to be overlooked is its awe-inspiring artistry and design. Hidden among the pubs and bars are noteworthy yet little-known gems of the city that beg to be the focal point of the public eye. Here are 10 crème-de-la-crème, must-see attractions.


1. David Barnett Gallery

Photo by Nina Kesic.

Barnett’s gallery has generated excitement since 1966 because of its wide range of pieces by artists from all over the world, including right here in Milwaukee. Barnett began collecting art in his dorm room, and as his passion for art expanded, it was necessary to expand the space in which he could display it. Here you can find brilliant European and American artists as well as art from the owner himself. There is even a crayon drawing made by Barnett’s daughter at 5 years old on display. It goes to show the level of dedication to mastery and art eccentricity that is the focus of the David Barnett Gallery. Second to none in Wisconsin galleries, this space is notable for its Picasso ceramics and Milton Avery oil paintings. Just a single visit is all it takes to revive the artist in you.

Address: 1024 E. State St., Milwaukee, WI 53202 
Phone Number: (414) 271-5658

2. The Basilica of St. Josaphat

Photo by Nina Kesic.

Now the largest Polish parish in Wisconsin, the Basilica of Saint Josaphat was founded in 1888 when a group of Polish immigrants settled in Milwaukee. This historic house of worship was erected as an effort to create a sense of lasting cultural influence in Milwaukee with the growth of the Polish community in the late 1800s. Saint Josaphat Parish was completed in 1901. The Parish was designed by architect Erhard Brielmaier and made to the likeness of St. Peter’s in Rome.

Address: 2333 S. 6th St., Milwaukee, WI 53215
Phone Number: (414) 645-5623

3. Waterfront Deli

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

“Waterfront” is an appropriate name for this deli housed in a historic building and situated in Milwaukee’s bustling downtown lakefront neighborhood. Only a hop, skip and jump away are such attractions as the Pabst Theatre, Milwaukee Art Museum and the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts. Waterfront Deli includes hot food options, as well as shelves of fruit preserves and a rack featuring wines of every variety. Enter into the establishment and behold the mural of onlookers decked out in their opera best. As if this place weren’t cool enough, it also has a food lift that takes your meal from the first floor to the second floor for your convenience.

Address: 761 N. Water St., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone Number: (414) 220-9300

4. Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum

Photo by Nina Kesic.

Traveling to Italy sounds like a dream come true, but the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum takes that dream a small step into reality. Fashioned to resemble the villas of the Italian Renaissance, this design masterpiece was crafted in 1923 by architect David Adler as a home for Lloyd Smith and his family. Many have been lucky enough to rent the space to host weddings and formal business engagements. From its grand ballroom to the luscious gardens, the Villa Terrace Decorative Arts Museum is a cannot-miss Milwaukee attraction.

Address: 2220 N. Terrace Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone Number: (414) 271-3656

5. Four Corners Fair Trade Store

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

“Small yet mighty” is the phrase that comes to mind when describing Four Corners Fair Trade. Clara Tracey, owner and operator, beams with pride at how far the organization has come. Journey inside and experience the one-of-a-kind artifacts handcrafted from places all over the world.

Emphasizing culture, sustainability and togetherness, Four Corners is not just a shopping destination, it is a local learning center. Enjoying all that Milwaukee has to offer comes with appreciating its struggles and its success, which is at the heart of this fair trade store. Tucked away in the Vliet neighborhood, Four Corners is a diamond in the rough.

“Four Corners Fair Trade store has been part of the Milwaukee community for eight years, having had its start in response to the anti-sweatshop movement,” Tracey said. “The store’s aim is to bring sweatshop-free clothing to Milwaukeeans.”

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

Tracey is proud of the atmosphere created in Four Corners. While describing the time and effort she put into designing the space, she reflected on the purpose and function of the items sold in the store.

“I am design-focused,” Tracey said. “I like things that are useful and beautiful, which adds another element of goodness to its sustainability. I like to display things how they might appear in your house.”

Though her influences are cultures all over the world, Tracey cannot deny the heart connection between Four Corners and her home community on Vliet Street.

“Four Corners is handmade-artisan-global-vibe,” Tracey said. “Think, anthropology with a conscience.”

Address: 5708 W. Vliet St., Milwaukee, WI 53208
Phone Number: (414) 443-9606

6. Wisconsin Black Historical Society Museum Mural

Photo by Nina Kesic.

Clayborn Benson, founder and director of the WBHSM, sought out artist George Gist to recreate the mural – originally painted in 1990 – that runs the length of the building. Featured in the Sherman Park neighborhood, the mural is named “The Gift.” Having already completed 300 murals, Gist approached this 125-by-50-foot wall with excitement and determination. The mural Gist completed for WBHSM was his largest mural project to date. The mural remains vibrant and joyous as ever.

Address: 2620 W. Center St., Milwaukee, WI 53206
Phone Number: (414) 372-7677

7. Menomonee Valley Urban Ecology Center

Located on the south side of Milwaukee, the Menomonee Valley branch of the Urban Ecology Center is the organization’s newest branch. The grand opening took place in fall of 2012. The center is positioned next to Escuela Verde, a learning institution for youths. It runs along the Hank Aaron State Trail and neighbors Three Bridges Park.

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

Menomonee Valley offers its community the opportunity to experience an outdoor classroom where they can learn more about native wildlife, vegetation and how to live an Earth-friendly lifestyle. Not to mention, the facility itself is made from repurposed and sustainable materials and is a testimony to the values of the Urban Ecology Center organization as a whole.

Glenna Holstein, branch manager of the Menomonee Valley Urban Ecology Center, expressed her enthusiasm and anticipation at the grand opening of the organization’s newest branch in Milwaukee’s south side neighborhood.

“When the Three Bridges Park opened, it changed the character of the neighborhood because of the outdoor classroom available to visitors,” Holstein said.

The team of community program directors grew as Menomonee Valley generated more interest. The Center offers a Young Scientists Club whose participants, aged 5 to 12 years old, have achieved great success.

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

“In 2012 there were zero people coming,” Holstein said. “In the last year an estimated 30,000 have come to Three Bridges Park and 22,000 to Menomonee Valley.”

According to Holstein, the Center offers much more than education on Wisconsin wildlife and ecosystems. It is a fun-filled environment meant for everyone. She recalls the hula-hooping, martial arts, traditional indigenous Mexican dances (“baile folklórico”) and yoga that took place at the grand opening.

“A lot of what we do involves helping people see their world and neighborhood bigger,” Holstein said. “Visitors come to understand home and ecosystem.”

Lainet Garcia-Rivera, community program coordinator, chimed in with the direction she sees the south-side branch of the UEC headed in Menomonee Valley.

“I have gotten to meet lots of people and do good things for the community,” Garcia-Rivera said. “In the future, I hope more people come and enjoy more that Menomonee Valley has to offer.”

Address: 3700 W. Pierce St., Milwaukee, WI 53215
Phone Number: (414) 431-2940

8. Annunciation Greek Orthodox Church

Photo by Nina Kesic.

Just a short six-minute drive away from Mount Mary University campus resides one of the 10 oldest Greek Orthodox churches in the country. Frank Lloyd Wright designed the church in his later days, though he was unable to witness the groundbreaking, which took place in 1961. The design of the church keeps Greek Orthodox faith and traditions alive in color and its symbols. Now named Greek Orthodox Manor, the church holds holiday festivals and an annual picnic and is home to senior citizens from the Milwaukee area.

Address: 9400 W. Congress St., Milwaukee, WI 53225
Phone Number: (414) 461-9400

9. Musical Memories

Photo by Nina Kesic.

This quaint record store has been located on Milwaukee’s East Side for more than 30 years. Its regular customers are as loyal as the employees, and the space is as eclectic as its music content. Complete with vinyl records, cassette tapes, music paraphernalia and CDs, you’ll find yourself in a retro wonderland.

Address: 833 E. Kilbourn Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53202
Phone Number: (414) 271-0666

10. Amaranth Bakery & Cafe

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

Created and maintained by husband and wife David Boucher and Stephanie Shipley, Amaranth Bakery & Café is a beloved eatery in Milwaukee’s 33rd and Lisbon community. Upon entering the café, patrons are welcomed by the aroma of fresh desserts, delicious quiches and hearty soups. Of course, what would a café be without its irresistible coffee and additional assortments of beverages.

Amaranth has made a conscious effort to feature artists from the city of Milwaukee and exclusively employee individuals from the neighborhood and just a little beyond. A staple to those who know it and at the top of the must-try list of those who have yet to savor the homemade delicacies, Amaranth Bakery & Café has a lasting place in the heart of Milwaukeeans.

According to Boucher, the Café is unique in that all of its rich ingredients come from a close friend of the family whose garden happens to be right next door. This close friend and neighbor, who is an art curator, hand-picked the art adorning the walls of the establishment.

Photo by Jamie Hollins.

“There is emphasis on supporting (the) good food movement and local art and local food,” Boucher said.

Boucher recounts the changes he has seen happening in the neighborhood has it moves from little-known to experiencing quite a lot of patronage.

“The overarching vision and mission is to help those dedicated to the community,” Boucher said. “It’s to bring opportunity here.”

Amaranth Café owners believe that it stands out amongst others in the Milwaukee area because of its unique vision for community involvement. Amaranth is truly one of a kind.

Address: 3329 W. Lisbon Ave., Milwaukee, WI 53208
Phone Number: (414) 934-0587

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