Hotcakes Closes, Marn Loses Director, Only Bronze Fonz Remains
After 8 Years, Mike Brenner resigned as Executive Director of MIlwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) last week. Brenner declared, “A city so eager to erect a Bronze Fonze is clearly Intellectually Bankrupt. I can no longer give my time or money to a city SO resistant to moving forward and embracing progress. All my friends were right to leave this city the minute we graduated from high school.”
8 Years ago last week, Mike Brenner and 5 other concerned artists formed the Milwaukee Artist Resource Network (MARN) in an effort to make Milwaukee a city worth living in by supporting individual literary, performing and visual artists. “I didn’t need Richard Florida to show me a pie chart to know that the key to economic development is having a thriving community of active intellectuals,” stated Brenner irreverently.
“I did my part and created exhibition opportunities for artists, developed a mentoring program, took Milwaukee artists to international art fairs in Miami and Chicago, built a contemporary music residency program, brought some of the hottest young artists in America here to exhibit, and spent the last 3 years working with the Eastside Business Improvement District trying to build a brick and mortar incubator for artists.”
In 8 years, under Brenner’s leadership, MARN has become the hub of the arts community and grown to include over 1200 artists by providing mentoring programs for professional artists, exhibition opprtunities, workshops and daily emails that keep the community abreast of all local arts events.
On May 28, Brenner closed his award-winning art gallery, Hotcakes, in response to an announcement that Milwaukee’s Convention and Visitor’s Bureau (Visit Milwaukee), had raised the $85,000 needed to build a life-sized monument to TV character, Arthur Fonzerelli, in less than two months. “The so called ‘leaders’ of this town have their heads up their asses,” said Brenner “They spend $1.1M on a poorly executed light display for the Marcus Center and $85,000 on a Bronze Fonz. The people with money and power in Milwaukee are SO disconnected with what’s really going on in the world. Until they all retire to Phoenix or die, Milwaukee is set on a steady course to become the next Detroit.”
WHAT’S NEXT FOR BRENNER
After closing Hotcakes, Brenner had initially announced that he would spend his time working with MARN to build the Eastside Arts Incubator, but the team of consultants (Krause Consultants, Ltd.) MARN hired to write a business plan and investigate funding sources were told by local philanthropists that funders “had no interest in funding an arts incubator in Milwaukee, especially after the failures of the Milwaukee Cultural Alliance.”
Mike Brenner plans to spend the summer making art and causing trouble while working as a bartender giving Milwaukeeans the only thing that makes them happy, ice cold Miller Lite. Brenner is actively looking for jobs in other cities where the arts are not the last priority.
Brenner’s therapist, Dr. Anthony Jurek, has urged Brenner to “Forgive Milwaukee,” but Brenner would prefer to remain angry a little while longer, or at least until local artists start to get off their asses and throw it in the river.
ABOUT MIKE BRENNER
Mike Brenner was born at St. Mary’s Hospital on what used to be Milwaukee’s fashionable Eastside in February of 1974. His first kiss was in one of the cement tubes on the playground of St. Mark’s nursery school on the corner of Downer and Belleview while in school there.
Brenner attended Locust Street School for kindergarten and 1st grade before moving to Shorewood for 2nd-12th grade. When not traveling the country playing Cajun and Zydeco music on his accordion, Brenner attended UW-Milwaukee and Colorado State University. After studying at the Bauhaus Universitat in Weimar Germany, he received a BFA from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) in 2000. Since graduating from MIAD, Brenner has worked at a graphic and web designer, run MARN and opened and closed Hotcakes Gallery. Brenner also spent a couple summers playing accordion in a Gorilla suit and XXXL tiger print nighty for tips, on the streets of his hometown, Milwaukee, WI.��