Your gift helps fund 14 diverse local arts groups, from children’s theater troupes to the opera. Find your favorites and get to know new arts groups right here.
Meet our Cornerstone Groups
Since 1987, First Stage has grown to become one of the nation’s most acclaimed children’s theaters and the second largest theater company in Milwaukee. First Stage touches hearts, engages minds, and transforms lives by creating extraordinary theater experiences through professional theater productions that inspire, enlighten, and entertain. Committed to new play development, First Stage has presented over 60 world premieres in its history. Its Theater Academy, the nation’s largest high-impact theater training program for young people, fosters life skills through stage skills and serves over 2,100 students each year. As Wisconsin’s leader in arts-integrated education in schools, First Stage’s dynamic Theater in Education programs promote literacy, character building, and experiential learning throughout the curriculum, serving over 20,000 students each year. First Stage was selected to participate in the Partners in Education program of the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts (2012), and was the recipient of the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Eureka Award, recognizing creativity and innovation in business, education, and the arts for its Next Steps program for students with autism (2013, 2015). First Stage is a member of TYA/USA, the American Alliance for Theatre and Education, the Wisconsin Alliance for Arts Education, Theatre Wisconsin, Milwaukee Arts Partners, and is a cornerstone member of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF).
414-291-5700, ext. 224
Celebrating 85 years of artistic and fiscal success, the Florentine Opera is driven by its mission to produce the full range of operatic works, reflecting the highest musical and theatrical standards. Through its community outreach and in-school educational programming, the Florentine also provides vital arts education experiences for children in Southeast Wisconsin, nurtures new audiences, and expands cultural horizons for the next generation. The Florentine Opera Company is Wisconsin’s oldest fully professional performing arts organization and the sixth-oldest opera company in the United States. The three-time Grammy® award-winning Florentine Opera Company presents three operatic productions and a concert per season at the Marcus Center in downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Maggey Oplinger serves as General Director and CEO. Francesco Milioto serves as Artistic Advisor.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Michael Pink, Milwaukee Ballet has become world-renowned for presenting both new interpretations of story ballets and compelling contemporary works. Milwaukee Ballet is the home of an international company of professional dancers, as well as the trainees of the second company, Milwaukee Ballet II. It is one of only a few companies in the nation to retain its own musicians, Milwaukee Ballet Orchestra. Milwaukee Ballet School & Academy is the only professional dance school in the Midwest accredited by the National Association of Schools of Dance. Milwaukee Ballet’s award-winning Community Outreach department serves more than 30,000 people in Southwestern Wisconsin through original, interactive programs like Relevé, Tour de Force, and Ballet Beat.
Milwaukee Repertory Theater
Milwaukee Rep is the largest performing arts organization in Wisconsin in terms of audiences served and one of the largest professional theaters in the country. Each year, The Rep welcomes up to 275,000 people at nearly 700 performances of 15 productions ranging from compelling dramas, powerful classics, new plays and full-scale musicals in its three unique performance venues – the Quadracci Powerhouse, Stiemke Studio and Stackner Cabaret. Over the course of six decades, The Rep has gained a national reputation as an incubator of new work, an agent of community change and a forward-thinking provider of vital arts education programs. Under the leadership of Artistic Director Mark Clements and Managing Director Chad Bauman, Milwaukee Repertory Theater ignites positive change in the cultural, social, and economic vitality of its community by creating world-class theater experiences that entertain, provoke, and inspire meaningful dialogue among an audience representative of Milwaukee’s rich diversity.
Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra
The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is among the finest orchestras in the nation and the largest cultural institution in Wisconsin. Since its inception in 1959, the MSO has found innovative ways to give music a home in the region, develop music appreciation and talent among area youth, and raise the national reputation of Milwaukee. The MSO’s 70 full-time professional musicians perform more than 135 classics, pops, family, education, and community concerts each season in venues throughout the state. The orchestra’s nationally syndicated radio broadcast series, the longest consecutive-running series of any U.S. orchestra, is heard annually by more than two million listeners. The MSO’s standard of excellence extends beyond the concert hall and into the community, reaching more than 40,000 children and their families through its Arts in Community Education (ACE) program, Youth and Teen concerts, and Family Series.
Skylight Music Theatre
Skylight is Milwaukee’s professional Equity music theatre company celebrating its 60th anniversary in 2019-2020. Internationally recognized, Skylight produces the full spectrum of music theatre ranging from blockbuster Broadway musicals to reimagined operas, from delightful operettas to contemporary Off-Broadway revues. Known for artistic excellence, versatility and virtuoso ensemble productions, Skylight brings fresh approaches or interesting twists to music theatre works, creating meaningful connections, not only between the characters on stage but with the audience as well. Skylight performs in the intimate Cabot Theatre, modeled after an 18th century European opera house. It is widely considered to be the most beautiful theatre in Milwaukee, and with just 350 seats everyone has a great view and feels close to the powerful emotions on stage. Led by Artistic Director Michael Unger and Executive Director Jack R. Lemmon, Skylight reaches a wide and diverse audience through performances and educational outreach and events in celebration of the musical and theatrical arts and their reflection of the human condition.
Meet our Member Groups
414-481-8801, ext. 1
Founded in 1931, Bel Canto Chorus is Southeastern Wisconsin’s oldest continually performing arts organization. The group includes an auditioned adult performance chorus of approximately 100 singers and a Senior Singers program for those 55 or better who want to sing in an organized performance chorus. Characterized by a heartfelt belief in the value of Bel Canto Chorus’s mission and vision, and supported by devoted singers and audiences, talented artistic and administrative staff, and dedicated Board members, the group’s passion for sharing the thrill of live choral music has remained steadfast throughout its long, proud history.
Black Arts MKE
Black Arts MKE is a unique arts platform. Launched in 2014, Black Arts MKE was created – at least in part, in response to post-recession research findings that revealed, “Nonprofit arts organizations need an entirely different business model” (The Importance of Being Small, prepared for the Nonprofit Management Fund, April 2012). For many smaller African American arts organizations, the recession made it especially hard to keep doors open and the lights on unfortunately, and we’ve seen important cultural offerings in Milwaukee shut down. Black Arts MKE was created to prevent this trend from continuing and to provide for a more sustainable, vibrant African American arts and culture scene in our community. Black Arts MKE also provides back-office services to support local arts groups with the intent to enable artistic leadership to focus their time and energy on their strengths of creating artistic programming.
Black Arts MKE’s mission is to increase the availability and quality of African American arts and culture. Each year, we collaborate with over 100 local artists of color and arts organizations to bring to our community renowned and original performance arts works by African American authors, playwrights, poets, musicians, and composers. Our arts outreach programs serve over 15,000 underserved neighborhood schools, youth and their families including our new Youth Performing Arts Camp.
Professional theater company Bronzeville Arts Ensemble is in-residence with Black Arts MKE. Founded in 2013, Bronzeville Arts Ensemble is committed to the expansion and cultivation of Milwaukee’s African American theater community. Bronzeville Arts Ensemble illuminates the Black experience in America by developing and creating theater while also providing artistic and educational programming opportunities, collaborating with the local and national community, and inspiring healing through positive social change.
Black Arts MKE’s annual signature performance – Black Nativity by Langston Hughes is a holiday musical favorite in Milwaukee featuring an all-black, all local cast. Black Arts MKE is a recipient of the NEA Grant for Arts Projects and The Black Seed national awards. We are a proud Member Group of the United Performing Arts Fund (UPAF) and Resident Group at the Marcus Performing Arts Center. Black Arts MKE is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) corporation.
414-277-8480, ext. 6025
Danceworks Performance Company is the resident contemporary dance company of Danceworks, Inc. Founded in 1997, Danceworks Performance Company is a dynamic group of dancers/choreographers that is committed to creating and performing contemporary dance that is physical, virtuosic, entertaining and honest. Collaboration fuels the creative vision of the company members as they regularly work alongside guest artists, including musicians, poets, visual artists, actors and choreographers. Danceworks Performance Company strives to make its work relevant and accessible to a wide range of audience members by regularly performing and teaching workshops and residencies in diverse communities throughout southeastern Wisconsin. Danceworks Performance Company’s artists embody the mission of Danceworks, Inc., a 501(c)3 nonprofit founded in 1992, to enhance the joy, health and creativity of the community through performances, classes and outreach activities that integrate dance and other art forms. Danceworks contributes to Milwaukee’s cultural vitality by sparking a lifelong interest and participation in the arts. Danceworks is committed to taking arts and arts learning beyond the studio and theatre and into the community by creating work that resonates with diverse groups of people, and serves more than 60,000 children, adults and seniors each year through original contemporary performances by the Danceworks Performance Company; a year-long season of training and themed dance concerts in Danceworks Studio Theatre and out in the community by Danceworks Youth Performance Company, which is modeled after the professional company; a year-round experimental venue for local and national artists called the DanceLAB; weekly dance and dance fitness classes at our downtown studio and at satellite locations; dance and arts programming at schools in Milwaukee and surrounding communities; and dance and arts programming for older adults.
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre
Milwaukee Chamber Theatre (MCT) produces intimate, high-quality, professional works of literary merit that engage and challenge the audience, while employing and nurturing principally local theatre artists. MCT was co-founded in 1975 by two local actors who envisioned a space where audiences could open their minds to new theatrical ideas and Milwaukee's theatre professionals could broaden their skills and apply their craft.
Under the leadership of Artistic Director Brent Hazelton and Managing Director Amy Esposito, MCT serves as a vital building block in the theater industry and the city of Milwaukee as a whole due to our unwavering commitment to building community and increasing quality of life for our region. A resident company of the Broadway Theatre Center since 1993, MCT partners with other arts organizations, community-based organizations, and universities to produce thought-provoking productions and innovative outreach programs on an intimate, human scale. As a leader in supporting local talent, MCT provides regular employment and a stable artistic home to Milwaukee theatre professionals through a five-play performance season, the Young Playwrights Festival (YPF), and the Montgomery Davis Play Development Series (MDPDS). Each year over 16,000 individuals attend MCT performances, take advantage of our educational opportunities, and participate in our artistic activities.
Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO)
Since 1956, Milwaukee Youth Symphony Orchestra (MYSO) has been nurturing, challenging, and inspiring generations of students, profoundly changing lives and our community for the better. MYSO has grown from one orchestra and 30 students to become the largest after-school youth orchestra in the country, and one of the most respected. It serves 1,000 of the area’s young musicians who come from more than 200 schools, 60 communities, and as many as 14 counties throughout southeastern Wisconsin and northern Illinois. It also provides outreach programs to an additional 5,000 youth annually through the more than 80 concerts we perform.
The importance of MYSO as a catalyst for youth development and community change has not gone unnoticed. In the 2015-16 season, MYSO received the National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the country’s highest honor for after-school youth arts and humanities programs, presented by the President’s Committee on the Arts and the Humanities. MYSO is the only youth orchestra in the country ever to have received this recognition.
Today MYSO offers more than 40 ensemble and supplemental training options, ranging from symphony and string orchestras, and jazz and steel bands to music theory, composition, and international tours, providing quality musical experiences for a wide range of skill levels.
Next Act Theatre
Next Act Theatre is a professional theatre company in Milwaukee specializing in plays that address today’s challenges, offer different perspectives and promote engagement with the world in which we live. It’s active entertainment that generates ideas and conversation long after the show is over.
Present Music is Milwaukee’s internationally acclaimed new-music ensemble that commissions, performs and records the music of living composers. Founded in 1982 by Kevin Stalheim, Present Music commissions and works closely with many of the nation’s most exciting and important composers. Present Music’s mission is to engage artists and audiences in imaginative and provocative experiences with new music through ensemble performance and education.
Renaissance Theaterworks’ (RTW’s) mission is to create moving theater that connects with our shared sense of being human; dedicated to promoting the work of women, onstage and off. RTW is Milwaukee’s only women-founded, women-run theater company and has been narrowing the gender parity gap in the arts for over 25 years. Located in Milwaukee’s Historic Third Ward, RTW produces intimate and thought-provoking theater in The Studio Theatre at the Broadway Theatre Center (158 N Broadway, Milwaukee, WI 53202).