823 W. National Ave.
The Borg Ward is a nonprofit DIY collective made up of artists, musicians, poets, thespians and more. Currently, its art gallery shows the work of four local artists; soon, the artwork of Ugandan youth will be featured. The Borg's goal is to give those in the community a place to share their artistic works and to connect with programs, such as Hope House, that give everyone an opportunity to enrich others through their creativity. Drop by on Friday or Saturday for a good dose of culture. (Bridget Rzymski)
Carte Blanche Studios
1024 S. Fifth St.
The charming Carte Blanche Studios offers a spacious bar area with eye-catching art that is well shielded from its studio theater. The theater space is a pleasant, comfy spot that hosts an interesting mix of classic and contemporary material; the bar area makes for an interesting mix of theater and non-theater folk. From theater to bar, the whole place is comfortable and functional. (Russ Bickerstaff)
804 E. Wright St.
The Riverwest storefront that houses Dominion was a fixer-upper when Stonie Rivera took the spot last year. Now the room boasts beautifully polished wooden floors, white walls, windows covered with black curtains and a changing array of paintings, photographs and objects by artists from Milwaukee and around the world. As singer for the Dummy Club and the Psychobunnies, Rivera colors the room with a Gothic tinge. "I just chose the things that move me—the art I want to share with people. It's all about a spiritual connection," she insists. Like her music, Dominion is a labor of love. (David Luhrssen)
The Green Gallery East
1500 N. Farwell Ave.
Hidden in plain sight—a green rectangle marks the spot of the Green Gallery East—the art exhibitions inside are on constant display to passers-by through a front wall of windows in what was perhaps a one-pump 1950s gas station. This least commercially driven of commercial galleries, born in artist John Riepenhoff's attic in 2004, has become influential among an international network of visual artists, writers, critics, curators and collectors concerned with what art is today—or as Riepenhoff put it, "art that fits into a gallery but also moves things forward." (John Schneider)
Eclipse (2003) by Jill Sebastian
A public sculpture found just north of Lake Bluff Condominiums, 1300 N. Prospect Ave.
You'll catch a glimpse from Prospect Avenue of colored spheres atop bronze staves, but to see the face of the sculpture you must follow a walkway at the east end of Ogden Street halfway down the bluff toward Lake Michigan. There, beneath cosmic baubles, a stone half-moon holds a mosaic of the continents with beams radiating from Milwaukee to the farthest reaches of the planet. The dark side shows a glittering eclipse. It's good magic, worth the pilgrimage. (John Schneider)
2625 S. Greeley St.
You'll need your map to find this cache of creativity buried in the labyrinth of Bay View. Once a tannery, the restored complex now holds studios for painters, printmakers, photographers, architects, textile artists and musicians, as well as the art supporting Mercy Hill Church, Milwaukee Artbeat, The Bay View Compass, community gardens and a motorcycle shop. The riches are best viewed every Gallery Night and Day, but master stained-glass artist, teacher, restorer and self-contained treasure Sandra Tews keeps a shop/classroom with regular hours. (John Schneider)
The Jazz Gallery
926 E. Center St.
I could probably write a book on the original Milwaukee Jazz Gallery, which I covered in its 1980s heyday as the home of scintillating live jazz—both national and local acts—and great ideals of community culture. That latter quality lives on in the gallery's latest incarnation as the home of the Riverwest Artists Association, which also organizes the annual Riverwest Artwalk. The gallery features socially engaged art exhibits and music concerts (riverwestart.org). (Kevin Lynch)
Ko-Thi Dance Company
This city treasure has been in hiding for several years while founding director Ferne Bronson has built an African track for the UW-Milwaukee Peck School of the Arts dance department and reconceived her 42-year-old troupe for the 21st century. From May 25-26 at the UWM Mainstage Theatre, Ko-Thi will return with the boundary-breaking Words From the Sole, created by Bronson, master hip-hop artist Raphael Xavier, UWM's hip-hop specialist Chelsey Walker, and an integrated dance company that joins street-trained artists, students and African dance professionals. (John Schneider)
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center
1531 W. Vliet St.
Like many North Side treasures, this lively and innovative community center under the direction of Milwaukee County Parks is too little known outside its neighborhood. In addition to its gorgeous green space, children's playground, library, gym, fitness center, event areas, conference rooms and Fun-a-Rama game room, there's a swell theater recently refurbished by the Marcus Corp. offering exciting community-based performances of all sorts. The center has had great success bringing youth and adults together for mutual enlightenment in its athletic, cultural, health and educational programs. (John Schneider)
Mystery One Bookstore
2109 N. Prospect Ave.
This popular mystery bookstore is jammed with floor-to-ceiling bookshelves. Fear not, though: The courteous, erudite owner will gladly point you in the right direction. The selection is far more than whodunits, too; you'll also find espionage, historical adventure and sci-fi mysteries. Mystery One hosts frequent author book signings, including top-sellers like Robert Crais. (Kevin Lynch)
North Point Lighthouse
2650 N. Wahl Ave.
Hidden in the East Side's beautiful Lake Park, this historic lighthouse looks out over Lake Michigan. The structure, built in 1855, was lit for more than 100 years before being retired from service in 1994. Renovated in 2007, the lighthouse is now open for public tours on the weekends. A trip here offers a walk through the peaceful park, some cool history and an incredible view at the top of a 74-foot treasure. (Bridget Rzymski)
People's Books Co-op
2122 E. Locust St.
This place wears its heart on its sleeve, even if most of its books are sleeveless paperbacks. Along with political books, you'll find many works on sociology, Western and world lit, anthropology, ethnic, minority and cultural studies and more. It's also an alternative textbook store with a student discount. So come for assigned UW-Milwaukee books and to find your own answers to the big, weird and wonderful questions worth asking. People's Books is an independent bookstore, a rare and precious find today. (Kevin Lynch)
Riverwest Film and Video
824 E. Center St.
At one of the best video stores in Milwaukee, you'll find documentaries, foreign films and political movies along with plenty of mainstream fare. Plus, Riverwest Film and Video sells actual tools for moviemakers: film, splicing tape, PA systems, even fog machines. You can feel free to bring your brood, too, as the store offers an upright piano in its children's corner. The store is open 3-11 p.m. daily. (Kevin Lynch)