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Monday, Sept. 1, 2014

Creativity Lives at Studio Lounge

Cocktails served with music and art

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Enjoying a drink and a night of dancing at Milwaukee’s Studio Lounge (2246 S. Kinnickinnic Ave.) is like being transported across the globe without having to leave the comforts of the city. With its Moroccan- and Spanish-inspired lounge decor, salsa nights, world beats, local art exhibits and diverse patrons, Studio Lounge is a melting pot of passionate cultural expressions.

The lounge doubles as a gallery of art in many forms, including painting, sculpture, ceramic, photography and design, with new shows monthly. Walking through the room is like walking through a group of artists’ studios; each featured artist has his or her own small “artist cove” sectioned off throughout the space.

The creative atmosphere is apparent when you step through the door, from the large wave-like folds of the glass sculpture hanging above the dance floor, to the sultry light fixtures which were handmade in Egypt, to the bar top which has hand-painted tiles assembled by Ken Yandell, who owns the space with his wife, Kerry.

The Yandells opened Studio Lounge in 2008 after witnessing the closing of many art galleries due to the suffering economy. They sought to fill the void and to foster community through the arts. They later expanded by adding a full bar and a series of art workshops. “We want to foster creative expression and engagement with the community,” Ken said. “We offer the space for community and business association meetings. We host fundraisers and promote youth artistic development.”

Along with its arts events, Studio Lounge hosts weekly salsa and Latin dance nights on Fridays and Sundays, which include an hour of free instruction by local and international performers, and a night of neo-soul and hip-hop on Saturdays. Studio Lounge may well be one of the most racially diverse spaces in Milwaukee. It’s also an intergenerational space; people of all ages can come and get down.

The bar is known for its fine mixology and craft cocktails. (After all, their slogan is, “A cure for the common cocktail.”) Mojitos come in many flavors and spice varieties, from the strawberry-elderflower and the refreshing cucumber to the bite of the gingerberry. All of the drinks are made with fresh ingredients and nectars to sweeten the sip. The martinis and margaritas are exotic and playful, including the thick, creamy chilled tiramisu martini with drizzled chocolate on top, and the popular Asian pear and jalapeño margarita which is known to make your taste buds sweat before you sweat it out on the dance floor.

Studio Lounge is the kind of establishment that makes you feel like family, the kind of place where you can see colorfully costumed Spanish dancers circling the dance floor and even pulling you onto it for a moment in the spotlight; where you can capture the meditative movement of the capoeira roda, a Brazilian martial arts dance tradition; or just lounge. It truly is a place for the creative spirit.