Salsa Crawl Promotes Art and Business

Three Milwaukee organizations came together Thursday night to host a Cinco De Mayo Salsa Crawl in Bay View amid a swirl of salsa dancers, live artists, and musical performers.

ART Milwaukee, Newaukee and the TweetUp Girls teamed up to provide live music, interactive art projects and food and drink specials to hundreds of attendees; they aim to create a stronger sense of community within the city through networking and social events.

ART Milwaukee focuses on arts advocacy and experiential marketing, while Newaukee wants to bring people together in “unique destinations.” The TweetUp Girls strive to establish enduring relationships between businesses and customers.

The free event was ART Milwaukee’s sixth monthly ART Jamboree and took place on the corner of South Kinnickinnic Avenue and East Lincoln Avenue.

Attendees travelled between venues Sugar Maple, Tonic Tavern and Café Centraal to check out local artists, take a salsa dancing lesson, and taste a different salsa at each location.

Each organization’s events have been a hit, attracting several hundred attendees to Milwaukee bars and eateries on a weekly or monthly basis.

ART Milwaukee volunteer and local artist Bridget Dreher has seen community support grow.

“Every new jamboree there’s more and more people coming in, more new faces… it’s a really great opportunity for the community to get involved and local artists can get their artwork out there,” Dreher said.

ART Milwaukee’s president and founder Jeremy Fojut started the organization to bring more attention to local artists. He plans to continue collaboration with other Milwaukee groups.

“We just want to get as many organizations and businesses involved in these events as possible to create a sense of community,” Fojut said.

Cinco De Mayo Celebration

Each organization occupied a venue for the night, educating visitors about their respective goals and encouraging them to see what each place had to offer.

The number theme of the night was three; the salsa crawl’s official website boasted “3 Establishments, 3 Salsas, 3 Drink Specials, 3 Live Bands –You’re the Judge!”

Attendees were urged to vote online after the event for their favorite salsa. Though voting was supposed to end Sunday night, the poll was still active at press time; the TweetUp Girls crushed the competition with 55 percent of votes.

ART Milwaukee promoted local art at Sugar Maple (441 East Lincoln Avenue). Walls showcased paintings and charcoal sketches, and a worktable encouraged people to paint their own mini canvas or sugar skull.

A dance instructor also taught a salsa lesson; those too shy to take part sipped margaritas (nicknamed ART-a-ritas for the night) at the bar or checked out some live art exhibitions. Artist Kelly Busch painted canvases while Dreher wove a rug from repurposed fabric.

Newaukee entertained at Café Centraal (2306 South Kinnickinnic Avenue). A table near the entrance displayed information pamphlets and event passports. Volunteers eagerly conversed with patrons and encouraged them to taste Newaukee’s salsa. Musicians Marc Bellini and Jordan Kroeger provided an acoustic soundtrack for the café.

The TweetUp Girls had a smaller crowd at Tonic Tavern (2335 South Kinnickinnic Avenue), but an impromptu dance performance from earlier Sugar Maple participants spiced up the atmosphere. Patrons enjoyed specials on sangria pitchers and margaritas, and dug into the Girls’ winning salsa.

Community ART

ART Milwaukee was founded last year by Fogut to foster art in the community and increase visibility of local artists.

“We really wanted to create a different scene for ART Milwaukee or art in Milwaukee,” Fojut says.  “…and bring a lot of people that maybe would never go to a gallery and introduce them to art through a social atmosphere.”

Dreher applauds ART Milwaukee’s efforts to promote local art.

“ART Milwaukee is a really awesome organization, [it] gives great opportunities for all artists,” she says.

Dreher adds that it’s easy for artists to get involved.

“Sign up for the email list and you have an opportunity to get your artwork out there.”

In addition to the Jamborees, each week ART Milwaukee’s website showcases an artist-submitted piece available for purchase by the public.

The next Jamboree is slated for June 12th at Middle-Eastern restaurant Casablanca (728 East Brady Street). “Arabian Nights” will feature a number of local businesses in a bazaar.

College Atmosphere Sans Campus

Newaukee connects people through weekly events at different Milwaukee establishments. The website advertises “No cost, no membership, no dress code… meet some new friends, enjoy a couple drinks and still make it home before the Daily Show at 10.”

Volunteer-run events are held every Thursday. Jason Larcheid, large event coordinator for Newaukee, says the organization encourages exploration of Milwaukee citizens and businesses.

“It’s an easy way to interact with people,” he says. “Our main core focus now is just broadening people’s horizons of what Milwaukee can offer.

The website touts the events as a way to extend college social life past graduation, acknowledging that“it’s tough getting acclimated to the new scene,” but offers a way to find friends with common interests in Milwaukee.

Marketing to the Next Level

TweetUp Girls is the brainchild of sōsh, an online social media, strategy planning and marketing company. The Girls are more business-driven than Newaukee or ART Milwaukee, connecting businesses with their customers through social events.

sōsh president Michelle D’Attilio says the events strengthen relationships beyond online promotions.

“You start the relationship online and then you build it offline so that more business gets done,” she says.

Events range in size to accommodate a business’s needs. Some events are large and open to the public; others are small to keep a social, yet business-oriented atmosphere.

‘We want that networking aspect; we want people to be able to talk and talk business and grow their business,” D’Attilio says.

The common theme between all three organizations is the goal to connect Milwaukeeans and promote a love of the city.

“Milwaukee is such a great small town wrapped in a big town,” D’Attilio says.

Larcheid agrees.

“All you can ask for right here, this is perfect.”