Next Milwaukee speaker

John Gurda

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April 28, 8:30am • Best Place at the Historic Pabst Brewery • part of a series on Beyond

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ON FRIDAY, APRIL 28th, WE’RE RETURNING WITH “BEYOND” FT. JOHN GURDA. 

John Gurda is a historian, writer, and tv personality who has published over 20 books. John researches and writes about Milwaukee neighborhoods, people, industries and places of worship and is fascinated by "why things are the way they are." Below we caught up with John to get to know him better.


What do you typically eat for breakfast? Just the basics: cereal, fruit, and OJ.

What do people know you for? The five-hour Making of Milwaukee PBS documentary, and my role as the bike-riding historian on PBS’s Around the Corner with John McGivern.

How is Milwaukee special to you? Milwaukee is in a really nice sweet spot between large and small; we have all the resources of a metropolis but the manageability and human scale of a much smaller community.

What may people not know about you? I spent six months as a Congressional page when I was in high school. I’m also the defending rock-skipping champion (senior division) at the Ontonagon (MI) Labor Day celebration.

What drives your creativity? Beats me. I’ve always wanted to make things.

What are you going to talk to us about this month? Beyond the Present and Beyond Security, focusing on my rather improvised career as a Milwaukee historian.

Ticket registration for “BEYOND” opens here, Monday, April 24th
 at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited!

ON FRIDAY, MARCH 31ST, WE’RE RETURNING WITH “TABOO” FT. MALKIA STAMPLEY

Malkia Stampley is an actor, director, and producer who returned home to Milwaukee after working in New York and Chicago and co-founded  Bronzeville Arts Ensemble, where she is now the Artistic Director. Bronzeville Arts Ensemble illuminates the Black experience in America through theater and creates artistic and educational opportunities. Below we caught up with Malkia to get to know her better.

What do you typically eat for breakfast? A green smoothie: avocado, flax, chia seed, mixed berries, Amazing Green green tea + lime powder, spring mix greens, coconut water. 

What do people know you for? That I am an actor, mom, wife and vegan. 

How is Milwaukee special to you? I was born and raised here.

What may people not know about you? I cannot watch horror or thriller movies…and even heated confrontations make me anxious.

What drives your creativity? Collaboration.

What are you going to talk to us about this month? I will explore taboos (some widely recognized and others I will dare to diagnose) in our local and national theater community as well as touch on the entertainment industry as a whole through the lens of an artist of color. 


Ticket registration for “Taboo” opens here Monday, March 27th at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited!

On Friday, February 24th, we’re returning with “Moments” ft. Daniel Holter

Daniel Holter is a producer, mixer, composer, and songwriter and partner behind Wire & Vice, recording studio located in a 1920s-era post office just outside of Milwaukee. Daniel has mixed music by bands and artists such as Nick Lowe, Field Report, Over The Rhine, Amos Lee, Blitzen Trapper, YØUTH, David Choi, among many others. Daniel is also a co-founder of The License Lab, an independent resource for producers, editors and music supervisors. Below we caught up with Daniel to get to know him better.

What do you typically eat for breakfast? Sendik's fresh squeezed OJ is ridiculously great. I have a glass every morning. And my youngest son loves Cinnamon Life… so I grab a bowl of that most mornings, too, as a nod to him. Also, Valentine or Colectivo coffee.

What do people know you for? I suppose as a music producer, though most of the work they might have heard is the stuff usually unnoticed in a typical day… background music on their favorite tv show, commercial music for advertising, that sort of thing. I wrote the music for the launch of the original electric car, the EV-1 by GM, way back in 1999. Was also the composer for a whole bunch of Mad Men promos. I hope that this year means people know me more as the producer and mixer for two of Milwaukee’s most talented sons, Sam Ahmed (as WebsterX) and Chris Porterfield (as Field Report).

How is Milwaukee special to you? Number one, I moved back from LA and to have my kids be raised here. So, this is home. And two, the fact that Milwaukee Wisconsin has a special place in the world of music in all kinds of ways: Les Paul and the invention of both the electric guitar and multitrack recording in my hometown of Waukesha, Summerfest being the world’s largest music festival, the world’s largest sheet music publisher is Wauwatosa’s Hal Leonard, I believe the largest microphone collection is right here in the city, the roots of recorded jazz and blues music can be traced to Paramount Records in Grafton, 88nine is the envy of the non-commercial radio world, and in the Pabst/Riverside crew we have truly passionate and talented people setting trends in the way artists are treated and shows are curated.

What may people not know about you? I originally wanted to be an architect but quickly learned about the level of math required.

What drives your creativity? I’m not sure. Ideas are never in short supply. Execution, however…

What are you going to talk to us about this month? I’ve been told the theme is “Moments,” and I think that word is pretty fascinating in the context of creativity and the human experience. My goal is to inspire and challenge without being too self-indulgent. 

Ticket registration for “Moments” opens here Monday, February 20th at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited!

On Friday, January 27th, we’re returning with Brian Jacobson, a writer, photographer, and researcher whose career has included work for WTMJ, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, MKE, The Onion, Journal Times, Third Coast Digest, Urban Milwaukee and OnMilwaukee. He is also a founding member of the Coalition of Photographic Arts (COPA), and has shown his work in numerous galleries and museums. Brian spends his off time digging up clues about Milwaukee’s history, architecture and art. Below we caught up with Brian to get to know him better.

What do you typically eat for breakfast? If I’m lucky, I get scrambled eggs–done the chef way with lots of butter, salt and mixing while removing from heat occasionally. Most days, I’m rushed and I get coffee only.

What do people know you for? People may know me best from my journalism work, in which I was also the event photographer. I’ve also had a healthy artist presence with my images and often get requests for Milwaukee images.

How is Milwaukee special to you? Milwaukee is my second backyard, community, workplace, playground and research subject. I know most streets back and forth, and I have my fair share of secret hiding places to relax.

What may people not know about you? I recently took up learning Norwegian and found the accent, tones and words coming to me preternaturally (n.b. Brian’s family originally hails from Norway).

What drives your creativity? I need inspiration to create, which is easy for a photographer as every visual looks to be your next image. But to actually make something and put it out there–I need to not be distracted by the rest of life worries. I know that I have more to offer, but admittedly right now I’ve been winter fallow.

What are you going to talk to us about this month? I’m going to be addressing why we look to past masters for inspiration in our own work–and when something is missing or you discover a clue that compels you to solve a mystery, that it will take you down a plentiful road. The two stories I will be focusing on were missing art pieces from Milwaukee’s history that have fascinating backstories. Learning about the artwork’s physical life, context and the people involved can be just as interesting as the art itself. I understand Milwaukee’s subtextual culture much better from my research.

Ticket registration for “Mystery” opens here Monday, January 23rd at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited!

On Friday, November 18th, we’re returning with Xavier Ruffin, a filmmaker, title designer, illustrator and motion graphics designer who is currently President at Dopamine Productions. He is best known for writing and directing the 6-part web series Mad Black Men. Xavier also works heavily in the music industry and has animation, vfx, title design, and director credits on music videos with Klassic, Prophetic, Riff Raff, T.I., Donald Glover, OG Maco, Mac Miller, Gerald Walker, and others. Below we caught up with Xavier to get to know him better. 

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What do you typically eat for breakfast? I like oatmeal with brown sugar, Cinnamon Toast Crunch, bananas or fried plantains for breakfast on most days.

What do people know you for? Most people know me for motion graphics and directing music videos.

How is Milwaukee special to you? Milwaukee is my home. It’s where I was raised. It’s like a second mother to me which keeps it close to my heart.

What may people not know about you? It may not be well known that I make music as a hobby and I’m interested in quantum physics.

What drives your creativity? My need to make things drives my creativity. It’s an addiction for me. I’ve always made things and I don’t know what life is like without making more things.

What are you going to talk to us about this month? This month I’ll be speaking about the ethereal idea of fantasy and how we can pull it into our reality.

Ticket registration for “Fantasy” opens here Monday, November 14th at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited!

On Friday, September 30th, we’re returning with Kara Mulrooney, an independent filmmaker, commercial producer and production designer. From her experience behind the lens, in front of it and in setting up the scene, she knows about the magic of film from all angles. She also co-founded, alongside filmmaker Susan Kerns, Gal Friday Films and FILM FURIES, both meant to increase and support the number of women working “above the line” in Film. Below we caught up with Kara to get to know her better. 

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Photo by Tate Bunker

1. What do you typically eat for breakfast? Within ten minutes of waking I eat a bowl of Kashi cereal, followed by an hour or two of coffee and water, then an omelet with spinach, tomatoes, and onions, topped with sharp cheddar cheese and veggie bacon on the side. 

2. What do people know you for? You may remember me from such films as “An Evening at Angelo’s” or “jazzy@32 (a true story)” or other of my short, high-spirited docs. But I also love doing on-camera work and recently had the opportunity to play a title role in an independent paranormal film, working title “Depth of Field.” I love my day job as a commercial producer where I get to work with a variety of Milwaukee’s creative pro’s, and I moonlight as an instructor in UW-Milwaukee’s Film Dept. – the class I teach is called “Design for Film: Speaking with Things and Stuff.” And I’m a proud member and co-founder of the FILM FURIES, a local gang of gals who make films and/or work behind camera in the film industry. 

3. How is Milwaukee special to you? The robust and generous artistic and independent filmmaking communities are truly special. Also, the vegetarian food, Lake Michigan, and the high number of haltingly unique spaces and micro-cultures (like Angelo’s Piano Lounge.) 

4. What may people not know about you? I love roller skating, and I’m pregnant – two unfortunately incompatible things. 

5. What drives your creativity? Giddiness. Unbridled excitement. If I see something or someone inspiring or get a funny idea in the shower, I can feel the electricity in my brain partying – it can be quite a high. The trick, of course, is pursuing that moment, keeping some piece of that initial sparkle with you as you slug through every phase of making. I find the act of editing to be especially difficult, because of the infinite number of combinations but also all the sitting, so occasionally reminding myself of those first magical moments is important. 

6. What are you going to talk to us about this month? (Cues The Final Countdown): Magic! Film sets are frequently referred to as being “where the magic happens,” so we’ll look at how magic is conjured and concocted in film but also art in general. There won’t be doves or bunnies, but there may be spells and a couple of other surprises…

Ticket registration for “Magic” opens here Monday, September 26th at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited! 

On Friday, August 26th, we’re returning with Matt Kemple, founder of Milwaukee Comedy and the Milwaukee Comedy Festival (in case you missed it at the beginning of August, they just celebrated their 11th year), and co-founder of the upcoming Milwaukee Fringe Festival, a multiday event celebrating theater, dance, music and visual art. When he’s not lining up creative and hilarious events, you can find him in The Underground Collaborative, a space complete with art galleries, recording booth, dance studios, and a theater, meant to be a resource for creatives in many disciplines. Below we caught up with Matt to get to know him better. 

1. What do you typically eat for breakfast? I absolutely love breakfast foods, but I am never hungry in the mornings, so it’s typically a strong cup of coffee at home to get out the door, and then a mocha from the local coffee shop to push me into lunch. If I could, I would eat french toast every morning (with coffee of course).


2. What do people know you for? I’m known for two main things: 1. Putting on live events like comedy and theatre productions.  I have worked on about 600 live shows and events since moving to Milwaukee over a decade ago, and am often recognized by name in the industry.  Second:  I am that guy with a theatre in the Grand Ave Mall!  It’s definitely a WEIRD place to be, but it’s a wonderful resource for many performing arts groups in town. 


3. How is Milwaukee special to you? I absolutely love Milwaukee.  I moved here about 12 years ago from Ohio with the intention of moving on to LA or New York a year later. But Milwaukee is the kind of city that has it’s own incredible identity and it’s own set of unique opportunities, so instead of moving away I stayed to absorb all that Brew City has to offer. 


4. What may people not know about you? I am a full-fledged beer snob.  I used to brew beer in college with my roommate back when the only “craft beer” on tap was Guinness and Heineken.  We experimented with dark lagers and hoppy ales to the point of kegging our own beer and helping a local brew pub to make barrels of beer every week. I don’t brew anymore but it really opened up my taste buds.  


5. What drives your creativity? I draw influence from the world around me. I work with a lot of creative people, and it helps to surround myself with people that are trying to do fun and weird things too. A lot of what I do is based in humor, which is different for everyone so often I have to see what’s fun or interesting through a different perspective so it can have the biggest impact on an audience. 


6. What are you going to talk to us about this month? This month I am talking about WEIRD!  Or more importantly, how being weird and making weird decisions helped me to create my own niche in the creative world. 


Ticket registration for “Weird” opens here Monday, August 22nd at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited! Hope to see you at Ward 4 on Friday, August 26th.

On Friday, July 22nd, we’re returning with Frankie Ratford, Melbourne native and founder of The Design Kids, an organization that bridges the gap between design students and creative professionals. Since 2009, she’s been working with 2nd and 3rd-year students to facilitate collaborations, create pop-up shops and shows, and go on design road trips in an RV named Sunny. Frankie will be speaking on the theme “Love,” and teaching you how to redesign your life into one that you love. Below, we asked her some questions to get to know her better.

1 What do you typically eat for breakfast? Breakfast is about the only thing that’s consistent in my life. I never know where I’ll be sleeping or who’s desk I’ll be working from that day, but within my friends I’m famous for my breakfast; poached eggs, smashed avocado and toast, with salmon if I’m feeling rich. I’d eat breakfast for dinner if I could!


2 What do people know you for? Graphic Design and/or travel. They probably met me at an exhibition, wine in hand, telling them some silly story about my RV breaking down, some amazing person I just met that day, or something hilarious/scary/both about hitchhiking for work. 


3 How is Milwaukee special to you? Its special because I’ve never been! I’m getting a 57 hour flight on Monday (yup, you read that right) from London to Chicago, via Copenhagen, Oslo, Boston and driving up from Chicago the day before, so I’m really excited to see your city and meet the people of Milwaukee, hear some awesome stories and just get amongst it!


4 What may people not know about you? Despite a globe-trotting rockstar lifestyle I like to lie about on Instagram, I’m actually earning less money that I was 10 years ago as a graduate! Following the life you love has little to do with your bank account and more about hustling just to make it happen. And I’m 100% English, despite the Australian accent ; )


5 What drives your creativity? Moving makes me really happy. Give me a crappy train ride, or long boring bus journey and I’ll be the happiest person in the world. The sensation of moving literally puts my brain into gear and that’s where I do all my thinking, planning, coming up with crazy ideas and solving all those problems. Day dreaming is where its at!


6 What are you going to talk to us about this month? About doing what you love, about the sacrifices, about the high highs and the low lows, about figuring it out, about making it happen, about making tough decisions at crucial moments to stay on the right path, about not getting murdered and about doing things for all the right reasons. Super excited to be there!!

Ticket registration for “Love” opens here Monday, July 18th at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited! Hope to see you at The Villa Terrace on Friday, July 22nd.

On Friday, June 24th, we’re returning with Sarah Dollhausen, social justice advocate and hip-hop culture enthusiast. Sarah is executive director and co-founder of TRUE Skool, a non-profit focused on youth arts education and community service. Sarah will be speaking on the theme “Broken,” and encouraging us to shift our perception in viewing others as broken. Below, we asked her some questions to get to know her better.

photo by Royal Brevväxling

What do you typically eat for breakfast? I’m lucky to work in the same building as a fruit stand so I usually grab some fruit from the fruit stand right above us in the Grand Ave Mall. Although, when I get time I love to go to Zak’s on 2nd for a quick bite to eat, poached eggs w/a side of hollandaise sauce, wheat toast, and hash browns with lots of Sriracha. The waiter actually remembers my order so I guess I go there a lot, lol.

What do people know you for? TRUE Skool…literally, when I was the only full-time staff member people would walk by me in public and say, “Hey TRUE Skool!”. I laughed the first time that happened to our Program Director.  

How is Milwaukee special to you? The ridiculous amount of talent that goes unnoticed and unappreciated but a group I get to interact with often. And the resilience of our youth, despite the statistics I know so many amazing young people who just don’t give up.

What may people not know about you? I was a teenage mother and have a 21-year-old daughter. I also have a 9-year-old son from a previous marriage.

What drives your creativity? The ability to create projects that provide positive opportunities for others. People ask me often if I am an artist, which I guess comes with the territory of running an arts organization, and I tell them my art is the business side of things. I realized early on I just didn’t have the skill set to be an actual artist so what better way to be involved in the arts but to provide artistic opportunities and creative outlets for others!

What are you going to talk to us about this month? I am going to share a bit of my journey and how it got me to TRUE Skool. Also, how we sometimes don’t realize that our creative spirit is “broken” and how opening up that side of us changes us as youth and as adults.  

Ticket registration for “Broken” opens here Monday, June 20th at 11AM CST. Grab a ticket as fast as you can they are free but limited! Hope to see you at Radio Milwaukee on Friday, June 24th.

On Friday May 27th, we’re returning with Jeff Fitzsimmons, author, artist, technologist, entrepreneur and co-founder of the virtual-reality company Custom Reality Services. Jeff will be speaking on the theme “Reality,” and sharing insights about how new technologies like virtual reality are challenging our expectations and the boundaries of storytelling. Below, we asked a few questions to get to know him better. 

What do you typically eat for breakfast?

Eggs, avocado and hot salsa with cold-brewed coffee. Mmmm…

What do people know you for?

I’m the co-founder of Custom Reality Services and HarQen. I am a big advocate for the Milwaukee film community and am also an unapologetic tech geek.

How is Milwaukee special to you?

Milwaukee is a beautiful city with pockets of creativity everywhere. The arts and film communities are thriving and it’s a great place to raise kids!

What may people not know about you?

I used to chase Thunderstorms in the Southwest to photograph lightning.

What drives your creativity?

Insatiable curiosity!

What are you going to talk to us about this month?

I am going to talk about the emerging medium of virtual reality and how it will change our perception of what is ‘real.’

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