I have seen first hand how this program allows guests to get a hands-on experience of my work. I love to see guest reaction when they encounter my work up close and personal.
The best part of the studio is that you never know who will pop in. It continues to be one of my favorite parts of the experience.
Around the start of my second month, ed I had an epitomizing moment when Karen Walsh of the Geneva Lake Museum stepped into the studio. An instant friendship blossomed and a month later I showed an exhibit at their “History Loves Company Celebration.”
Not only were there replicas of 1900’s style Fire Stations, Law offices, buy viagra Schools, Farms, Kitchens, etc. but they also had displays of turn of the century home craft, photography equipment, dentistry, boating, and the military.
If you have a passion, obsession, profession, or hobby, they will have the turn of the century counterpart. It is worth it to see the history of your work in physical form. Google-ing it online can only take you so far, in the words of the new director of the museum, generic Karen Walsh, “If you touch history, history will touch you.”
Here are some of my favorite sights from the trip.
My exhibit for the “History Loves Company Celebration” was a miniature version of my studio in the Pfister.
My set up was a fun compliment to the fiber art display they also had in the museum.
On semi-permanent display will be an exhibit of costumes that I’m making in the studio.
It was a wonderful experience and I hope to share many more during my residence. And, as always, please stop in, my door is always open.
The steady pacing is a ruse. They navigated easily through an obstacle course of more than a dozen cardboard boxes outside the Imperial Ballroom. I’ve orchestrated large events and will confess that set-up never runs this smoothly without precision planning. I was, doctor most certainly, observing a pro team of volunteers. The women floated amid the boxes like a quiet force before a storm.
Well, maybe not quiet.
“If we put the paperwork in first, the bags will stay open.”
“Only one perfume in each bag, not one of each perfume in each bag.”
“Watch out for the insecticide.”
They fall into a rhythm, a walking assembly line to pull items from open boxes, place sponsor swag into cloth totes, and move each large bag to an expanding sea of black canvas.
“Did you enjoy the Chicago trip?”
“Your daughter is done with law school already?”
The next day’s luncheon is Go Red for Women, Milwaukee’s celebration in the American Heart Association’s national campaign to galvanize communities toward raising awareness –and action—about heart disease. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, heart disease is the leading cause of death for women in the United States. Compared to breast cancer’s loss rate of 1 in 30, 1 in 3 American women die from heart disease daily. This equates to someone’s wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt or best friend dying from cardiovascular disease every single minute of every single day.
“What do you think about this: we could invite this pathologist I met to give a talk about the kind of testing women should get.”
“Remember that chef? I looked at her website. She gives a Heart Healthy cooking class at Aurora. We should call her.”
“I really liked that last event. It was educational without feeling like we were back in school.”
The women laugh. They have grown to a team of six or eight now. They continue tossing ideas into the air. They continue asking about one another’s lives. They continue assembling tote bags.
“About 300. More volunteers are on the way.”
“I volunteered my first year, then I joined right away.”
“Yep, that’s how we rope you in.”
The women laugh again. This is the Circle of Red Society, women who support the Go Red for Women campaign with dollars and deeds.
“We’re the passion arm of Go Red,” says Pat, the incoming chair for Milwaukee’s Circle of Red. “This is our big annual event, but we stay active every month of the year. We try and talk to everyone about talking to everyone about heart disease.”
The outgoing chair, Lisa, doesn’t stop moving and filling bags and says, “People still are not aware. Women still don’t know signs and symptoms.”
As I continue to chat with Pat, the machine of women offer more comments while they continue to pack and move their gift bags.
“A lot of people still think breast cancer is our number one killer.”
“It’s still considered an ‘old man’s disease,’ but women’s symptoms are just different sometimes.”
“They don’t think heart attacks can happen to a woman in her 30s.”
“I’ve had a heart murmur since I was a kid.”
“My sister passed away from heart disease. My mother did too.”
“They think you have to be overweight.”
“I knew a woman who was only 51, did yoga four times a week and, when she started having a stroke, assumed it was something else. A friend convinced her to go to urgent care. Saved her life that day.”
Most of the Circle’s women have personal stories, Pat tells me, but all of them are inspired ambassadors. I asked what they would tell every woman (and the people of love them) if they could and the group agreed:
“Learn the symptoms. Do not ignore your body. Go to the doctor for regular exams and screenings.”
Even without a snazzy tote bag, these women know that Life is our most precious gift of all.
Watch this clever video starring Emmy-nominated actress Elizabeth Banks:
In March, a team of collective Marcus foodservice and hospitality employees submitted an amazing tabletop design in this year’s WRA/NACE competition. We are proud to announce they have won two awards for their submission “Detection.”
The first award was for “Most Innovative” and the second was for “Best Use Of Theme.”
Drawing inspiration from Sherlock Holmes, the team wanted their piece to be a setting that was romantically mysterious ruse on the verge of being solved.
Congratulations to the entire team involved including:
It is the people who are the best at what they do who are the most difficult to write about. How do you document the seam which is so well constructed that it appears seamless? I’ve been trying to figure out a way to explain the concierge position for quite some time. Pfister Chief Concierge Peter Mortensen is a terrific storyteller, in addition to being an stellar concierge. Peter has a love for both the arts and Milwaukee history, both details which lead him to the story he tells below.
Peter and I traveled to record this piece in Milwaukee’s historic Turner Hall Ballroom. Since this is the place where his story resides, I felt it impolite to leave the topic of our conversation out of the conversation. You may notice Peter’s voice has a deep echo, and that’s because we were sitting in the middle of the cavernous ballroom on a quiet Sunday afternoon.
Below, Peter regales us with the story of how a man living in Milwaukee, in 1892, wrote the world’s first pop music hit. Here is an old video of the song After the Ball as introduced by the songwriter himself, Charles K. Harris. Then, to hear Peter talk about the music coming full circle one hundred years later with performers Joan Morris and William Bolcom was ice cream scooped onto the cake. Click play or download below to listen to these gems of Milwaukee’s past and present.
This weekend marks the 25th anniversary of the Wisconsin Dancesport Championships. The company has a long history with the hotel as they’ve held the annual event at the Pfister all these years. This high-heeled party brings dancers from across the country to compete at their specialized steps.
It is interesting to see the dancers’ posture and gait change depending upon which dance is announced. For example, to an untrained eye (mine) the tango appears stiff and exacting. The foxtrot takes on a more sly, playful, and sensual body movement. During waltzes dancers’ bodies become languid and graceful, flowing toward the next position. Dancers are on display everywhere across the 7th floor in varying stages of preparation, warm-up, cool down, and rushed focus to perform last minute wardrobe alterations. There are rumbas, cha chas, jazz dances, solos, the jitterbug, salsa dances. The list goes on to nearly every dance you’ve ever (or some, in my case, never) heard of. During competition fellow dancers between heats applaud and cheer for their friends and colleagues.
Between competition dancers relax and recharge throughout the cafe and lobby lounge. The women wear makeup which reminds me of my theater days and the men stand at attention as suitors with impeccable posture. Coaches critique improvements necessary before the next time they hit the floor. The vibe is that of a large extended theater company from all walks of life.
One can’t help but wonder about the impact shows such as So You Think You Can Dance have had on these competitions. I would imagine the larger exposure of dance offered to the modern lexicon has brought an influx of new blood in to the dance community.
I tried to imagine any other environment where an event such as a ballroom dance championship could be held that would be as fitting as the Pfister Hotel. Nothing came to mind, except possibly some fantastical land which exists only in a poet’s imagination. Standing amidst the assembled bustle of thoroughbred peacock dancers which have taken up residence inside of the crown jewel of the Marcus family, the two feel so fitting you wonder where the dance stops and the hotel begins and vice versa. The delineation between stage and spectator blurs to a point that the fray is as much a part of the experience.
A brick and mortar structure can be lovely standing by itself but without the people to breathe a kiss of life into it’s hallways, it is just a pile of well placed bricks, doors, and floors. The unique events and personalities passing through these doors create the personality of the Pfister Hotel, possibly even more so than this lovely house which Guido and Charles built.
I was sitting in Timothy Westbrook’s studio this afternoon. It is a few days after his first successful gallery showing and already the man is back at work. While Timothy constructed new fabric joining cassette tape and wool I listened to the repeating slick/slack/creak/crack sound of his loom in motion. With the new dress in the works I sat thinking about the ongoing, timeless, human dialogue we seem to have termed “The Great Conversation.” This may seem strange or lofty material to be considering at work, but when surrounded with artwork on every wall you do feel like you’re having a regular dialogue with the artists. In this case, when Tim is working, you can have a conversation. Sitting in this artist’s studio/gallery, the below is something I observed. Considering, and offering to, that great conversation.
The Medici Family were bankers from Tuscany, Italy. Their initial family monies were made in the textile industry and they were influential in developing the double entry bookkeeping system. During the renaissance they owned Europe’s largest bank.
I’m sure their advances in bookkeeping are fascinating but that is not generally why the Medici name has survived throughout history. The Medicis were great patrons of the arts and sciences. Artists so highly regarded we don’t bother speaking their entire names; Masaccio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and even Galileo.
The first time I saw a concert in Summerfest’s largest amphitheater I was 15. The headliners were Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, and Ziggy Marley. I won two tickets by being the 14th caller though a radio giveaway. I took a friend from theater camp, and it was the first concert I was allowed to attend without any parents present to shepherd the teenage flock. As I think back, oddly enough, I worked at a Marcus owned KFC at the time.
Yesterday evening the Marcus Corporation kicked off their UPAF fundraising campaign at the Pfister. It was a night of camaraderie, speeches, prizes, and fantastic food and drink. Employees were encouraged to donate to the United Performing Arts Fund, an entity of which the Marcus Family have been patrons for many years. UPAF’s current tagline is, simply, “Life’s better with the arts.”
Mr. Marcus spoke at the event last night. I type this with a bit of a chuckle because their have been three Mr. Marcus’ over the years. Ben Marcus started his company in 1935 by opening a movie theater in Ripon, Wisconsin. His son Steve took the company helm in 1988. In the past few years grandson Greg has taken over as CEO.
Greg Marcus referenced Oklahoma City, where the company operates a lovely historic property called the Skirvin Hotel. He said Oklahoma City recently invested a great deal in their infrastructure and arts and culture community. Mr. Marcus added that this was met with some grousing by the city’s long-time and retired residents. They didn’t view the expenditure as important as they weren’t certain if they’d see the fruits of their monetary seeds. During this dialogue within their city someone asked, in response, if those folks would like to see their grandchildren. The question was met with shrugging and head scratching. Greg explained that, “If you want to see your grandchildren a city needs to be somewhere your children can be gainfully employed and not desire to move to another city. But we can’t have jobs alone, a city requires an active culture worthwhile for residents spread their earnings throughout the community. So, if you don’t want to have to drive to Tulsa, or Dallas, or any other city to see your grandchildren, Oklahoma City needs to be the place your kids want to keep living.”
This type of conversation crosses my mind when I’m at Milwaukee’s Lakefront, one of it’s festivals, or one of our many county parks. These places don’t exist on accident, and we don’t have free and public beaches because the real estate is undesirable. Decades ago, centuries even, people decided that those areas were worthwhile to keep public to increase our collective quality of life. The idea of shared park space was relatively new, as European royalty often enjoyed exclusively any desirable land. Ken Burns’ documentary on the topic was titled, succinctly, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.
I may be getting a little off the direct topic, but I see a parallel between patronage toward the arts and the coexistence of natural spaces for us to share. They both require the conclusion, whether by one person or many, that,
“This has value to me.”
Over the last six months, I’ve been able to gather the stories of people traveling through Milwaukee, native Milwaukeeans, and everyone in between. But years before that a few people got together and decided that there is a history, a contemporary living history, that is worth documenting. They decided that Milwaukee and the Pfister Hotel are worth it, and they’ve invited artists and writers in to actively chronicle our contemporary lives within this cream-bricked city. I’ve been lucky to capture a few of these stories, reassemble them, and hand the bouquet back over for you to experience. Whether you’ve been a reader, a hotel guest, a new friend with a story, a conscientious employee…you’ve all acted as patrons.
I look out from Blu’s 23rd floor windows. Summerfest is visible and far to the south in white lettering across a blue background reads The Marcus Amphitheater. The venue in which I saw that first concert the summer before my junior year in high school. Summerfest; that musical playground of my teenage summers. Which someone built just for me and everybody else.
You work at a hotel. A man checks in to the hotel with arms in plaster casts sticking straight out from his body. Later in the day the man calls down to your desk and explains that he’s not certain how to get himself dressed for the day.
What do you do?
Concierge Roc tells the story of how he teamed up with Annie, the Pfister’s Head of Housekeeping, to satisfy the needs of a guest in a whimsically compromising situation. No matter the job at hand, they’re always glad to serve.
Click Play below or Download to listen to this brief chuckle of a story.