top of page
  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Gasparka

Infusing Radical Care into a DIY Community Arts Space 

Some Fools, a collective of twenty-something transplant artists and musicians have transformed a community house into a welcoming hub of creative programming, activism and neighborly engagement in Riverwest 

A rock music concert in Some Fools Basement, from the vantage of the band.
Shontrail performing at the In the Dreamhouse exhibition.Photo courtesy of Some Fools.

A homemade meal shared over an artist talk. An activist gathering. An open call gallery exhibition and basement rock concert. Through these program series and more, Aliya Moore, Carter Voras, Sam Lopez, and Olivia Keidl and their extended community are writing and living a new chapter of Milwaukee’s artistic DIY culture.  

Each member of the collective of Some Fools grew up outside the city of Milwaukee and relocated to Riverwest within the last several years.  

“I knew it was the city for me because the railings were made out of pipes,” said Sam, who graduated from UW-Milwaukee where she studied Urban Studies. “I’d never had this feeling in any big city I went to. It was a feeling of immediate coziness, and that I was transported back in time. Also, I was drawn in by people’s ability to talk to you and genuinely care what you have to say,” she reflected. 

Embracing and embodying the special brand of Milwaukee warmth is at the heart of what the Some Fools collective has been up to since they began hosting art events in late 2022. The house in Riverwest where they live is not just a home to the tight knit group of friends and bandmates, but has become a gathering space for communal dinners, political activism, learning, and artistic expression. Within the spaces of the bungalow’s basement, living room, kitchen, and garden they seek to nurture and proliferate the best of what they see in Milwaukee’s culture.  

An artist leads a talk with a mic and presentation on a screen in the living room of Some Fools.
Artist Talk with Gnat Bowden: “Performance in Activism.” Photo courtesy of Some Fools.

“Milwaukee is DIY,” said Aliya. “I think Milwaukee is full of people who are dreamers and doers. There's a lot of new events and new collectives, but I also think we have like a quick fuse. We do things and they kind of die kind off quickly. Bands last about two-ish years, house venues last about one to two years. So like there's a regenerative cycle that's kind of fast in Milwaukee. I don’t think of that as a bad thing,” they reflected. 

The neighborhood of Riverwest has long been the site of DIY arts spaces, typically run by studio art students or recent graduates from UWM or MIAD. Gluon Gallery was an art gallery that operated from 2018- 2020 in a Riverwest garage off of Chambers and Holton. nAbr Gallery, another such space, was in operation from 2010- 2016, and was run out of the attic of a house on Wright Street. 

Building upon Milwaukee’s “do-it-yourself" art and music tradition, Some Fools has been programming events with the intent to improve upon the model of certain homogenous DIY creative spaces they’ve encountered in Madison, Milwaukee, and elsewhere. The group infuses their programs with something for everyone—including literal meal sharing, and baking accessibility into participation. For example, most of the art shows staged at Some Fools are juried selections from open calls, unlike many of Milwaukee’s established galleries.  

Artworks and an installation staged in Some Fools Basement gallery.
Pieces from exhibition Dear Diary, artists pictured from left to right: Alex Death, Ash Metz, Cole Lehto and Claudia Carlson. Photo courtesy of Some Fools.

Artworks installed in Some Fools Basement gallery.
ieces from exhibition Dear Diary, artists pictured from left to right: Claudia Carlson, Sea Green, Grace Mitchell. Photo courtesy of Some Fools.

The practice of feeding lecture guests and artists with home cooked, vegan and gluten free meals emerged from the collective members’ own practice of cooking meals together and for one another as housemates and friends. The value they see in feeding people—both literally and figuratively—had early roots in their respective relationships to the culinary arts—which span cultures and ethnic traditions.  

“At every talk that we have, there is a family style meal,” said Aliya, who identifies with the food traditions of their own Indian culture. “We’re trying to make it homey, we’re trying to make it safe. My culture and upbringing are really centered around sharing food together,” they said. 

Because Some Fools combine food making with creative program offerings, the collective leans into understanding food itself as art, and a representation of the hospitality they seek to offer to all who walk through their doors. For past events they’ve cooked dishes including biriyani, aloo, and soba noodle salad, just to name a few.  

An artistic gathering in the yard of the Some Fools house.
Sunseeker MKE at the Backyard Bash. Photo courtesy of Some Fools.

The collective has also drawn inspiration from Milwaukee’s vibrant food culture; specifically, a local artist duo. Open Kitchen, co-directed by Alyx Christensen and Rudy Medina, explores culinary traditions of Medina’s native Mexico through community programs and foods made with locally grown ingredients, many of which the artists grow and harvest at Lynden Sculpture Garden, where they are both employed as educators and artists.  

"When I first discovered Open Kitchen, I was intrigued because I rarely see artists combine culinary arts and visual arts, especially not in MKE," reflected Olivia. "They were inspired by the conversations held between artists over a meal, which really resonated with Some Fools since our friendships were cultivated at the dinner table. so we knew we wanted to share the food we made over new conversations at our talks," she offered.

In a time when groceries and the cost of living generally have increased dramatically, Some Fools’ self-funded family style meals are a generous and artful community offering. The accessibility of building an arts space in their home has allowed the group to put their collective resources towards shared meals and towards the artists and programs, and putting neighborly care into action and breaking down outdated notions of what art world spaces can and should be. 

“We’re using the home as a space of comfort,” said Carter. “We’re trying to show community care by having the home be so inviting. Opening up the home to be nurturing.” 

“Our goal is to create programming that appeals and attracts people of varied interests & passions. Our mission is to world build through collaboration with artists who share the same vision of radical communal care & support," they reflected. 

The Some Fools collective conceives of their programming as three branches of a tree: one is open call exhibitions and music programming in the basement, another is platforming local artists, and finally engagement events, wherein they team up with local organizations. In programming such a broad range of offerings, they have drawn inspiration from different venues including Linneman’s Riverwest Inn, Cactus Club, Bremen Cafe and Quarters Rock ‘N Roll Palace.  

Punk rock musicians play in a basement in red and blue lighting, under a canopy of woven together playing cards
Shontrail performing at the In the Dreamhouse exhibition." Photo Courtesy of Some Fools.

“I’m inspired by Quarters,” reflected Aliya who is a musician, honing in on the notion of performers being responsible for setting up their own sound for shows. “It makes you think—I can do that in my basement.” 

“I’m inspired by Cactus and by Linneman’s,” said Carter, who has performed in the venues. They are in the band standstill with Aliya, the band Dogbad, as well as a solo project called Barf Lord. “At Cactus, you feel you are being cared for. With college DIY spaces...those spaces weren’t always welcoming to everybody,” Carter offered. “That’s what’s inspiring about Linneman’s and Cactus. They do it the right way.” 

As the collective looks ahead, they are listening to the needs of the community to shape their next moves, and are inviting others to step into programming and curatorial leadership through the platform they’ve built.  

“It’s changing…” reflected Aliya when asked about how they would describe the group’s curatorial ethos. “We’re working with Gnat Bowden and Billy Dimmit on a curatorial project aiming to address the lack of booking for queer trans Black and brown people. We are working with them to raise funds for to redistribute to Artists in Milwaukee, mutual aid,” said Aliya. In the process, they said they have been learning about their own curatorial and programming approaches. “Gnat was talking to us about how we can really combine that music branch with supporting local artists. It doesn't have to be separated,” said Aliya.  

Through art, music, the culinary arts, and activism, Some Fools collective is just getting started in embodying and adding to the richness of these elements of Milwaukee’s culture, while centering community accessibility and friendship. Ultimately, according to Carter, all the programming Some Fools offers can be seen through the lens of serving as an answer to the question “how do I get everyone to come together to build something more?” 

Follow Some Fools on Instagram for calls for art and event information.  

The Some Fools collective and friend seated at tables at Milwaukee's Company Brewing.
Pictured from left to right: Some Fools friend Ophelia Hix, and Olivia Keidl, Sam Lopez, Aliya Moore and Carter Voras.


bottom of page