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  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Gasparka

Milwaukee Pride + Cross Culturalization w/ John Riepenhoff

Artist, gallerist, and curator John Riepenhoff has built an art world enterprise over the last two decades and change. Throughout his career, he has been representing Milwaukee on a global stage-- a responsibility that he takes deep pride in. Fueled by a belief in how special Milwaukee culture is, Riepenhoff has represented Milwaukee through professional art opportunities in Tokyo, London, Basel and beyond. As a young artist, he was originally inspired to open a gallery in order to platform the talent of his community and create more opportunities for local artists. His practices grew from problem solving, saying yes to opportunities, and in the process, he’s increased access to art for the public and built spaces for artists to intentionally connect and exchange ideas, often across cultures and nationalities.

John Riepenhoff's "Art Stands" w/art by Peter Barrickman, Greg Klassen, Richard Galling, Nicholas Frank, Nicholas Frank, Jose Lerma, Scott Reeder & Tyson Reeder
John Riepenhoff's "Art Stands" w/art by Peter Barrickman, Greg Klassen, Richard Galling, Nicholas Frank, Nicholas Frank, Jose Lerma, Scott Reeder & Tyson Reeder (image: Western Exhibitions)

In the conversation, Riepenhoff discusses the unique qualities of the Milwaukee art scene that he has helped to build and shape. Despite Milwaukee artists enjoying the freedom of creating in a place that’s not driven by the same art market as places like New York, Milwaukee artists are still driven by a desire to be in conversation with international cities.


“In a void of asks of artists, there can be a really creative output that’s not fulfilling the needs of client, market or grants. There’s value in artists not solving problems but discovering or making problems,” said Riepenhoff.

John Riepenhoff (image: Daniel McCullough)
John Riepenhoff (image: Daniel McCullough)

Riepenhoff discusses his recent curatorial work through Sculpture Milwaukee, now in its seventh year, which highlighted for him just how much the Milwaukee community seems to value the presence of public art. The exhibition entitled “Actual Fractals: Act I” is a reflection of the diverse voices of the artists, and, at the same time, a nod to patterning, and ways of thinking of universal subjects at different scales.


Other sources of inspiration for Riepenhoff include the culinary arts, the natural world, sensory stimulation, and “ephemeral experiences that bring us together.” Through his work, he’s been a steady advocate and architect of a diverse range of artistic projects, and in the process has elevated many Milwaukeeans, as well as Milwaukee’s reputation worldwide as a special cultural hub.


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