Sara Daleiden of MKE<->LAX and Wes Tank of TankThink and of Story Raps fame have been working closely for over a decade as creative collaborators. Recently, their long-held collective professional vision has come to life with the opening of a new media center, located directly across Vliet street from Washington Park. Washington Park Media Center, which they co-own and operate, is a media hub offering services to help clients produce media content including podcasts, videos, social media content, and even creative event collaborations, all while intentionally investing in the surrounding neighborhoods with strategic place-making initiatives, mentorship, and more. The selection of the site was intentional.
“We are passionate about and dedicated to the stewardship, growth, and vibrancy of Washington Park and the surrounding neighborhoods,” said Daleiden, when asked about why they chose the Vliet Street location for their operations.
Washington Park Media Center will provide multi-use space and equipment for filming, photography, podcasting, live streaming, hybrid events, and multimedia installations, and will also serve as a space for creative small businesses, providing counsel and services including media production, strategy, and training. At present, through TankThink MKE <-> LAX, Daleiden and Tank work with a range of clients across all sectors including government, arts non-profits, community development non-profits, corporations, foundations, small business and independent creatives. And they are open to engaging with creatives across the spectrum of experience.
“We invite and serve creators of all skill levels, in any stage of their media-making journey. Washington Park Media Center encourages collaboration, mentorship, and experimentation. Our media-making environment celebrates entrepreneurship and artistic vision,” said Daleiden.
Though they currently engage with clients based all over the world, their organization’s pride of place manifests in ways beyond their name and the footprint of their physical location. Tank and Daleiden intend for opportunities and investments to flow back into the neighborhood through the business they take on.
“We care about where we are while also creating innovative media for a broad range of online and in person platforms,” said Tank.
In the building of Washington Park Media Center, the duo drew inspiration from a lineage of businesses who have called the surrounding neighborhood home.
“We are enthusiastic about being in the mix with all the new and long-standing creative small businesses near us that have chosen Vliet Street as a home,” said Tank. “(Businesses) such as Art Intersection MKE, Triciclo, JazzyRae’ Jewels and Accessories, Pete’s Pops, PWD Computers, Denizen and Artists Working in Education.”
Work has already begun in connecting with the local youth through collaborations with Washington Park Friends, including the establishment of a neighborhood A/V Club.
“We are supporting the formation of this new stewardship group whose purpose is to improve and sustain the experience of Washington Park through neighbor-led initiatives that connect with the people in the neighborhoods surrounding the park. We launched the Washington Park A/V Club in association with the Friends to provide a space for neighbors with a range of ages to pursue their media-making interests together on a bi-weekly basis, and to make positive media in and around the park.”
Milwaukee’s Teens Grow Greens has also been making use of the facilities, under the tutelage of independent creative and mentor Kelly Michael Anderson, with apprentices learning while creating “a plethora of high-quality media content for Teens Grow Greens’ social platforms while developing their technical skills,” said Tank.
Many other Milwaukee partners have influenced and shaped Tank and Daleiden's vision for the space—which they see as an extension of the park itself. Some of their recent collaborators include Near West Side Partners, Local Initiatives Support Corporation, United Methodist Children’s Services of Wisconsin, Washington Park Friends, Washington Park Wednesdays, Martin Drive Neighborhood Association, West Vliet Street Inc, and Milwaukee County Parks.
The entire project of Washington Park Media Center is a labor of love, and a realization of the many years of network-building and skill-development for both Daleiden and Tank. Many personalized, artistic touches throughout the center reflect how every aspect of the space’s vision was crafted with intention and creative style, including several floor to ceiling colorful “faux furtains,” made from bright fuzzy fabrics they discovered in L.A.
“We brought this multi-colored raw mascot material back to Milwaukee and had it sewn into backdrops for our flexible curtain system by local artist Casey Harris,” said Tank.
Ultimately, Tank and Daleiden are looking forward to the space serving as a springboard for creatives of all kinds, offering pathways to foster talent and skills, while building community, and helping to make Milwaukee a more networked and well-resourced creative community.
“We hope to be a Milwaukee-based incubator for creative small businesses focused on media production, strategy, and training to grow in the region and globally. This can also include our broader network of creatives working in art and design who want to join us in imaging the beautiful range of cultures present in Milwaukee, Wisconsin and related Indigenous lands. We already have an incredible network of creative talent we have worked with in Milwaukee for years, and believe the media center can provide a warm, flexible space for further risk-taking and networking with that talent,” said Daleiden.
Washington Park Media Center is open by appointment and for events. Contact them to learn more about how you or your organization can work with them or collaborate.