Theaster Gates and Michelle Grabner to Curate 2021 Edition of Sculpture Milwaukee


By CGN Staff via PR

Sculpture Milwaukee,​ an annual outdoor exhibition of public sculpture in the city's downtown, has announced that its 2021 exhibition will be co-curated by artists Theaster Gates and Michelle Grabner. Launching in June 2021 and running through November, the exhibition is now in its fifth year and has become one of the largest annual outdoor exhibitions to focus on​ ​contemporary sculpture and public art practices. Sculpture Milwaukee serves as a catalyst for community engagement, economic development, and creative placemaking. ​The exhibit creates a free, open-air art gallery, which captivates residents, tourists, downtown employees, students, and art lovers alike. 

Sculpture Milwaukee is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization funded through private grants, in-kind donations, and sponsorships. ​All of the artworks are available for purchase.

Michelle Grabner, whose ​Untitled ​sculpture appeared in Sculpture Milwaukee’s inaugural​ ​exhibition in 2017 stated, "It is exhilarating to co-curate Sculpture Milwaukee with​ ​Theaster, knowing that the process will result in wholehearted and attentive conversations between two artists who are deeply invested in sculptural form, materiality, and the urgent political and aesthetic issues embedded in a large-scale public exhibition.”

The organization will continue​ ​with virtual artist talks, and, if conditions improve around the ongoing pandemic,​ ​in-person programming may resume. ​Sculpture Milwaukee will continue to celebrate sculpture​ ​by knitting together an offering of artwork that imparts artistic perspectives, material​ ​imagination, and creative expressions within a city-landscape that foregrounds civic​ ​engagement and diverse cultural histories.

Past participating artists have included Jim Dine, Tony Tasset, Julian Opie, William Kentridge, Paula Crown and many others. A complete list of artists and artworks that will be part of the 2021 exhibition will be released this coming Spring.




Theaster Gates ​is a ​Chicago-based artist and curator whose practice encompasses sculpture, performance, and land development-based projects.​ His work contends with the notion of Black space as a formal exercise – one defined by collective desire, artistic agency, and the tactics of a pragmatist. Drawing on his training in urban planning and preservation, Gates is known for investing in the revitalization of urban spaces. In 2010, he advanced this aspect of his practice by establishing ​Rebuild Foundation, a nonprofit platform that provides free arts programming and cultural amenities to communities on Chicago’s South Side.

Gates is ​a professor at the University of Chicago in the Department of Visual Arts and at the Harris School of Public Policy, and is Distinguished Visiting Artist and Director of Artist Initiatives at the Lunder Institute for American Art at Colby College. ​His work has been widely exhibited in museums, galleries, and biennials nationally and internationally, including recent solo exhibitions at Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago and Gagosian Gallery, New York.

Read CGN's 2018 interview with Gates here



Michelle Grabner​ is a ​Wisconsin-based artist, writer, and curator. She co-curated the 2014 Whitney Biennial ​and was the Artistic Director for the inaugural 2018 FRONT International: Cleveland Triennial for Contemporary Art. Her practice spans a variety of media including drawing, painting, and sculpture, and finds a creative center in operating across platforms and towards community. ​Her work has been the subject of several national museum surveys. She is presently represented by James Cohan, New York and Green Gallery, Milwaukee, among others.

Grabner is the Crown Family Professor of Art and the Senior Chair of the Painting and Drawing Department at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago where she has taught since 1996. She has also held teaching appointments at The University of Wisconsin-Madison, Cranbrook Academy of Art; Milton Avery Graduate School of Arts—Bard College; Yale University School of Art; and the Skowhegan School of Painting and Sculpture, Maine.