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Pandemic causes Underground Collaborative to permanently close community arts center

Milwaukee’s unique creative venue, art gallery, and rental space on the Lower Level of the Plankinton building in the Shops of Grand Avenue will close permanently due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Established in 2012, The The Underground Collaborative featured over 8,000 sq. ft of space including a 100+ seat theatre, art gallery, recording studio, dance studio, rehearsal and practice rooms, administrative offices and creative work spaces. Founder Matt Kemple issued a statement to theatre groups and artists about the decision on June 1.

“The pandemic has affected all of us in big ways. The Underground Collaborative being an arts-based business that relies on public gatherings to operate has been hit harder than we could have anticipated. Unfortunately this means we have to close The UC permanently,” said Kemple.

The painful decision was financially based, because funding for The UC comes through ticket sales and rental fees from local arts groups. ver its eight year history, The Underground Collaborative has been a home to theatre companies, visual artists, dancers, and nonprofit organizations. Upwards of 15,000 people visited The UC each year, with more than 140 different events taking place annually, including theatre and art gallery events, live comedy and music shows, fundraisers, workshops and meetings.

“I hope in some way The Underground Collaborative has fulfilled its purpose to provide resources for performers, artists and creatives, and been a hub for live performances that brought the community together to laugh, cry and feel inspired by the amazing talent we have in Milwaukee,” concluded Kemple in his emotional email to supporters.

The venue had become a staple to the local arts scene by renting unique and affordable space for shows, events, rehearsals, meetings and classes. Milwaukee Comedy, the region’s premier independent comedy production company utilized The UC for monthly stand up comedy shows along with the annual Milwaukee Comedy Festival.

The UC walls were home to an art gallery curated by Sue Berce and 8 resident artists along with rotating guest artists with a range of mediums including oil and acrylic paintings, pen and ink, watercolors, and photography. Dozens of different theatre groups began or grew at The UC including Voices Found Repertory, The Constructivists, Outskirts Theatre, and the Company of Strangers Theater Co.

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Underground Collaborative

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