Express Yourself Milwaukee (EXYOMKE) will present a daylong Farewell Celebration to be held on December 13, bringing an end to two decades of community service that inspired youth with the arts.
The Farewell Celebration will be held throughout Milwaukee and will conclude with a Finale Show and Celebration at the EXYOMKE studio at 1300 W. Fond du Lac Avenue. The nonprofit organization has served low-income and at-risk youth in Milwaukee’s central city since 2003.
The Express Yourself Milwaukee Board of Directors made the difficult decision to cease their operations at the end of 2019, due to a lack of ongoing infrastructure to support the organization. Even with that decision, EXYOMKE wanted to have a day to celebrate all of their accomplishments working with Milwaukee youth through the expressive arts for the past 19 years, as well as show their gratitude to everyone who has contributed time, energy, ideas and financial support to their nonprofit organization.
“I am forever grateful for the past 20 years of therapeutic work in our community through Express Yourself Milwaukee and the power of art to transform lives. I am also grateful for the many talented youth, artists, administrative staff and board members who have continually inspired hope and trust in the roll-up-your-sleeves and make-something-positive-happen brand that Express Yourself has become known for,” said Lori Vance, Executive Director of EXYOMKE. “When we collaborate together, we can make things happen! As EXYOMKE closes its doors, there are still many positive seeds of change and possibility that I see in our community that are supporting our youth to have a healthy childhood.”
Vance said that she was honored to have been a part of an organization that created a climate for understanding the depths of trauma in families. EXYOMKE has responded with the importance of connection and safety, and provided a space to create and experience the healing power of the arts. It remains her hope to see those seeds of life grow in new ways as the community continues to expand its commitment to racial equity and inclusion, trauma-informed care, and healing-centered engagement.
In its 19 years of serving the Milwaukee community, some of Express Yourself Milwaukee’s biggest accomplishments have included:
- Collaborating with youth across the city, creating art that challenged young people to know themselves and their community through visual art, music, dance, poetry and theater.
- Performances in theaters across the city: Centennial Hall, Marquette’s Helfaer Theater, Scottish Rites Theater, Alverno Pitman Theater and Miller High Life Theatre.
- In-depth commitment to changing the juvenile justice system, weekly groups in Detention, Milwaukee County Accountability Program, Shelter Care programs and Annual Therapeutic Art Camps at to Lincoln Hills/Copper Lake.
- Transformation of its studio into a vibrant creative space for youth, making it a welcoming destination.
- Collaborations with local, national and international Guest Artists including such performers as: Speech Thomas (Arrested Development); Cammie Griffin (STOMP); Justin Myles (STOMP/Tap Dogs); Desmond Mason (Former Bucks Player and visual artist); Amlak Tafari (Steel Pulse) and Jimmy Santiago Baca (Poet).
Founded in 2003, Express Yourself Milwaukee immersed young people in the arts, where they found powerful tools for self-expression, uncovered inner strength, and deepened connections with others. The youth they serve range in ages from 7 to 21, and more than half have been in Milwaukee County’s delinquency and court systems. 95 percent of their participants were low-income.