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Lakeside At MAM Kicks Off Summer Of Events With Performance By Native American Artist & Storyteller Ronnie Preston

Spirit of America
The Milwaukee Art Museum is offering free lakeside events all summer to encourage Milwaukeeans to come together and enjoy each other's company once again.

Summer in Milwaukee means spending time on or near the water. As the temperatures have begun to rise, people have been flocking to the Milwaukee waterfront to cool down and spend time outdoors. On Thursday from 10:30 a.m. to noon, the Milwaukee Art Museum will debut a series of events right on Lake Michigan, called Lakeside at MAM. The series will include a variety of activities and events held outside on the museum’s east lawn.

Curator of community dialogue at the Milwaukee Art Museum Kantara Souffrant is responsible for putting together the series. She says she wants the events to be a space for people to gather and begin healing from the pain and loss caused by the pandemic.

“To just have a moment where we get to remind ourselves that we’ve survived a really challenging year,” says Souffrant. “It was also really important to acknowledge that the land that we are on has a really fraught history and to honor the people who were here long before us.”

The museum is kicking off the series with a performance by Ronnie Preston, a Native American artist and storyteller who is of the San Carlos Apache Nation. Preston will be leading a land blessing; performing storytelling, dancing and drumming; and teaching about native culture through art.

Preston points to the origin of the name "Milwaukee," which has ties to several native languages and means “gathering place by the water,”as an example of the deep Indigenous history in the city that is not often discussed.

“I’ve made it my job to educate people on the aspects of this beautiful city that we live, that it’s not just an industrial city, it’s not just big brewers, and this and that, there’s rich history here,” he says.

One way Preston tells that history is through hoop dancing, a traditional dance performed by a single dancer with several large hoops. He says the dance is meant to tell the story of not only Indigenous people, but all people.

“This hoop, which is a circle, we call it "the circle of life," and everybody has a life story from the time that we’re brought upon this earth ‘til the time Mother Earth welcomes us back home and what we do in this circle reflects on the story that we tell everybody,” he says.

Lakeside at MAM will continue bringing free events and art making opportunities until September 5.

“The lineup really reflects the diversity and history of our city in ways that I think are really beautiful and also in ways that honor the amazing artists and creatives in our city,” says Souffrant.

Joy is a WUWM host and producer for Lake Effect.
From 2020 to 2021, Jack was WUWM's digital intern and then digital producer.
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