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No Studios Brings Together Art & Activism With First Social Justice Summit

Jean David
No Studios
"The Peacemakers" mural was installed in the late 1980s by the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council. It's located at 2nd Street and Kinnickinnic Street.

No Studios opened its doors in the old Pabst Brewery Complex a year ago. The community workspace is the brainchild of director and screenwriter John Ridley, who won an Oscar for his screenplay 12 Years a Slave. The Milwaukee native wanted to create a place in his hometown for creative collaboration and socializing.

The studio is now hosting a two-day summit on social justice — Friday at No Studios, and Saturday at Marquette University. The summit will look at how art can play a part in tackling issues like homelessness, human trafficking, and mass incarceration.

READ: The Root Of Mass Incarceration

For Ridley, the goal of No Studios from the beginning was to create a space for communities to come together through art. Seeing ourselves in other people through art has a way of impacting the way more traditional mediums can't — especially when the topics are difficult.

Credit No Studios
No Studios
John Ridley, founder of No Studios.

"Facts and figures are very important. We live in a day and age where some people dismiss facts and the truth. I’m not saying those things aren’t important. But whether it’s a song, whether it’s dance, whether it’s movies or television, sometimes there are stories that hit us in the heart and they move us," says Ridley.

Ahead of the two-day summit, No Studios is leading a week of events that highlight films, local artists, and Milwaukee's social justice issues. Ridley notes that art can be a way to heal and help people get past trauma. He wants to highlight the activists and bring people together to build networks that can tackle these issues all year long.

"We want to honor people who are working tirelessly every day to make life more equitable for all of us. Because social justice is not just for me, it's not just for you — it's for everyone," he says.

Lake Effect's Bonnie North reached Ridley at his office in California to find out more:

Audrey Nowakowski hosts and produces Lake Effect. She joined WUWM in 2014.
Bonnie North
Bonnie joined WUWM in March 2006 as the Arts Producer of the locally produced weekday magazine program Lake Effect.