Artist Bobby Drake Interested In Collaboration With Sherman Theatre

Bobby Drake is a spoken word artist and a musician. He is also interested in utilizing the Sherman Theatre, when it is revitalized, for its studio and performance spaces.

As one of the artists surveyed by the Sherman Theatre team, Bobby Drake says he is enthusiastic about the idea of a new center for the arts in the Sherman Park neighborhood. “I envision it as something that could be interactive and engaging for the people who use the space, not just the artists,” Drake says. “The energy of the project could bring people together who have differing cultural hobbies and interests.”

When asked why he would be interested in using such a space, Bobby Drake mentioned that he likes to “practice where he preforms.” Besides having the studio space to work in, he also seeks a “secure place to store equipment,” something that the Theatre space could certainly provide.

Bobby Drake has many ideas of how to make the Sherman Theatre an exciting place to be. For his part, Drake is interested in “showing films, hosting monthly performances, utilizing state-of-the-art audio and visual equipment, and livestreaming events for those who can’t be there in person.

As the effort to revitalize the Sherman Theatre continues, the idea of collaboration with artists such as Bobby Drake is inspiring. We are enthusiastic about bringing artists to the neighborhood and providing them with a great place to do what they do best: create and entertain.

Get involved to make our dream of a new Sherman Theatre a reality.


Survey Links Artists to Theatre

uwmFor a renewed Sherman Theatre to thrive, artists need to be involved every step of the way. They could use the space as a studio, a performing arts center, or both. Recently, our partners at the UWM Center for Economic Development conducted a study of artists and arts organizations in Milwaukee to gauge their interest in the Sherman Theatre project.

Based on survey responses, it is clear that there is demand for arts space in Milwaukee. The need is reflected in the responses from artists and arts organizations alike. Many artists work from home due to cost constraints. Many arts organizations rent their facilities but have an interest in considering alternative space. The main considerations in the selection of arts space are cost and location. It is recommended that the stakeholders generate public awareness of the Sherman Theater and offer regular tours to familiarize people with the location.

In general, respondents have a particular interest in performing arts space and studio space. It is important that the space have certain features in order to provide an attractive option to artists. The features cited are both tangible and intangible. For instance, it is very important to artists to work in proximity to other artists. The physical features of the space are also very important, as evidenced by the number of respondents who need natural light and windows.

What follows is a summary of the survey’s findings, which are very important as the Sherman Theater stakeholders develop design ideas for the rehabilitated Sherman Theater.

Artist Profile

The most common type of art practiced by survey respondents are: performing arts, painting, and visual arts/photography. Most respondents practice their art on a full-time basis.

Current Studio

Most respondents have studio space at home. 30% of respondents rent studio space. Of these, the majority have studio space within 10 miles of home. The vast majority of respondents (80%) do not share the cost of rent. 36% of individual artists spend less than $500 per month on rent. 60% pay less than $500 per month. Cost is the primary reason why 57% of respondents do not rent space.

Ideal Studio

The survey revealed a significant level of interest in rental of arts spaces, provided the space has certain features. For both artists and arts organizations, the most important features of an arts space are price, location and proximity to other artists. While all 4 types of space have significant interest, studio space is in highest demand from individual artists while performance and black box space are in highest demand from arts organizations. The most common needs in an arts space are as follows (listed in order of frequency):

  • Light/Natural light/Windows
  • Storage space
  • High speed internet
  • Safe environment/security
  • Sinks
  • Meeting rooms
  • Quiet space
  • Parking

Thoughts on the Sherman Theatre

Half of the respondents are unfamiliar with the Sherman Theater. A handful requested a tour of the facility. More awareness of this project needs to be generated. There is a strong interest in community movie theaters. Some caution was expressed at the location of a movie theater at the Sherman Theater location.

Crossing Hurdles

Nearly all respondents are able to offer services in exchange for access to arts space. Most of the respondents can offer art classes and/or can serve as volunteer at facility events.The greatest challenges faced by the artists are day-to-day financial challenges; lack of access to affordable space for studio, exhibition and performance; marketing challenges. The most important resources to the artists’ careers are interaction with other artists, access to studio space and professional development opportunities.

Arts Organizations

Half of the arts organizations rent their space. Eighty percent of the arts organizations operate out of a permanent location. Arts organizations were unanimous in selecting the “right price” as the most important factor in the success of a multi-purpose arts facility. A link to management services such as a booking agent is of least importance to the arts organizations.

Theatre Studied for Social and Economic Impact

Beyond being a center of fun and entertainment, would a renewed Sherman Theatre be tangibly beneficial to the community and economy of Milwaukee?

In October 2014, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee Center for Economic Development sought to answer this question. Researchers conducted what is called a “socio-economic impact analysis” of the proposed Sherman Theatre revitalization project and turned up some comprehensive results.

A “socio-economic impact analysis” is a common tool used to measure the impact of a proposed project on the businesses and residents of a community. The analysis is done to help the community decide whether to move ahead with a project and, if so, to ensure it has the best possible impact. Continue reading

Letter to Kohl, Seligs

Dear Senator Kohl, Commissioner and Mrs. Selig:

Enclosed in this packet are invitations from two accomplished children who live in the Sherman Park neighborhood. They are inviting you to visit the Sherman Theater. As Executive Director of the Burleigh Street Community Development Corporation and as a Sherman Park resident, I want to extend my personal invitation as well. I’m sure the Sherman Theater and its environs hold special memories for you. It was a wonderful place to grow up when you were young, and we want it to be that same kind of place for children and families living there today. We welcome the opportunity to share our hopes and dreams for the theater with you.

Over the past decade, neighborhood organizations have banded together in attempts to reacquire ownership of the theater. We want it to come alive! At this juncture, we believe we have a group of talented individuals to help bring our dreams to fruition Our stakeholder list includes prominent bankers, architects, community development experts, city planners, and creative arts professionals, performers, and supporters. Continue reading

Shepstone Consults for Sherman Theatre

A professional planning and research consultant is hired for the Sherman Theatre project.

Reviving Milwaukee’s historic Sherman Theatre is more than just a dream; it’s a project with tangible steps and goals. Yet, the project needs a serious and viable business plan in order to move forward. It was for this reason that the Burleigh Street Community Development Corporation (BSCDC), which leads the theatre project, sought to add to its diverse team of stakeholders, a professional planning and research consultant. Through a very competitive selection process, which considered candidates not only from Milwaukee but around the country, the BSCDC decided on Thomas Shepstone and the Shepstone Management Company.

The Sherman Theatre revival project is part of a strategic plan adopted by the BSCDC five years ago. “It has been on front burner for a long time, and is now coming to fruition,” said James Hiller, current Executive Director of the BSCDC, founded in 2000. Various groups of neighbors, community activists, and City of Milwaukee agencies have worked individually and collectively since the 1990’s to revive the Sherman Theater’s glory days and, at the same time, give it a 21st century makeover. Continue reading

Asset Map of the Sherman Theatre Area

Here is a map detailing the assets of the area surrounding the Sherman Theatre. Below the map is a key describing these assets in more detail. Click on the map image to enlarge it.

Sherman Theatre Neighborhood Asset Map

Sherman Park Community Association – One of the oldest community-based organizations in Milwaukee (founded in 1971). A major stakeholder and partner in the Sherman Theatre project.

Congregation Beth Jehudah – A Jewish Orthodox synagogue led by spiritual leader Rabbi Michel Twerski. Mainstay of the neighborhood for decades. A vital group of individuals whose spirit and vitality offer a positive dimension to the area.

St. Joseph HospitalThe neighborhood hospital serving the Sherman Park community. Its staff is committed to patients and to the area it serves. Community members of all ages rely on its high standards for service and outcomes.

Washington High School – An MPS school that was the educational institution that produced many of Milwaukee’s finest leaders. It continues to set the pace for excellence in education. Staff cares deeply about working to ensure that every student reaches his/her full potential.

Sherman Perk – A fun, casual meeting place for coffee and discussion. Clientele come from the diverse Sherman Park community. It also draws customers from metropolitan Milwaukee and suburban locales. Nurturing friendships and building community happen here.

Great Impressions – A neighborhood location for high-quality graphics and imagining services. Recipient of the Urban Entrepreneur Partnership Inner-City Growth Award.

Lena’s– A grocery store in Milwaukee’s first Kohls food store building. It provides quality products and quality service. The food market as established 45 years ago by Bezelee and Lena Martin and is now proudly operated by a second-generation of Martins.

53rd Street  School – MPS school serving students in K3 through 8th grade. Its creed “I can be whatever I want to be” is recited daily by students as they are encouraged to believe and achieve it.

Townsend Street School – This school, serving students in full-time K4 through 8th grade, features an after-school program and partnership with the neighborhood Boys & Girls Club. The school also partners with Wisconsin Lutheran College beginning at fifth grade.

Grisby’s Day Care – A neighborhood daycare center that is operated by the Grisby Family. The development center serves a diverse and deserving population.

Midtown Shopping Center – An urban shoppers’ oasis, Midtown offers a variety of convenient retailers, including Pick ‘n Save, Starbucks, Applebee’s, Wal-Mart and many more retail destinations.

St. Catherine’s Church – The church and school serve the Catholic community in the neighborhood. Its mission is to educate an urban community of diverse populations. It is a hub for the activities of Common Ground.

Milwaukee College Prep – An outstanding charter school that has expanded its number of schools to reach as many students as possible. It is led by a dedicated staff committed to the well being of its “scholars” (as they are called). A “can do” philosophy guides all practices.

Boys & Girls Club – The Mary Ryan Boys & Girls Club is dedicated to its members in the Sherman Park community. It serves as a safe place for children and teens to spend their time after school or during the summer.

Next Door – New to the neighborhood (recently purchased from the former Northwest General Hospital) and the location of a major, far reaching Head Start Program. Next Door has a reputation for being among the very best in its field. It has five-star rating by YoungStar, the state’s rating program.

Yeshiva Elementary School (Y.E.S.) – A Jewish Choice parochial grade school with more than 200 students. Parents and staff have a long standing commitment to the Sherman Park neighborhood. Students receive an excellent religious and secular education.

Residence of Rabbi and Mrs. Michel Twerski

For over three generations their leadership in both the Jewish and general community has been strong and positive. Their presence has enriched the Sherman Park neighborhood and will continue to do so moving forward. People from outside the state of Wisconsin have moved to the Sherman Park neighborhood to live near Yeshiva Elementary School, Congregation Beth Jehudah and other institutions the Twerski family has cultivated.

Share your memories of the Sherman Theatre with us!


This is the new website for the effort to re-open the historic theatre in Milwaukee, WI’s Sherman Park neighborhood. The goal of this website is to garner community enthusiasm and involvement in the effort.

Please explore the website and get in touch with any questions or comments.