Tag Archives: joe pabst

The Mike Benign Compulsion confronts life at a certain age on ‘Here’s How It Works’

Few of us anticipate the realities of life at a certain age. But one day we awake, and there we are — totally unprepared.

That’s the experience at the heart of the third album by Milwaukee’s The Mike Benign Compulsion. Here’s How It Works is scheduled for release on March 8.

“The album is about middle age,” Benign says. “The whole album is about that in one way or another.”

The album’s title refers to the realization that life turns out a certain way, and that’s just “how it works,” Benign explains.

The Mike Benign Compulsion consists of guitarist, vocalist and songwriter Mike Benign, drummer Michael Koch, organist and guitarist Joe Vent, and bass player Brian Wooldridge. They’re are all veterans of previous top Milwaukee bands, including Blue in The Face, The Wooldridge Brothers, The Yell Leaders, Arms & Legs & Feet, and The Joker’s Henchmen.

All of the group’s members have known each other for a very long time and none of them performs music as a primary career. Benign says they all share the experience of having a point where music was “really what we wanted to do with our lives.” But that’s never happened.

Here’s How It Works is the third album that the group has worked on together as The Mike Benign Compulsion.

After my first listen to the album — and after viewing the music video for the single “Haley Daley” (check it out on YouTube) — the work of a young Elvis Costello came to mind. The comparison was deepened by the inclusion of the song “Imperial Bedroom,” which references Elvis Costello’s 1982 album of the same name in exploring feelings of unfulfilled youthful dreams.

Benign confirms that Imperial Bedroom is one of his all-time personal favorite albums. Certainly Costello’s expressions of loss and resignation haunt many of the songs on Here’s How It Works.

Benign says that he and his bandmates realize that the potential of getting a “big break” is gone. But what continues, he says, is the desire to create songs and expose local fans to them in a way that will touch them and make them think while providing them with an enjoyable, quality pop-rock experience. Getting the most people to hear the music is now the key goal.

When you pick up a vinyl copy of Here’s How It Works, the first thing you notice is a photo of Milwaukee philanthropist and longtime LGBT supporter Joseph Pabst on the cover. It’s a riveting photo that fits per- fectly with the message of the album.

In it, Pabst is barefoot and wearing a rumpled suit while bearing an expression that looks as if he has barely survived what came before and yet is resigned to what the future might hold. Ken Hanson of Hanson Dodge Creative in Milwaukee conducted the photo shoot.

Benign says the original idea was to have someone middle-aged, nude and in a fetal position. The intention was to present a partial homage to Annie Lebovitz’s image of John Lennon curled up next to Yoko Ono that was published on the cover of Rolling Stone after his untimely death.

But when the photo shoots were completed, the band decided that the original idea was too dark for what the band wanted to convey. The original fetal position image is used on the insert of the vinyl version of Here’s How It Works, while the suited image is more appropriate for the The Mike Benign Compulsion at this point in the group’s development.

Benign says peak moments for the band have included the opportunities to open for musical veterans and idols such as Squeeze, Bob Mould, Black Francis of the Pixies and Marshall Crenshaw.

The band is not experimental or avant garde. “It’s straight-ahead pop rock ’n’ roll, and there’s an alternative aspect to it,” Benign says of the group’s music. If you are a fan of power pop, the more

rock-oriented edge of new wave, or simply solid, intelligent song craft, then The Mike Benign Compulsion is well worth an evening’s investment. You can hear The Mike Benign Compulsion live at the band’s album release party on March 8 at Shank Hall. The evening also features Milwaukee group Testa Rosa.

Here’s How It Works will be sold on vinyl in Milwaukee and will be available for digital download through the usual outlets, including iTunes and Amazon.

ON STAGE

The Mike Benign Compulsion appears live at Shank Hall, 1434 N. Farwell Ave., in Milwaukee at 8 p.m. on March 8. Call 414-276-7288 or go to www.shankhall.com.

Joe Pabst and MAM refine the art of AIDS awareness

Focusing attention on serious issues is a challenge in a culture that seems intent on distracting people from them.

One way that issue advocates fight back is to designate special events, commemorative days and fundraisers that highlight what might go unnoticed: Al’s Run, Breast Cancer Awareness Week, World Kidney Day. 

It was in this spirit that World AIDS Day was established in 1988 and is honored each year on Dec. 1. Globally, an estimated 42 million people carry HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In Wisconsin, about 6,500 individuals are living with HIV or AIDS. 

Focusing attention on serious issues is a challenge in a culture that seems intent on distracting people from them.

One way that issue advocates fight back is to designate special events, commemorative days and fundraisers that highlight what might go unnoticed: Al’s Run, Breast Cancer Awareness Week, World Kidney Day. 

It was in this spirit that World AIDS Day was established in 1988 and is honored each year on Dec. 1. Globally, an estimated 42 million people carry HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In Wisconsin, about 6,500 individuals are living with HIV or AIDS. 

The intent of World AIDS Day is to support those living with HIV, remind the public that the virus has not gone away and remember those who have died. But how do we use this vast global initiative to generate reflection within our local community?

Philanthropist Joseph R. Pabst, an LGBT funder and activist, regularly thinks about that question and has come up with a gently innovative means of marking World AIDS Day in Milwaukee this year.

As Pabst tells it, he was inspired by the work of the internationally known photographer Taryn Simon after seeing her exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2011. The three Simon projects presented by MAM included “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” (2007), which documented significant places and objects to which the public normally does not have “the privilege of access,” as she puts it. Those ranged from the CIA’s art collection to quarantine sites, nuclear disposal sites and prison death rows. 

One photograph particularly struck Pabst. It was the image of a small flask of live HIV virus, photographed at the HIV Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School in 2007. Pabst said his initial reaction was, “I want it.” But then he realized that he could not only purchase the photograph but also “activate” it within the community. He gifted the 37 1/4 x 44 1/2 inch color print to the art museum with the stipulation that it be put on view every World AIDS Day.

The photograph will be on view Dec. 1–9. A panel discussion with Ronald S. Johnson, AIDS International’s vice president of policy and advocacy, takes place at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1.

“HIV is always evolving, mutating. It is constantly on the move,” Pabst said. “It is a constant challenge to keep up with it. In this photograph, for one brief moment, it is stopped and you have absolute control of it. It’s not running rampant so people can think about it in a different way than the molecular view.”

The image is meditative. The small, generic flask with its handwritten serial numbers and date seems both insignificant and ominous. It is photographed against a plain background, seen head-on.

The vial casts a slight shadow that propels it into the third dimension, pushing it outward. There are no distractions in the picture. We stand face to face with the clear golden container sealed by a red cap.

The image triggers both caution and allure, the two sides of danger. Mostly, the image speaks of the paradox that something so small can be both containable and unmanageable. Projecting power in the same way as a medieval religious icon, the photograph arrests the viewer in its the stark reality and stubborn presentness.

Pabst’s brand of philanthropy almost always emerges from a combination of personal, emotional and civic engagement. He thinks more like an artist or curator than a wealthy check writer. Pabst, who has degrees in art history and design, is able to apply his understanding of art’s connective force throughout history to unpack broad issues and unite seemingly disparate communities. In his hands, philanthropy is a creative vehicle for social activism. 

A perfect example of Pabst’s engaged style of giving is another project that he initiated in 2010 when the Milwaukee Art Museum presented a major quilt show from the Winterthur Collection. The traditional quilts that were displayed spoke of life in the early American Republic through the intimacy of the home. Pabst saw an opportunity to pair that show with nine panels from the Names Project AIDS Quilt.

Both shows used quilting to anchor stories, create community and memorialize people or events. The pairing of these exhibitions challenged viewers to think beyond the specifics of either show and consider human similarities rather than differences. 

“Productive civic work should share more than one purpose,” Pabst says. “It should bring things together to create a richer, denser tapestry. Two generations ago, our grandparents simply gave to big organizations like Red Cross or American Lung Association.”

Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, says charitable giving has become more “transactional”: Today’s donors want to know the impact of their giving and be more actively involved in the mission of their causes.

“Joe often sees innovative correlations between things and then brings them together to create more depth and impact,” Taylor said. “The beauty of what Joe does is that he takes fairly disparate ideas and sees a new nucleus. He creates a whole new synergy. Also, he creates a way for everyone to be involved, to share the stage.”

Pabst credits his great-great-grandfather as inspiration. The beer baron patriarch would give food baskets to needy families during holiday seasons. But beyond the basic foodstuffs, he also included nuts and chocolates, things that fed the soul as well as the stomach. 

The insertion of Taryn Simon’s Live HIV photograph into the public eye on World AIDS Day requires nothing in return. It is not a fundraising initiative. It does not ask us to run or walk, solicit donations or proselytize. This particular act of “activist philanthropy,” as Taylor describes it, only asks for a moment of reflection or wonder.

It empowers by staging a context for viewers to think their own thoughts in response to one succinct truth presented by one succinct photograph: 1.8 million people died of HIV in 2010 alone.

Joe Pabst and MAM refine the art of AIDS awareness

Focusing attention on serious issues is a challenge in a culture that seems intent on distracting people from them.

One way that issue advocates fight back is to designate special events, commemorative days and fundraisers that highlight what might go unnoticed: Al’s Run, Breast Cancer Awareness Week, World Kidney Day. 

It was in this spirit that World AIDS Day was established in 1988 and is honored each year on Dec. 1. Globally, an estimated 42 million people carry HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. In Wisconsin, about 6,500 individuals are living with HIV or AIDS. 

The intent of World AIDS Day is to support those living with HIV, remind the public that the virus has not gone away and remember those who have died. But how do we use this vast global initiative to generate reflection within our local community?

Philanthropist Joseph R. Pabst, an LGBT funder and activist, regularly thinks about that question and has come up with a gently innovative means of marking World AIDS Day in Milwaukee this year.

As Pabst tells it, he was inspired by the work of the internationally known photographer Taryn Simon after seeing her exhibitions at the Milwaukee Art Museum in 2011. The three Simon projects presented by MAM included “An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar” (2007), which documented significant places and objects to which the public normally does not have “the privilege of access,” as she puts it. Those ranged from the CIA’s art collection to quarantine sites, nuclear disposal sites and prison death rows. 

One photograph particularly struck Pabst. It was the image of a small flask of live HIV virus, photographed at the HIV Research Laboratory at Harvard Medical School in 2007. Pabst said his initial reaction was, “I want it.” But then he realized that he could not only purchase the photograph but also “activate” it within the community. He gifted the 37 1/4 x 44 1/2 inch color print to the art museum with the stipulation that it be put on view every World AIDS Day.

The photograph will be on view Dec. 1–9. A panel discussion with Ronald S. Johnson, AIDS International’s vice president of policy and advocacy, takes place at 2 p.m. on Dec. 1.

“HIV is always evolving, mutating. It is constantly on the move,” Pabst said. “It is a constant challenge to keep up with it. In this photograph, for one brief moment, it is stopped and you have absolute control of it. It’s not running rampant so people can think about it in a different way than the molecular view.”

The image is meditative. The small, generic flask with its handwritten serial numbers and date seems both insignificant and ominous. It is photographed against a plain background, seen head-on.

The vial casts a slight shadow that propels it into the third dimension, pushing it outward. There are no distractions in the picture. We stand face to face with the clear golden container sealed by a red cap.

The image triggers both caution and allure, the two sides of danger. Mostly, the image speaks of the paradox that something so small can be both containable and unmanageable. Projecting power in the same way as a medieval religious icon, the photograph arrests the viewer in its the stark reality and stubborn presentness.

Pabst’s brand of philanthropy almost always emerges from a combination of personal, emotional and civic engagement. He thinks more like an artist or curator than a wealthy check writer. Pabst, who has degrees in art history and design, is able to apply his understanding of art’s connective force throughout history to unpack broad issues and unite seemingly disparate communities. In his hands, philanthropy is a creative vehicle for social activism. 

A perfect example of Pabst’s engaged style of giving is another project that he initiated in 2010 when the Milwaukee Art Museum presented a major quilt show from the Winterthur Collection. The traditional quilts that were displayed spoke of life in the early American Republic through the intimacy of the home. Pabst saw an opportunity to pair that show with nine panels from the Names Project AIDS Quilt.

Both shows used quilting to anchor stories, create community and memorialize people or events. The pairing of these exhibitions challenged viewers to think beyond the specifics of either show and consider human similarities rather than differences. 

“Productive civic work should share more than one purpose,” Pabst says. “It should bring things together to create a richer, denser tapestry. Two generations ago, our grandparents simply gave to big organizations like Red Cross or American Lung Association.”

Julia Taylor, president of the Greater Milwaukee Committee, says charitable giving has become more “transactional”: Today’s donors want to know the impact of their giving and be more actively involved in the mission of their causes.

“Joe often sees innovative correlations between things and then brings them together to create more depth and impact,” Taylor said. “The beauty of what Joe does is that he takes fairly disparate ideas and sees a new nucleus. He creates a whole new synergy. Also, he creates a way for everyone to be involved, to share the stage.”

Pabst credits his great-great-grandfather as inspiration. The beer baron patriarch would give food baskets to needy families during holiday seasons. But beyond the basic foodstuffs, he also included nuts and chocolates, things that fed the soul as well as the stomach. 

The insertion of Taryn Simon’s Live HIV photograph into the public eye on World AIDS Day requires nothing in return. It is not a fundraising initiative. It does not ask us to run or walk, solicit donations or proselytize. This particular act of “activist philanthropy,” as Taylor describes it, only asks for a moment of reflection or wonder.

It empowers by staging a context for viewers to think their own thoughts in response to one succinct truth presented by one succinct photograph: 1.8 million people died of HIV in 2010 alone.

Plymouth Church to become even more welcoming

For more than two decades, Milwaukee’s Plymouth Church has been a welcoming and affirming place for LGBT people to worship. The church is affiliated with the United Church of Christ, perhaps the nation’s most progressive Protestant denomination. 

Located on the city’s East Side, the church provides space for a number of community organizations, including several LGBT groups. Equality Wisconsin, SAGE Milwaukee and City of Festivals Men’s Choruss have offices and meeting space on the premises. 

But while the congregation is as welcoming as any to be found in Wisconsin, the building itself is not, according to pastor Andrew Warner. Designed by architect Alexander Eschweiler and completed in 1913, the church is a magnificent example of early 20th century Gothic architecture, but it offers minimal handicap access. And, except for the sanctuary, the building is divided into small spaces that discourage spontaneous conversations and a sense of openness and vitality.

The building’s steep, narrow stairways are difficult for older people to navigate.

“We say, ‘All are welcome,’ but it isn’t true,” Warner said.

But the situation is about to change. 

Following a successful capital campaign last year called REACH – for “renovate, enhance and make accessible our church home” – Plymouth has begun a $1.67 million renovation that will dramatically remodel 8,616 of the building’s 35,628 square feet. Vince Micha, an architect with The Kubala Washatko Architects, has redesigned the space to make the church’s interior more navigable, open and reflective of the congregation’s core values. 

“We want to physically embody the open and affirming ethos of the congregation,” Warner said.

The church’s most frequently used entrance is not through the sanctuary on Summit Avenue but rather a door on the north of the building at 2717 E. Hampshire St. The door leads into a tiny hallway where narrow stairs lead to other narrow hallways. The result is that the surrounding spaces ­– including the large dining room downstairs and upstairs offices – are cut-off from one another, concealing the building’s many activities from each other rather than bringing them visually together to create a sense of shared community.

“The current entrance is kind of a choke point,” Micha said. “It’s never extended the arms of welcome. The building kind of frowns.”

Eschweiler intended his Gothic design, built in what was then Milwaukee’s outskirts, to evoke the sentimentality of a country English church, Warner explained. One of the famed architect’s primary goals was to create a respite from the grit of the city, which was then at the height of industrialization.

The building’s exterior and its sanctuary are stunning testaments to the craftsmanship of a century ago, built of materials that are now in such rare supply that they’re prohibitively expensive. The sanctuary features opulent stained glass windows, a cypress ceiling and elaborate brass sconces.

But small, divided spaces are also a hallmark of architectural design from the era – an aesthetic that’s sharply at odds with the open floor plans favored today. The space was further divided as the building grew. In 1915, a gym was constructed as a way of serving youth in the area and attracting them to attend church. The addition of the gym marked the beginning of the church’s expansion into something of a neighborhood community center.

Classrooms were later built above the gym, and in the 1940s an education wing, which currently houses a pre-school, was constructed on the campus’ southeast corner.

The renovation now underway is the first of a three-phase project to reconfigure much of the church’s interior space. Phase I focuses on the Hampshire Street entrance, which will be reconstructed as an open area that’s wheelchair accessible, inviting and brings the building’s activities together, said Kathryn Kamm, an architect and member of Plymouth Church who serves on the project’s build committee. It will also offer passersby a literal window into the congregation’s many activities, she said.

“Right now, for those walking by, (Plymouth) is just another dusty old East Side church,” Kamm said. “This will make us stand out as a more active and vibrant church.” 

The redesign is based on feedback from congregants and partners of the church, who were asked what they liked and didn’t like about the existing configuration. 

Due to the building’s architectural importance and its contribution to the historic streetscape, its exterior will remain as much intact as possible, Micha said. “We want to send a signal of activity and life,” he said, “but not in an overstated, overblown way – rather one that respects and celebrates the Eschweiler design.”

The building will be rededicated on May 19, 2013, which is the 100th anniversary of the original building’s completion. The Rev. J. Bennett Guess will be featured at the event. Like Warner, he is an out gay man.

While the plans for the renovation are impressive, equally impressive is the way the congregation and the surrounding community came together during tough economic times to raise the money needed, said Warner, Kamm and Micha. Much of the project’s cost will be eaten up by ho-hum work such as moving utilities, asbestos abatement and working around the inevitable structural surprises lurking in the church’s old walls – not exactly the sort of inspiring efforts that make people want to open their wallets.

Church officials began looking into the renovation in 2005, but the project went on hold after Lehman Brothers collapsed in 2008. In 2010, the church conducted a congregational meeting to reopen a dialogue about the project. Parishioners agreed with the need for the project but asked to delay the capital campaign for a year.

Then, in 2011, the entire sum for the project was either raised or pledged within a matter of months. The strong response among donors was largely the result of the role that the church plays in the larger community.

The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Johnson and Pabst LGBT Humanity Fund was among those supporters.

“In the communities of faith, I think Plymouth Church is a stellar example of walking the walk and talking the talk,” said Joe Pabst, who founded the fund. “It exemplifies goodness. The church provided space for Equality Wisconsin and SAGE when both organizations were frankly in a pinch. I have great respect and admiration for people and an organization that would come through for people like this and go beyond their own community of parishioners.”

After the renovation is complete, the church will have an even greater capacity to accommodate local groups as well as to host events and activities, Kamm said. And that’s a prospect that the church will welcome with its arms more open than ever.

Pabst gives $25,000 to UWM’s LGBT programs

Joseph Pabst has pledged $25,000 to UWM’s 2011 campaign. Pabst’s donation will support the Milwaukee LGBT Film/Video Festival, the LGBT Student Resource Center, the UWM Libraries’ LGBT Collection and the LGBT Studies Certificate Program.

“Mr. Pabst’s generous gift to the UWM community will allow us to continue to serve, educate, collaborate and work with various communities on LGBT issues. We thank him for recognizing UWM’s unique position to reach so many people and deeply appreciate his commitment to providing multiple ways to engage in LGBT-related initiatives,” said UWM chancellor Michael R. Lovell.

Gifts will begin to be disseminated and used in 2011.

Pabst is a leading Milwaukee philanthropist and longtime UWM supporter.

Touting record, Barrett asks for LGBT support

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Barrett drew a sharp contrast between his record and that of his Republican foes during a June 24 fundraiser at the home of gay community leader Joe Pabst. The Milwaukee mayor told supporters they face a “clear choice” when they cast ballots in November.

“I will fight as governor to protect the rights we have now … (and) to expand LGBT rights within this state,” Barrett told the crowd, speaking poolside next to his wife Kris. Barrett warned that the politics of divisiveness espoused by his opponents Scott Walker and Mark Neumann would harm the state.

“In difficult economic times, it’s so easy to play to people’s fears,” he said. “We’re going to get through these times by working together, not tearing each other apart. … There are values that unite us, and I see it in every part of the state. … We have far more in common than separates us.”

Barrett was introduced by Doug Nelson, executive director of the AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin.

“There’s no guessing where Tom Barrett stands on our issues,” Nelson said. “For over 25 years of public life, Tom Barrett has been on our side. Now it’s time for us to be on his side.”

Barrett reminded listeners he was one of only a handful of congressional Democrats to break rank and vote against the “don’t ask, don’t tell” military policy in 1993. He also touted his opposition to Wisconsin’s same-sex marriage ban.

“Gay rights are human rights, and human rights are gay rights,” Barrett said.

Characteristically relaxed and upbeat, Barrett joked about the backdrop for the event – Pabst’s elegant East Side home, which was recently featured in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

“This is where I wanted to present my housing policy,” Barrett said. “I think we can all agree it’s a nice starter home.”

But he ended his pitch on a serious note: “This is going to be a bruising campaign. I’m going to need your help,” he said.

Lady Gaga tickets fetch $4,500 at ARCW auction

A VIP ticket package for Lady Gaga’s Sept. 2 concert in Milwaukee brought in $4,500 during a live auction at AIDS Resource Center of Wisconsin’s Make a Promise dinner on April 17. The tickets, donated by the Bradley Center, include four lower-level seats, VIP valet service and dinner for four at the center’s Court Side Club preceding the performance.

About 750 people attended Make a Promise, held at the Midwest Airlines Center. Among those honored at the annual event were Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett and philanthropist Joe Pabst.