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Entrepreneurial pursuit: Building a museum experience

Painting, time-based media, interior design, pretty much any creative pursuit – these are all gateways to creative problem-solving and entrepreneurial thinking, argues Scott Schwebel. In his new role as the Milwaukee Art Museum’s chief experience officer, the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) emeritus board trustee shares his perspective on the role of creativity in the business world.

“I’ve always been able to use art in my business career,” explains Schwebel. “Arriving at the [Milwaukee] Art Museum, which is this iconic representation of the creative world in Milwaukee and the Milwaukee experience … has been a wonderful and, frankly, unintended outcome.” From global advertising, marketing and design efforts to leading the innovative and distinctive brand of Colectivo Coffee, Schwebel is enthusiastic about applying his previous experiences to his new role.

“This is a world-class piece of architecture on a world-class piece of real estate. It is an unbelievable collection of art,” says Schwebel of the Museum. As chief experience officer, Schwebel will thread together all aspects of the museum experience, connecting visitors to the museum locally and further afield. “[T]here’s a voyeuristic experience that is classic in the museum world. For me, where I get excited is: How do we translate that into story-making or memory-making? How the museum not only participates as this amazing place to visit, but how it participates in conversations,” he says.

“Everybody understands what the Museum is because of what it represents,” Schwebel continues. “There’s this undeniable physical presence. There’s tremendous programming that goes on within the Museum. But the ability to get the brand personality more into the community, into the creative class, is a wonderful opportunity.”

No stranger to branding and identity work, Schwebel formed part of the group of MIAD Board Trustees responsible for assisting the college in crafting a rebranding strategy and identity. He appreciated the joy of being surrounded by creatives. “It’s nice to have had that as part of my legacy within the community of Milwaukee as well as the creative community as a career creative,” he says. “…[G]reat branding is really about simplicity … to have the message and meaning land in the most crisp and clean way. What are the things we can take off the plate and still have the message be pure and simple and resonate?”

When it comes to MIAD students, Schwebel maintains that creativity is “one of the most pure forms of entrepreneurial activity that you can pursue. Creatives start with nothing and come out the other side with something.” Schwebel knows the creative minds that MIAD attracts will leave a legacy of positive impacts within Milwaukee and beyond. “Innovation pushes everything forward,” he says. “…[T]he most valuable attribute of someone who’s attracted to MIAD is their problem-solving capabilities.”

In the future, Schwebel hopes to continue evolving the relationship between the Milwaukee Art Museum and MIAD, two institutions that contribute to the city’s creative economy.

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