Visitors entered the Milwaukee Art Museum after hours to take part in the museum’s signature event series, MAM After Dark on Friday, Oct. 28. The timing of this particular event corresponded nicely with Halloween weekend, giving the event an extra mysterious boost to go with the forbidden feeling of being in such a grandiose place after closing time.
MAM After Dark began eight years ago when the museum was looking for new ways to generate interest, specifically in young professionals. Each After Dark event has a different theme, typically in relation to the current feature exhibit. Its overall purpose is to attract a diverse group of attendees. The theme this past Friday was Steampunk.
Steampunk was chosen because it’s edgy, eclectic and Expressionist vibe worked well with the timing of Halloween and the theme of the new exhibition according to Molly Canan, the special events manager.
The inspiration for Steampunk, a sub-genre of science fiction, comes from the Industrial age and incorporates clothing from England’s Victorian Age and America’s Wild West age. Corsets, Victorian age aviator goggles, clocks and gears are common elements in Steampunk clothing.
Although After Dark has a theme it does not have a dress code. Some attendees appeared in full Steampunk attire, others were in their Halloween costumes which ranged from a lumberjack to a Pikachu, while others still were dressed up or in casual wear. Temporary spray on tattoos in the shape of a gear was also available for those wishing to make their attire more Steampunk.
All around the Calatrava, framing the DJ stand were red spotlights, helping to set a vibrant yet spooky tone. Throughout the night music by Buffalo Gospel and 88Nine’s Justin Barney played. At one point the music supplied background noise to a steampunk inspired film, which played on the archway of the Calatrava.
Servers walked around the main gallery offering pork meatballs, zucchini bruschetta, and caramel apple fritter for dessert. Aside from food and drink, various activities such as trivia and arts & crafts were interspersed throughout the main hall. The gallery and feature exhibit were also open for exploration.
The current exhibit is Haunted Screens: German Cinema in the 1920s. Set designs and photos adorn the curving walls. The setup is reminiscent of the spiraling staircases and twisted scenery often seen in the films. With their Expressionist clothing, the members of Milwaukee’s Steampunk Society fit in well among the spiraling set designs. In addition, several films played throughout the exhibit including, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the story of a mad man whose terrifying fantasy and reality begin to overlap.
These silent films weren’t the only entertainment, a special live performance by Quasimondo Physical Theatre, who stayed in costume and character, took place among the collections in the main gallery. One performer, a human violin adorned in gold clothing and face paint even maintained her fluid yet robotic actions all night.
In addition to watching art, guests also had the option of making the art or being the art. In honor of Steampunk, those at the arts & crafts table could design and personalize handlebar mustaches complete with a string for keeping it in place. An artist also drew hand drawn portraits for people interested in capturing the night the old fashioned way.
According to UW-Milwaukee student and MAM member, Kate Young, the arts and crafts while seemingly childish are typically the most fun.
The night concluded with four rounds of trivia in the Café Calatrava where teams competed to answer haunted theme questions. As a bonus, they also competed for best team name, surprisingly Media Minority Association did not win.
As the clock struck midnight and guests prepared to leave a spread of coffee and pralines were offered, a last chance for an energy boost before the after party. Even the table was decorated to reflect the current theme, with a few Halloween decorations thrown in.
Although not as crowded as past events, After Dark: Steampunk managed to elicit the edgy and creative side of Milwaukee, while still maintaining its original purpose, to gather young professionals and show them an evening filled with food, drinks, and most importantly art.
The next MAM after Dark, Friendsgiving, takes place November 18 from 8 p.m. to midnight.