After dozens of benefit basement shows, garage sales, and even a December luau, the Milwaukee Venue Project (MVP) has raised around $5,000 for an all-ages music venue. Although the group says it remains committed to these small-scale fundraisers, big changes are also on the horizon.
“We’re making a transition right now,” said MVP co-founder Allison Vallerga. “This is a key time for us.” MVP has filed for non-profit 501(c)3 status and expects to receive official notice of their new status by this summer.
The group, founded in fall 2002 by a handful of music fans and Riverwest residents, is now an incorporated organization with a board of directors. “Once we get non-profit status, we can start applying for grants,” said Vallerga. The organization also plans to begin partnering more extensively with other community groups, including the Riverwest Food Co-op, Food Not Bombs, and Bucketworks.
Sally Weber, a member of MVP’s board of directors, is working on a “solidarity statement” to be signed by several of these groups. “The point of the statement is to work together to share resources and help each other,” Weber said. Their goal is to purchase a building to be used as a volunteer-run music venue, but organizers acknowledge that MVP still does not have enough money to sustain the project.
“We could afford something right now, but it would tank in six months,” said Vallerga. Instead, Vallerga and Weber said they hope experienced grant writers and people willing to make larger contributions will get involved. Weber also said MVP is open to the possibility of sharing a building with another non-profit.
In the meantime, fundraisers will continue. A spaghetti dinner and a benefit CD featuring local acoustic artists are in the works. More rummage sales are planned for the spring months. MVP members also plan to set up free music lessons for neighborhood children this summer.
Vallerga said MVP’s mission is simple. “People need to have a hand in creating their own culture and not just have it handed down to them,” she said. MVP member Jake Newborn, who organizes regular acoustic open mic benefits in his home, agreed.
“I have a younger brother and he doesn’t have anything to do at night except sit at a coffeehouse. Kids in the city need to have someplace to go.”
The group faces an uphill climb, but remains optimistic. “Some people think it’s a crazy idea that this could happen because it’s a bunch of kids,” said Weber. “But Milwaukee needs something like this.”