Doug McDonald, President and Co-Founder of JOY ENGINE

It all started with a wish on a moon. In 2019, my co-founder Deb Kern and I saw an opportunity to leverage the city’s vibrant arts and culture community by expanding access to public art programming. As a visual artist and staunch supporter of the Milwaukee art scene, I knew how much joy art brought to my life and wanted to find ways to showcase our creative community.

That summer we launched the Black Box Fund and presented our first event: ‘Under One Moon’, a three-day pop-up festival in Plaza Catalano featuring a giant 7-meter inflatable replica of the moon by the British visual artist Luke Jerram. . We were blown away by the response. 73% of Americans say the arts are a “positive experience in a troubled world.” (Americans talk about the arts)

But a few months later, the pandemic hit and public arts programming was hit hard. Intense periods of civil and political unrest followed, and we realized we had to do more. So we went back to the drawing board, refocused our vision, and became more intentional in how we engaged public art experiences to deepen community impact.

Today we are JOY ENGINE and we are on a mission to spread hope, inspiration and healing through public art.

I stand in front of a mural by artist Ben Talatzko. The project was supported by JOY ENGINE/Black Box Fund.

This month, we announced the 2022 JOY ENGINE Community Challenge. We are offering five grants of up to $10,000 to help artists creatively express feelings of “joy” in their neighborhoods.

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We invite artists to visit to review the eligibility criteria and submit an application.

We’re excited to see what Milwaukee has to offer.


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