1997 Artist Barbara Manger started AWE. The idea first came to her on a cross-country bike ride while she was contemplating public cuts to arts education at the state and local levels. She gathered a group of Milwaukee area artists, art educators, and museum curators to initiate four artist-in-residence programs that paired professional artists with school groups.
1998 the organization became a 501(c)3.
1999 Artist Sally Duback began the Truck Studio program with a donated van, and a vision to bring art to young people in the parks.
2002 AWE won the Governor’s Award for Excellence. The Truck Studio program grew over the years to include a fleet of four, brightly painted vans filled with art supplies and staffed by a team of artists, art educators, college level interns, and MPS interns.
2012 AWE’s budget grew by 22% and the organizations reach grew by 55% with the addition of year round Truck Studio programs in partnership with Milwaukee Public Library, and community based artist-in-residence programs during the summer months.
2014-2015 AWE engaged in strategic planning to identify organizational priorities, and led to a neighborhood focus for implementing our programs.
2016 AWE began implementing the 5×3 Artist-in-Residence program in the Clarke Square, Harambee, LBWN, Lindsey Heights, and Washington Park Neighborhoods. This program provides youth the opportunity to create public art that addresses social justice issues that matter to them.