Who We Are: Our Story
It all started with a wish upon a moon. Well, maybe not exactly. After more than 20 years of supporting Milwaukee’s arts & culture scene thru MOD GEN, a retail business in the heart of Milwaukee, co-founders Deb Kern and Doug McDonald saw their community support growing and taking on a life of its own. The duo recognized an opportunity to build upon the city’s vibrant arts scene and expand opportunities for free and accessible public art programming. As Milwaukee enthusiasts and art-lovers, they wanted to help the city’s creative community shine — and inspire more meaningful connections along the way.
JOY ENGINE (formerly known as Black Box Fund) was launched in 2019 with a three-day creative extravaganza Under One Moon, kicking off the collective’s ambitions and they’ve been spreading joy and wonder through public art ever since
Bringing public art to life. Today, we partner with local and international artists to create inclusive arts experiences that reflect the diversity of Milwaukee and are welcoming, family-friendly, and free to all.
Meet Our Team
President and Co-Founder
Why Public Art?
Culturally-rooted arts experiences allow us to explore identity, place, and belonging. At JOY ENGINE, we champion using public art as an “engine” to break barriers, spark meaningful human connections, and create equitable access and belonging within Milwaukee’s arts & culture community.
At JOY ENGINE, we believe public art is a reflection of our world. Public art is a tool to nurture our neighbors and enhance a sense of community identity. And since public art is also freely accessible, people from every neighborhood and corner of the city can enjoy it and feel inspired.
Get Ready for Unforgettable Public Art Events in Milwaukee.
Submit an Artist Spotlight
Artists – we want to support you and share your work with our community!
Please submit an Artist Spotlight if you’d like to be featured on our social media.
Have your own event or project in mind?
Our partnership program supports unique artistic projects across a diverse spectrum of artistic disciplines and cultural expressions.