We believe public art has the power to stimulate dialogue, foster healing, and inspire change.

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

Doug McDonald

Doug McDonald

President and Co-Founder

Deb Kern

Deb Kern

Co-Founder

Steph

Steph Salvia

Executive Director

Monique

Monique Charlier

Board Member

Ian Abston

Ian Abston

Board Member

Margaret

Margaret Czaplewski

Board Member

Sorrina Beecher

Board Member

May 2019
Summer 2019
Summer 2019
Summer 2019 (August)
Fall 2019 (October)
Spring 2020
Spring 2020
Spring 2020
Spring 2020
2020
2020
Fall 2020
Summer 2021
Summer 2021
2022
Spring 2022

70% of Americans believe that the “arts improve the image and identity of their community.” (Americans Speak Out About the Arts)

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.

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