They don’t call Milwaukee the “Hollywood of Southeastern Wisconsin” for nothing [citation needed]. We’ve got our fair share of locally born, bred, or based celebrities, and The Squeaky Curd is sitting down with them at local watering holes to talk butts, films, Gene Wilder, and Milwaukee.

It was only fitting that one of Milwaukee’s foremost modern artists and the face of local film aficionados would pick the eclectic and cozy Art*Bar in Riverwest for our meeting. Kpolly, aka Kristopher Pollard, has been a fixture in Brew City’s art scene for over a decade, making a splash in recent years with the release of his debut book Fake Ass Rappers. He’s also the lovable scamp welcoming you to each new showing at a MKE Film event as the Membership Manager.

Art Bar in Riverwest. All photos by Joe Powell for The Squeaky Curd. Art by Kpolly, used with permission, all rights reserved.

The Squeaky Curd: As a Milwaukeean, where do I probably know you from?

Kpolly: You may have seen me and my art at Art vs Craft [RIP] or Hover Craft MKE, or at one of my past gallery nights at Hot Pop. I also started working with MKE Film a number of years ago, and the job became much more social than I anticipated. Unexpected, but welcome.

TSC: In your opinion, what would you like me to know you for?

Kpolly: I want people to know me for creating fun art. Art doesn’t have to be high brow. Art can be hilarious & fun, interesting & smart. I think the work I do shows that, at least that’s what I hope people can take from it.

Right now I’m putting together a new book called All My Friends Have Butts. I love the act of making a book, and this has given me a chance to continue meshing my art with humor and tricking my friends into letting me take pictures of their butts.

TSC: What’s your connection to Milwaukee?

Kpolly: I moved from St. Louis to Milwaukee 15 years ago to work for [the legendary] Schwartz Bookstores. I didn’t really have any other connection than a random friend who was moving up here.

I had been working for Barnes & Noble, but wanted a more real connection to the books. Mr. Schwartz was still around when I started, and on my first day he sat me down and told me, in all sincerity, the cheesiest story about finding and respecting the “soul of the book.” I loved it; this was the kind of place I was looking for.

TSC: What makes Milwaukee a desirable place for you to live and work?

Kpolly: The art scene is really inclusive, and still with an independent feeling. If there isn’t a space to do something, (an artist) will make it. When I first moved here I went to a fashion show in a small bar. There were no independent fashion runway shows in Milwaukee, so they called up a neighborhood place and made one for the night. Showing (my art) at Art vs Craft all the way back in 2006 led to collaborations and friends I still have today.

TSC: What’s your favorite thing to do in Milwaukee?

Kpolly: I know it’s kind of weird since I work for MKE Film and go there all the time, but going to the Oriental Theatre. That theater is just so out of this world. It’s from another time. Besides, it’s got over 1000 seats, making (MKE Film) bigger than almost any other film membership program in the country. 

TSC: What are you drinking?

Kpolly: “Sport Tea”. It’s essentially like a soda tea, or a northern sweet tea. I don’t know why they call it Sport Tea. I don’t even like sports.

TSC: If you could have a drink with one other local celebrity, who would it be?

Kpolly: Do they have to be alive? If not, Gene Wilder. Willy Wonka is my favorite movie. I even got an Everlasting Gobstopper tattoo. (Gene) was just one of the funniest actors, and his scenes still hold up. He plays ridiculous characters with complete sincerity, which no one else seems to be able to do.

TSC: If you could say one thing to someone just moving to Milwaukee today…

Kpolly: I’m going to be in-eloquent, but Milwaukee has a lot of “stuff”. We’re a small city, just a shrunken big city with all the same amenities.  We need to do better at getting out to enjoy all the stuff. Plus, we’re nicer (people) than most cities.

Keep an eye out on Kpolly’s website for his new and upcoming work, or snag yourself some on his Etsy page now. You also should join him (and us!) as members of MKE Film. As Kpolly says, “MKE Film members are just so fucking nice.” Don’t prove him wrong.

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