Alison Kleiman is the design and brand lead at Milwaukee Art Museum, which is now re-opened and safely welcoming guests. This Wisconsin native has been to art school twice, is a lover of live music and has been keeping focus on the “small wins,” as of late. Learn more about Alison Kleiman…
Hometown: Raised in Fox Point, now living in Cudahy.
First job: My first job was running a very elaborate, 100 percent make-believe store with my younger sister (I made her fill out a job application and everything). We did this for years, until I was definitely too old to be playing “store.” (We had a computer database of our fake customers and products; it was really epic.) Fast forward to post-college, and my first actual “real” job was working retail at a stationery and paper goods store. I would have to say that my fake experience actually helped in that position!
Favorite ways to spend your free time in WI: Pre-pandemic, I was an avid live music supporter, averaging a concert a week. I loved catching an intimate set at the Backroom at Colectivo or any of the other independent spots in town. The last show I saw was my fiancé’s band at Enlightened Brewery in Bay View back in March. My fingers are crossed for all of the venues in town to be able to pull through this! But since shows are really no longer an option, I’m taking advantage of Milwaukee’s natural assets. We just moved to Cudahy, and are a quick walk to Lake Michigan, which feels super lucky.
Person who has impacted your life the most and why: Do I pick the sort of cliché of my middle school art teacher who gave me A++ in art class and really let me do my own thing? Or my professor in my third-year critique class in college who nearly gave me my first C because I was just coasting? Either way, I feel incredibly lucky to have been surrounded by passionate and talented and encouraging friends and family for most of my life. To pick just one would be nearly impossible!
Your biggest accomplishment in your eyes and why: Getting to where I am today—I just purchased a home, I’m about to marry someone I love very much, I’m surviving day to day in a global health crisis…I think in these times, little wins should be allowed to add up to a big accomplishment.
The biggest obstacle you have overcome: I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes when I was a senior in high school—only to leave for college a few months later, across the country. It was really odd to try and assert myself as an independent person with a brand new chronic illness diagnosis, but I think it helped me realize that I can really tackle anything, and come out (relatively) unscathed.
Someone who inspires you and why: My sister is a second grade public school teacher in Chicago. Her ability to overcome obstacles on a daily basis would inspire anyone! She has an under-funded, over-filled classroom of 30 kids, many of whom are first-generation English speakers. She has brought meditation to her classroom, refuses to turn on the harsh fluorescent lights, and really tries to create the best learning environment for these kids every day. Then she had to figure out how to pivot to remote learning. Man, I would have thrown in the towel.
Favorite quote: “Just relax, you’re doing fine.” It’s a lyric from a song by Phish, my favorite band. It’s simple and sort of obvious, but I made a letterpress print of it and it hangs in my bathroom as a daily reminder to chill out.
Advice to someone pursuing a career path in what you do: Know that there is no single right way to get there. Find someone who has the job you want and take them out to coffee and ask them their story. I’m always surprised by people’s career trajectories. I did go to art school—twice! Bye, math skills! But my only formal training in design came from a few classes I took as an adult. I have a BFA in printmaking and an MA in Arts Administration and Cultural Policy, which in a roundabout way, did uniquely queue me up for my art museum career. Quite a few zigs and zags got me where I am now, so I think that passion and self-motivation can go a long way.
What you think makes someone fabulous: Knowing who you are, and being your most authentic self.