While branded as a café, Dream Lab at 327 W. National Ave. is much more than just a place to get coffee on Milwaukee’s South Side. Since opening in early 2018, the space has grown to also be a craft beer bar, hookah lounge, performance space and an art gallery simultaneously.
Out of all of these facets, the art side is perhaps the most pervasive. Paintings adorn nearly every graffiti-painted wall, knickknacks live on every shelf and countertop and an urban, street art aesthetic complements it all. While this is a reflection of owner & founder Shawn DeKay’s passion for art of all forms, it is also a reflection of the clientele who have found the eclectic nature of the space and it’s offerings as welcoming to all, especially creatives and artists of color.
DeKay exclaims that Dream Lab has become a safe, creative hub where all mediums, styles, experience levels and identities are welcome. Whereas other galleries may prohibit certain art for one reason or another, Dream Lab provides an outlet for anyone to showcase their work, whatever it is. In other words, the space has come to represent the vibrancy and diversity of the city without censorship or exclusion.
Examples of this curation can be found in the events which Dream Lab has hosted. In April, the local Muslim art collective known as Fanana Banana held Milwaukee’s first art show for Muslim creatives in the space. MKElinkup, a combination networking and gallery event which brings together creatives of all backgrounds has been hosted there multiple times. Four first time solo shows for up-and-coming artists even took place as well and the list goes on and on.