Masthead from an issue of Art Muscle

Art Muscle Magazine (1986-1997) was a bi-monthly art publication located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Initiated by Debra Brehmer (a writer, art historian and curator) while she was in graduate school at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the first issue was published in September 1986 with a collaborative group of participants that included Frank LewisMichal Ann CarleyJohn BlumBob FriedmanKathy KellerJerome Schultz. The initial group dispersed after the first issue and the magazine was run for the next nine years by publisher/editor Debra Brehmer and her business partner and collaborator Therese Gantz. The photo editor was Francis Ford and the Advertising Sales Manager was Angel French. The magazine was sold in 1995 to Judith Moriarty, a long-time participant and writer for the magazine.

Art Muscle’s circulation was 20,000. It was distributed free in Wisconsin and sold on newsstands nationally. The broad-side format was modeled after Interview Magazine in New York. Taking a democratic approach to the arts, it covered a range of activities from visual art to theatre, dance, music, architecture and vernacular concerns. Its large pages afforded a generous use of photographs provided by the region’s best-known artists such as Francis FordJ. Shimon & J. LindemannTom Bamberger and Jim Brozek.

Most regional art publications in the 1990s, such as Chicago’s New Art Examiner, were non-profits. Art Muscle intentionally held a for-profit status and raised money through the sale of advertising. The participation of its advertisers was an important philosophical consideration of the magazine. Their support, both monetary and an endorsement of the value of the publication, most importantly created a community of participation and helped expand the reach of the publication outside the art world.

Art Muscle became known and admired for the quality and depth of its writing combined with a personable, approachable tone. It attracted numerous writers and guest editors over the years, ranging from Judy WoodburnBob (Dupah) FriedmanKelly PeduzziJon EricksonMark AndersonMichelle GrabnerBrad KillamFrank LewisJudith MoriartyTom Bamberger, and Nicholas Frank.