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'Really upset': Local artists crushed after South by Southwest cancellation

Posted at 9:57 PM, Mar 06, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-06 23:22:41-05

MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee artist groups are feeling crushed after coronavirus concerns have forced organizers to cancel South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas.

It was set to start Friday, March 13, and continue through March 22. The festival draws hundreds of thousands from all over the world to experience music, art, tech, and film.

SGod Jayy is an artist from Milwaukee, and he was looking forward to showing off his high-energy musical talents to an international audience.

"I've performed at other big stages, but nothing where I felt I could actually grow and make some connections," Jayy said.

Jayy is part of a group called MKExpanded, an organization that promotes local music and brands from all over the country. Mocha Harris founded it in 2018.

"To be honest, I started crying because I put a lot of time into this," said Harris. "And our team put a lot of time into booking artists."

It was her first time booking South by Southwest. She snagged a stage for two days and scheduled more than 20 performances — six from Milwaukee.

"I was giving them a chance to come show because there's a lot of talent here," Harris said.

It's a feeling Karina Henderson sympathizes. She heads up marketing at Milwaukee Film, which runs the Milwaukee Film Festival and the Oriental Theatre. She didn't have plans to attend, but she wasn't surprised at the decision.

"Everything you're weighing against the safety of your audience because all these things we do for the festival we do for the people who come," Henderson said.

She and many other organization leaders are paying close attention to directives from local and national health authorities.

In the meantime, SGod Jayy hopes another opportunity will present itself soon.

"You always have to keep your mind open," Jayy said. "One door closes, another door opens."

Jayy and Harris are looking forward to focusing their energies on Milwaukee Day, another arts and culture festival on April 14.

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