We did it!!! It was a wonderful experience working with fellow artist, Gabriela Riveros, the students of Escuela Verde Milwaukee, and Ali Carlucci of Artists Working in Education, Inc. on this public art project. This mural has been and will continue to be a great way to research, talk about, and understand immigration and the role it plays in how civilizations change and evolve–culturally, technologically, and economically. It also serves as a beacon for the arts as not only integral–but a leader for how we think, feel, and take action.
Thank you to everyone who came to our mural celebration today, and to all the students, organizers, and community partners who made this project a success. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, you can view the mural at 35th and Pierce Street in Milwaukee and continue to learn more about the project on this website.
Our final day of painting. Countless thanks go out to everyone who came out for this day. We seriously couldn’t have done this without you, and are excited to feature our collaboration with you for everyone in the neighborhood to see come August.
The following video shares an exercise we did with our students at Escuela Verde.
In one of our workshops, we learned about fractals, and how this mathematical set can explain all the diversity that we see.
What is a fractal?
A fractal is a repeated, geometrical shape. It is itself repeated, and this repetition results in the complex patterns and systems that we see. We can see examples of fractals all throughout nature, and in our own, human-designed systems.
Final imagery for the mural
After all our discussions of the role immigration plays in our markets, economics, and cultural development, we decided on two “images” to represent our ideas:
Crops that now grow natively in Wisconsin, that have traveled to different regions as people have migrated and agricultural societies have developed.
Migratory species of butterflies that travel thousands of miles every year, and are essential to the health of our ecosystem. The fact that the Butterfly Effect is a concept related to fractal theory is a nod to our explanation of diversity, via fractals. (The butterfly theory states that small causes can have large effects. When and where a butterfly flaps its wings can determine whether or not a hurricane occurs on the other side of the planet.)
We combined our imagery via the shared patterns of root structures, butterfly wings, and their underlying tessellations.
Escuela Verde is a public charter school in Milwaukee that uses a project-based learning model to emphasize sustainability, student-led learning, and restorative justice. Artists Working in Education is a nonprofit that partners with artists and schools, to use the arts as a way to collaborate on community solutions that reflect the values, concerns, and cultures of the neighborhoods we are a part of.
Together with their instructors and facilitators, the students at Escuela Verde met to discuss the relevant issues of their neighborhood. Escuela Verde is located at 36th and Pierce Street in Milwaukee’s Silver City.
About the Neighborhood & Concept
Milwaukee has always been a city of immigrants. In the 1800s, most of the immigrants were from Germany and Ireland, and in 1844 it had twice as many newspapers in German as in English.
Silver City continues to be a neighborhood representative of the groups that have immigrated here. Many of the immigrants are Hispanic and Hmong, but the neighborhood is home to many different immigrant populations who have started their businesses and new lives here, much like the generations of immigrants before them.
About the Site
The wall for our mural is the eastern side of the Superior Salt building, under the viaduct. We chose this location for a few reasons. The location is isolated and as a result, has little activity or observation. Neighbors are concerned about the safety of this street; because of the seclusion and lack of use, oncoming drivers often speed through this part of the street, even though within blocks of this location are to homes, a school, and community-focused organizations like the Urban Ecology Center and Wisconsin Bike Federation. The owner of the building has also had tagging problems. As you can see in the last picture, the north side of the building is covered with graffiti tags and bombs. Because the north side of the building faces the railroad, the city sees these tags as a violation of public space, and the costs fall on the building owner to remove the graffiti.
So the question is, can we use a public artwork to get people to slow down, to deter tagging, and ultimately, to make people become aware and respectful of the space in a different way?
Will this artwork be a way to focus people’s attention on the concerns facing their neighborhood, and start the conversations and actions we need to have?