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Urban influences

By JOAN ELOVITZ KAZAN
Photos by Dan Bishop

February 2014

Storyteller Adam Carr (left) and artist Reginald Baylor teamed up for Typeface, a public art project conceived by ART Milwaukee. Both Baylor, who grew up in Milwaukee, and Carr, a producer for 88Nine Radio Milwaukee, are well-connected to the urban neighborhoods represented in the project.

The public art installations in four Milwaukee neighborhoods arenít just innovative creative works, they are meaningful expressions of those who live there.

Created on and around foreclosed and boarded up buildings in Burnham Park, Sherman and Washington parks, Harambee and Lindsay Heights, the artwork, funded by a Joyce Foundation grant, is the result of hours of community conversations in order to create works that reflect the culture, challenges and hope that lives there.

The project, known as Typeface, was conceived by Angela Damiani, executive director of ART Milwaukee, and nationally known artist Reginald Baylor, who were inspired by the Joyce Awardís call for community engagement. "If youíre going to paint a mural or produce a play, itís not enough to just do those things, you have to have really deep and meaningful community engagement," Damiani says. The Joyce Foundation funds projects that improve the quality of life in communities throughout the Great Lakes region.

"The concept was simple: Get words from people who live in neighborhoods, take those words, develop them into artwork and put them in neighborhoods," says Adam Carr, a storyteller and media producer involved with the project.

"His gift is conversation," Baylor says of Carr. "He was responsible for going to the barbershops and the picnics and the schools and the storefronts."

Pieces of those conversations would be incorporated into each installation. "We decided that Reggie would use the words of the community as his inspiration," Damiani says. "He wanted to use the words the same way you would use symbols and have the typeface be the art."

"We knew we were just going to take what was said and not try to change or interpret what we think should be said," Baylor says. Carr adds: "We knew what we were capturing wasnít THE conversation, it was A conversation. Thereís so much more beyond what we captured. We did our best to get a healthy scoop of whatís there."

To read a digital archive of the community conversations and see additional photos of the finished works, go to www.typefacemke.com.


This story ran in the February 2014 issue of: