Over the past year, Sculpture Milwaukee met with partners locally to find ways to support the cultural sector in this changed economy, a nd to promote artists who articulate the soul of this country. Inspired by the Democratic National Convention coming to Milwaukee, we linked to Americans for the Arts’ ArtsVote initiative, intended to highlight the rich culture of Milwaukee.
While the DNC became a footnote in our region’s history, Sculpture Milwaukee partnered with Milwaukee Downtown Inc./BID #21 to promote three artists whose works help define our moment.
- Nari Ward’s piece Apollo/Poll, 2017, part of Sculpture Milwaukee 2020, installed on the corner of west Wisconsin and Vel R. Phillips Avenue, on the Wisconsin Center District grounds (site for the puff of smoke that was the DNC), promotes voting while pointing to the historic struggle for secure voting within the African American community.
- The BID commissioned the Road of Democracy project, with Dasha Kelly Hamilton’s poem Of, 2020, and a series of collages by visual artist Della Wells, installed on banners in downtown Milwaukee.
Together, these three artists remind us that the arts—from the most traditional to the most radical, from the individual to the institutional—are woven into any culture’s history. To quote Hamilton’s poem Of: “The Road of Democracy / Layers Mud, Gravel / Liberation and Tar/ Long Legacies Flattened / Into Foundation.” The arts are part of this country’s foundation and thus must be protected and supporting in this economically challenged moment.
In addition, a film on this project is being completed by Brad Pruitt, one of the guiding forces behind America’s Black Holocaust Museum’s new space in Bronzeville, Milwaukee.
Join the national ArtsVote movement and register to vote, and support the artists and arts institutions who illuminate where we are in our social contract. Attest to the idea that the arts cannot be excised from the body politic. Raise your voice up to protect and promote how artists show us who we are, and help us move to where we need to be. (And if you want a postcard, write us, we’ll make it work in this physically distanced time!)
Marilu Knode, Director of Curatorial Affairs and Education, Sculpture Milwaukee