Transcription of Check-out 1 on 1's: STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project
ZARI BLACKMON JM: What was your experience with the STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project? What were the things you liked or disliked about it? ZB: I was introduced to the STITCH Community Mural Project by my mentor Tia Richardson. I had a lot to learn about the significance of Murals and how to collaborate to create a community where we feel comfortable to work together. I like the space I had to share by passions, concerns, personal stories, and ideas. I also enjoyed getting to know people I otherwise might have never met, and coming together to create a mural with a purpose. It was a challenge at some times because I had a lot to learn and had to challenge myself to commit to weekly meeting times. I am proud of the overall experience. JM: Have you ever been in a project like this, or similar to this one? ZB: I worked at Artist Working In Education were I was able to work with other aspiring and professional artists to go out in the community and work with youth to learn and enjoy different forms of art, but I have never worked with others on a mural which gave voice to the community about the topics that affected us the most. This project goes beyond just an art project because it carries so many personal stories and experiences in its message. JM: Did you have any expectations for this project before coming into it? If so, what were they? ZB: I came in the project curious about exactly how the project was going to unfold. I expected to start sketching and painting sooner, but then I realized the importance of forming a community with everyone first, getting to know each other on a deeper level to be comfortable enough to share our ideas before starting on the mural. The mural took a lot of work beyond the sketching, painting, and finding the location. It embodies the Mural Crew’s emotions, stories, and strength. JM: Would you say that this project impacted you? If so, in what ways? ZB: Art was never introduced to me as a way to voice my opinion about issues in the community that I face. Instead, it was looked at by people around me as a way to past time, making things look pretty, and a way to express myself. I knew that somehow, art was important to me even though it wasn’t highly valued by people around me. This project inspired me by proving that art is more than an activity. This mural addresses important issues that our community faces every day. It has impacted me to the point where I incorporate art in any program I find space to do so. Currently, I’m working with Public Allies YWCA Racial Justice Program, and
Pathfinder’s Garden, and I plan on incorporating art as a form of activism. The STITCH Mural Project introduced me to new ways to do that. JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we were in? Do you think they changed for you as the project continued? ZB: The North and South side of Milwaukee seemed like two different cities instead of two different sides of the city to me. As this project continued, and as people form the North and South gathered and built relationships with each other through potlucks, meetings, STITCH Open Mics, and other events, I saw the North and South side as a community working together to vibe together and reconnect. JM: What perceptions did you have before this project that may have changed throughout the process? ZB: At the beginning, I was new to everything, and was trying to figure out the purpose of the talking circle. Throughout the first or second time, I appreciated the talking circle because it allowed people to be vulnerable and open about their experiences living in Milwaukee. I also was able to draw connections and similarities with people in the circle through the stories they shared that I otherwise might have never knew. I was nervous about how the painting was going to turn out because I’ve never painted on such a large scale before in such a short amount of time. I was also nervous that my painting skills would not be good enough for the mural until I realized that for all of us, this was a learning experience. JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? ZB: This project broke down all of these divisions. Even though some of us came from different backgrounds and beliefs, we all built a community together, and made this project successful. It also allowed the space for other people in the community to break those barriers, and enjoy each other. JM: Is there anything else you would like to share about what you experienced, that you think you did not share? ZB: This ties into how this project has impacted me. I was struggling with identifying myself as an artist because of the looks or judgments I would receive from strangers, friends, and family who had preconceived notions about artists. This experience allowed me to be around successful artists and people who accepted artists without judgment. This is a quote that I heard after the experience, but as soon as I heard it, I thought about the STITCH Mural Crew: “Artists Are the Gatekeepers of Truth”-‐Harry Belafonte
CHLOE HERNANDEZ JM: What was your experience with the STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project? What were the things you liked or disliked about it? CH: I loved building a better community of artists and activists that were passionate about the same cause: Art, Ways to combat segregation, our community, and building relationships
JM: Have you ever been in a project like this, or similar to this one? CM: No. JM: Did you have any expectations for this project before coming into it? If so, what were they? CM: I didn’t have any expectations I just went with the flow of things. I went to the first open Mic and everything formed from our interest from there.
JM: Would you say that this project impacted you? If so, in what ways? CM: Yes, I was able to be part of a loving family, and I learned so much about the artists in our community and the people who are part of my community. JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we were in? Do you think they changed for you as the project continued? CM: Southside: Hispanics, Segregated, Home. Northside: African Americans, Segregated, Lived most of my school life on this side of town. Yes, my outlook changed completely because we were traveling from side to side. Although I visit each side of town regularly, it was a whole different experience seeming the “Southsiders” come to the North side and still have an amazing experience at the open mics. We were building greater relationships each week by seeing the same people in different environments.
JM: What perceptions did you have before this project that may have changed throughout the process? CM: The talking circle was my favorite part because we, as individuals, could all share our own experiences and stories. I think they were powerful because I was able to see different sides of stories and how segregation and issues in our city affected others.
JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you?
CM: I think Stitch did a great job at making everyone in its family vulnerable and that makes others break down to trust and respect others. I think if our world went thru the stitch process, we would live in a greater, happier, & safer society.
JM: Is there anything else you would like to share about what you experienced, that you think you did not share? CM: I just want to thank STITCH for changing lives and making this past summer one that I will never forget and I appreciate every day and moment shared with this family.
DAISY ROMERO JM: What was your experience with the STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project? What were the things you liked or disliked about it? DR: My overall experience with the Stitch Milwaukee Community mural project was an eye opening and therapeutic experience, an experience that I’m still trying to understand. To me the community mural project was a healing and strengthening experience. One of the things I liked was the talking circles. I liked the talking circles because I was able to relate to the other members. This made me feel connected and comfortable enough to share my own experiences. I more than liked the art process in the creation of the mural. I enjoyed getting to know the others mural members and learning how to get my hands dirty again. The silence we experienced every now and then during the painting process was stress relieving and helped calmed me down if I was having a stressful day. I found both of these things extremely therapeutic and healing. One of the things I disliked was that at times there may have been a lack of communication and this may have led to some people misinterpreting situations. Over all I felt like the mural project helped me grow in my community and helped guide me to my overall life goal. I took the mural as a powerful personal message directed to me as well as our whole Milwaukee community. JM: Have you ever been in a project like this, or similar to this one? DR: I have never been involved in a mural project like this before. I haven’t been involved in a project similar to this either. I have helped out in the community by spreading awareness as a community organizer but this mural project was completely different because I did some work within myself and art became my new form of expression and spreading awareness.
JM: Did you have any expectations for this project before coming into it? If so, what were they?
DR: I honestly did not have any expectations for this project before coming into it. It was actually a coincidence I got involved with the mural. I was never a part of Stitch and I had never attended any of the Open Mic’s. However, when I heard about the mural project I became more interested. I just knew I wanted to help create something and be part of the mural project process. I looked as the mural project as an escape from everything else that was going on in my life. I looked at the mural project as a stress reliever once we started the process. At first I was however a bit intimidated, skeptical and scared with meeting new faces and interacting with unfamiliar people. Of course that all changed by the end of the mural project!
JM: Would you say that this project impacted you? If so, in what ways? DR: I would definitely say this project impacted me in more than a couple ways. It impacted me emotionally and mentally and I think it is still currently impacting me. I met new people, started drawing and writing again. I came out from a deep depression and started living again. I made new friendships and connections that opened doors for me. I became fearless of who I was, learned to accept myself. These are the ways it has impacted me. JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we were in? Do you think they changed for you as the project continued? DR: I honestly didn’t have a bad or good perception of the two sides of the city. I suppose you can say knowing Milwaukee was America’s #1 most segregated city was a perception that I had in mind and had experienced. I grew up in New York City where on my side of the city it wasn’t rare to live in a city or street with different types of cultures, smells or different languages. My high school setting didn’t help erase the perception either. I suppose I didn’t know each side of Milwaukee that well either since the school I attended was in the inner city area of Milwaukee. Even with attending an inner city school I thought the teenagers would at least be more integrated but I noticed how the Hispanic girls separated themselves from the African American girls. Therefore for the mural project I just took each side of the city as it was. Even though I lived on the South Side of Milwaukee I still wasn’t very familiar with my own side of town or streets, However throughout the mural project I became a little more familiar with each surrounding area in which the open Mics and Mural project meet ups took place. I also became more curious as to why Milwaukee was such a segregated city. I figured Milwaukee must have some history and in that history answers could be found. I moved here from a more populated city. I never experienced segregation like the segregation I experienced in Milwaukee before. I can say the mural project helped me feel hopeful that Milwaukee will one day be a more harmonious and integrated city just like my home block in NY, where interracial couples or families wouldn’t be frowned upon in any side of town and where it wouldn’t be a shock seeing an Hispanic on the North Side of town or vice versa. I suppose 6
you can say that the mural project erased my perception of Milwaukee continuing to be the number one most segregated city in the United States and instead helped me shape my vision of Milwaukee one day being the most multicultural place in the world.
JM: What perceptions did you have before this project that may have changed throughout the process? DR: I had several perceptions before this project that did change throughout the process. I felt a bit intimidated about painting and speaking in talking circle. However, throughout the painting process I became interested in art, I became more in tune with my inner child and one of my passions as a child which was painting, drawing and creating art. I started to want to paint again and get more involved. The mural crew was extremely helpful with this; they made me feel comfortable enough to get messy and make mistakes during the painting process. It reminded me of my first art class when the art teacher told us there was no mistakes in art and that erasers weren’t needed. I suppose you can say before the project I felt inadequate to paint on the mural, I felt I was too shy to say anything and be part of the whole process but my curiosity pushed me to want to be a part of the painting of the mural as well as the talking circles. The talking circles were intimidating as well. It was a bit weird and slightly uncomfortable trying to share my experiences or thoughts with people I didn’t know so well, and when some people used big words I felt a little out of pave and almost embarrassed to say anything. However when others shared stories and experiences I could relate to I became more comfortable and opened up. The whole mural team made it easier for me to open up and share. I honestly think if it were other people I don’t think it would have been as easy to open up. The whole atmosphere that they all created was comforting. JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? DR: I can definitely agree in that this project broke down all these divisions. No one person was exact to another, some of us shared similar interests and likes but we were all of different race, gender and age. We all came from different parts of town and from different backgrounds. Some were artists who did art for a living while others weren’t artists at all and never been involved with murals just like myself. Some of us also required more space and had to learn how to respectfully share our space with others during the project. It was hard for me to express myself in talking circles at times and even now it is but I found I had to learn how to do so when working with others. I as well had to learn how to accept others space and understand where they came from. I personally would say that it broke an ego, pride and age barrier. I had to learn how to respect other people’s opinions even if I didn’t completely agree with them. I learned to practice patience and understanding of myself and the one’s around me. I had to accept and am still trying to accept that it’s not all about me, it’s about every one; this is where my pride and ego barrier started to break down. I learned to be more selfless when I started to hear other’s people’s stories and perspectives because I saw the other side of my perspective or better yet the other side of what I looked
as unacceptable, For example I had a problem with people who were prejudice and looked down upon them, even felt resentment. I can honestly say this project helped me try to better understand those around me and let go of some of that resentment. JM: Is there anything else you would like to share about what you experienced, that you think you did not share? DR: I learned I can communicate through art and I learned it can be a powerful tool to express a message or even a story. I learned an image can be way more powerful than words sometimes. I found a part of my voice during the process of the mural project. I feel like I’m still evolving as an individual but this mural was the beginning of a powerful movement not just for Milwaukee but for anyone who is already part of this art, where our history’s truth and stories can be told through art, making us realize we are more connected than we may think we are.
LINDA SERNA JM: Share with us about your experience within this project…how has this project/process been for you? What things did you like, dislike, and feel strongly about?
LS: My experience in this project is, I think I am one of the more fortunate ones in the mural crew, because I was also part of the organizing of the project itself, so I was a part of the process of just the conversation when it was just an idea of why this small group of people that really felt strongly pursuing this project, having conversations about what’s missing in our city, and what can be really powerful, and transforming in our city. So I was a part of that phase. I was a part of that phase of having that idea of having a mural in Milwaukee, and I think that that's I feel really strongly connected about it because, I was part of the group that gave birth just to the idea. That’s why I say that I feel very fortunate in the mural crew because I got to be a part of that too. And kind of see the project being born, and grow up. I feel really good about how the process was approached you know? It was very, I felt like the facilitators were always very humble. And I always felt like everyone was on level in terms of our roles in the actual project. And that’s really a big part of something that I am going to feel connected to. I don't really want to be involved in something where someone has more power over someone else, and I think the facilitators always really intentionally made that happen. Where everyone was always side-‐by-‐side.
JM: Why is that something that is important to you?
LS: Because that’s how you community build. You don't do something because someone is telling you; you do it because you believe it. And if I'm working side by side with someone, we're doing something together we're not doing something because we're being told to do it, or how to do it. And I never felt that in this project. No one was ever told to do things. It was a long process because that’s how long it took the group to decide how we were going to do it together. It wasn't like…nothing was ever prescribed. Nothing was every already decided before the group met. It was always when the group was together that everything was talked about. And I could see that being very challenging as a facilitator. Like how to do that, but the facilitators really… so that was what was really beautiful about the process too. The way it was facilitated so that everyone had a voice. And the talking circle process played a big role in that too. That everyone had the same opportunities to talk. You were allowed to talk, as much or as little as you wanted to talk when it was your time to talk. And even though sometimes I struggled with it because I wanted to have a more natural flowing conversation you know? Like if I said something and someone felt it, or maybe had questions…the talking circle didn't really foster that flow…but it did serve another purpose which was allowing everyone to have a voice. And so, the process was very beautiful. Towards the end I wasn't as actively involved in the painting, but that doesn't make me feel like when I see the mural, that I can't say I wasn't a part of it, because I was. Everything that had to brew before the painting happened. That was 75% or 80% of everything, was the process and not the product that really is the mural.
JM: Have you ever been a part of a project like this?
LS: A similar process would be just the way that the STITCH organizing crew works is very similar to the process of the mural project. Like when we meet to organize for the mural or the open mic it always feels the same. It always feels like everyone has a space to talk, no one is more than anyone else. So, in that sense I feel like, yes I have been involved in another project similar to this process.
JM: What were your expectations for this project?
LS: I just expected it to be transforming. How could it not? When you're opening up the project community wide. To the extent where there was a video that didn't just serve the purpose of raising funds, but to let people know that this is the project, and like we want everyone who believes in it to be involved. That it wasn't held behind closed doors. So just to think about that this mural project was taking such a different approach to painting a mural. Like I knew it was going to be transforming. Not just reaching out to a bunch of people, but that there was not going to be any lead artists. That the people whether they had experience or not, whether they identified as artists or not, were going to be creating this mural project together. And not just talking about "oh what’s the mural going to look 9
like" but relationship building amongst each other and then talking about really deep heavy stuff. And sometimes painful stories. Those were my expectations transformation.
JM: would you say that this project has impacted you? & if so in what ways?
LS: Yes. A lot. One of the biggest ways that it has impacted me is, knowing that you can really make something happen. It may seem like; maybe in another city "okay, a mural" but in our city, that’s like, "what?" they don't pop up every day, they don't pop up every year. And for it to come up by a bunch of people that have never painted a mural. That one, have no institution backing them up, like I assume most murals do, funded by a grant or some neighborhood association…it was completely grassroots from the ground up. To see that happen its like DAMN if that happened, what else can we do? That’s really impacting to experience that. That’s really transforming the skies the limit. When you see something like that, that seems so difficult to do in Milwaukee, and especially when you hear from people that have been doing murals, there is a history why our cities walls aren't painted. It is because there are all of these policies against it, all of these politicians that make it really difficult. And we're still going to do it. That’s dope.
JM: What do you think that says about the people?
LS: That they're pretty dope. That there not bound by these limitations that everyone tries to feed into. That we're still going to do it. That’s not going to stop us. And also there’s a reason why our mural is painted on panels. Because, we know, that some murals get painted over. So we're trying to think, how are we going to get around this person? We’re going to figure out a way by any means necessary
JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we worked in, & do you think that they changed?
LS: I feel like I've been instilled this fear about the north side, ever since I was really young. The media has a lot to do with it. My family has a lot to do with it. But i think the media is what has instilled fear in my family. So I think that the media is the big monster that makes you fear the north side, me as someone from the south side. Because I never go over there, so I can't find out for myself if that’s true or not. But even though I know what’s on the media is BS, todavia siento like I don't really know this place. One I don't know it geographically, I don't know my streets over there. I get lost a lot. But also too, like when I go over there I kinda stick out too you know? And so people, and mostly I get this from the men over there. So its double layered. One because I'm brown, because I'm not black I stand out. And now I'm a brown women, so then the males on the north side, you feel like…shit…they make you feel really uncomfortable on the north side…there just looking at
me, cat calling. I had never been to Sweet Black Coffee until I had to, and that very first time I was really thirsty and I didn't want to walk out by myself to go see if there was a corner store. 'Cause I didn't know the place you know? Tambien I have to have street smarts, and not just be like, I’m thirsty, and I don't care. I'm brave. If I really do deep down feel something, then I shouldn't go out by myself. So yeah there’s a little bit of uncertainty, and maybe fear sometimes of the north side JM: Do you feel like they changed then? LS: I mean, at least around Sweet Black Coffee, I felt more comfortable you know? And it was because we would go every other week. And I think people would see a group of us out there. So it was like, that made me feel more comfortable. Like it was a space where I felt comfortable, that I trusted. The more that I was there; it did change those feelings of uncertainty, at least for that particular area. JM: Did the actual physical locations where the sessions were hosted impact you? LS: Especially a tattoo shop because it's not a place where you come to hang out. The guys when you first meet them, they have a rough shell on the outside. I’ve gotten to know a really welcoming side of them, and that’s because they've created that. JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? LS: I think one thing that I experienced that I feel like I haven't really experienced it, to the extent that I did here, was having real honest conversations between black and brown experiences of racism. And I think particularly more coming from the brown people being really honest about how their parents, our community either prejudges, or oppresses the black community. I think that was the first time, at least with a group of people that are not close friends. And it was multiple people that felt comfortable to be honest, and a lot of people were sharing it more on their family, this is how it is, this is how it was growing up. This is how it was having black friends and my parents reactions to it, or growing up on the south side, and having new neighbors that were black and them integrating into our community. Either my family or my communities’ reaction to that. I don't what that did, but at least people were able to say those things honestly. And maybe to add to the conversation how complex racial dynamics are in our city, and how much segregation has impacted those dynamics. You know Milwaukee is not the only city where there is conflict between black and brown communities, but like here it’s because of segregation its even more. I remember talking about this in one of the sessions; okay what’s the solution to segregation? Intergration right? There's more to solving segregation than mixing people 11
together. There has to be all this building that has to start. And then you realize how much work has to be done in Milwaukee. That's why stuff like this is so important. That there are these projects that are hitting at that. That we are trying to chip at it (the problem) in some sort of way, because the obvious solution is integration is not. There has to be all of this community-‐building happening. JM: Do you remember how that conversation/dialogue went in the circle? LS: Well it wasn't really a dialogue, because in the talking circle people were just sharing their experiences. It was with the question, how has Milwaukee betrayed you? And Daisy shared about growing up in New York and because of where she grew up, that affects what background your friends are. She spoke on her dad’s reaction to that, and then I spoke on just segregation, because that is how Milwaukee has betrayed me. And how there's a lot of people in my community, and in my family that we grow up with [the idea] that the darker you are, the worse person you are…this comes from colonization because it didn't have to take my family coming to Milwaukee to start saying that…but here its like we already come with that, and then we are not used to living with people that are darker than us…and then we see all the [things] in the news about them, then it just confirms what I have always believed. JM: Could you speak about gender, and what that brought up for you LS: We were mostly made up of women, and one of the most intense moments in the process was when there was resistance from the males to have so many, what they perceived as feminine representations. And it was so intense…The most intense moment in the process was when the minority gender, which was the males, were resisting what they perceived as too much feminine representation on the sketches that were going to become the mural, and it was so intense to the point that it was emotionally draining how intense it was. How intense their resistance was to what the group had come up with. And there was another side to it, some of them had not been present every single time. JM: What do you feel came from that? LS: One guy dropped out. Even though we didn't have a discussion with the males in there, maybe he just felt like that wasn't the space for him. One of the facilitators had the opportunity to talk to one of the other males and have an honest conversation about how he had made people feel and I want to say that it was transforming for him, because he came back. And he did say something (yesterday, which was our closing session) that he was planning on not coming back, especially after that conversation with Tia. But he didn't, so I feel like he found value in something that was happening that made him still want to be 12
a part of it. And then for the women I feel like it happened organically. Some of us that were feeling it more, we stayed after for that particular session that was really intense. And we tried to break down what had happened. Tried to understand what was going through both of those men’s heads. What were they so in conflict with? And we just needed to desahogarnos, and we needed to heal from that. And I think talking about it and processing together is what we needed. It was so intense how some of us were feeling. JM: Do you remember your exact emotions? LS: I remember feeling really frustrated. I was frustrated at their body language. JM: What did their body language tell you? LS: No connection, and it was so judgmental. These looks, and constant whispering back & forth to each other. Laughing. I felt really disrespected. And so that brought some anger too. This dynamic had never been present in this circle, and you feel so comfortable to be disrespectful. That's just crazy. But also I was thinking, you also haven't been here every time, so maybe that’s why you don't understand the dynamic we have created together, so that made me more mad, like how dare you, come in and mess with what we have built. JM: What would you say you feel now? Do you think there was transformation throughout the rest of the process? LS: Yeah. And I think that it was because the women were able to talk about it and then I remember it was easier to call it out when it happened again. And not feel so frustrated. Taking it a little more lightly, but calling it out, like when it happened. It did open up that space for calling out disrespectfulness or being misinterpreted, and I think that also the one male that did stay, I think that he also took a step back and became more aware about what he was doing.
TIA RICHARDSON JM: What was your experience with the STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project? What were the things you liked or disliked about it?
TR: It's been really humbling for me, because I'm used to working in a certain way in projects like individual artists the way that I approach my own work is very specific, so I'm used to having my own process, and the way that I do things, and its been that way for a 13
long time. So it’s solely been in the last two years that I've started to be more collaborative in my process, and realizing that that’s important and necessary and needed. And I felt like this was an opportunity to dig into that collaborative effort. So using the talking circles has been eye opening and I knew it would be meaningful, but to actually experience the way it affected people, and the way it really shaped things, and opened up things, it was probably the most impactful for me in this whole process. I just got a first hand account on what sacred spaces can do for people working together. JM: What things did you like or dislike? TR: What worked, was the ritual of doing the same thing every day, the ritual of bringing the people together, gathering in a circle having the sacred fire in the middle, asking questions, respecting the talking piece, laying down the group rules, asking the group to support themselves, so it wouldn't be on just me or Jeanette to hold that. That worked, people were right on point with that, and everyone was in agreement with that. It was kind of surprised; there wasn't a whole kind of resistance to that, so that really worked. What came out of that was just a really fluid way of everyone being able to share their stories from heart and everyone being able to hold the space for those stories to emerge in whatever way they needed to, and take shape in whatever way they needed to, so that this could happen. I don't think nothing didn't work, I think there were some challenges that we faced were the actual spaces we were working in, and making sure we had space to paint. Finding a space to paint the mural. All the communication we had to do with people that own these spaces, making sure everybody’s schedules lined up and worked together on certain days.
JM: Have you ever been in a project like this, or similar to this one? TR: Yes I have, similarities was that everyone was the same, except the age group for the other project I worked on was teenagers, and I didn't have a co-‐facilitator. I had two assistants who kind of functioned like that, but they weren't holding the same kind of leadership role as you & I were. How it was different was that program was a lot more structured. It was 80hrs total, over 8 weeks, and we ended up putting…for that program it felt like it was a lot more focused, intensive, because the students were coming knowing that they were going to be getting job skill (07:51), there were expectations and it was treated like a job so I had hired them, interviewed them and then they were getting paid to be there. So there was accountability there in different context that wasn't here. It was different structurally that way, and that was about it. All of the building, creating that felt the same. JM: Did you have any expectations for this project before coming into it? If so, what
were they? TR: My expectations were that we were going to get down and dirty and have this really intensive session of talking and sharing, and creating holy sacred space with each other, and sharing stories, and getting messy but knowing how to handle that mess. And being real, and raw, and organic and that somehow something beautiful would happen, and we would all love it, and everyone would feel ownership of it…and that’s what happened...
JM: Would you say that this project impacted you? If so, in what ways? TR: It has given me more confidence because now I have a tool, now I know this works. This has been done twice for me in my life, and each time look at what happened. Now I have a tangible tool and I can use in my work in the future, which I know is effective. It has also been humbling because I'm taking myself out of this process as an artist, you know using my own eye, and hands on everything. I'm letting the group handle a lot of those decisions, and I'm only a guide, I'm kind of on the outside stepping back. I'm not working with it in the same way as i have with my personal pieces, so that’s been an adaptation that I don't mind. It takes the pressure off of that. Its making me stronger, and its making me feel like I have more to give to my community as an artist that I did before. JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we were in? Do you think they changed for you as the project continued? TR: The thing that has changed is how I'm not just seeing the south side as not just this image anymore. I have a real tangible experience. There is this community that has been built in the back of the tattoo shop. And they come in and they want to help they have questions, they're very interested. I'm getting to know the own people of the south side, even my own neighbors… it's become more humanized…as Milwaukee in general this project has reshaped my experience of who Milwaukee is, because the people that have come together from this project have ended up opening themselves up to each other, including me, its showed me what is happening on the inside. These people are actually making themselves vulnerable to create something that requires being vulnerable is hard. And it can be scary, so when I think of the way I used to think of Milwaukee growing up, it was very hard. a hard exterior. Certain people in certain neighborhoods had a hard exterior, I would look at those types of people and not want to interact with the. Or feel like there was nothing there for me to deal with…why should go there? This project has made me see that what is human, what makes us human, what makes us humanly possible, what is necessary…
JM: What perceptions did you have before this project that may have changed throughout the process?
TR: I had a fear that people wouldn't be as receptive. Something in me thought that maybe there would be some adults that would be resistant to the process, the method we used with the talking circle. Like I had a feeling that maybe might think that’s dumb, or bogus. I had a preconceived notion that people might not be okay with that. And that didn't end up being the case so I was pleasantly surprised. It has changed my perspective on people’s awareness, or being respectful to things that are sacred, spaces that they're not familiar with. Why do we have a candle in the middle? I was surprised at how nobody questioned, it just seemed like it made sense to people. Like the way we were doing it made sense. People found value in it. And that surprised me. JM: Do you think everyone did? TR: I think some people had questions it didn't get in the way, there was one person that didn't stay with us, who had some resistance, but he didn't stay with us and part of the nature of it is that if its held right, then all that stuff will come up, and it provides a space for the group to be the way that it needs to be, so if there’s safety in it for everyone if its held properly. If somebody doesn't feel right being there, then they'll just disappear. Expect that to be expected. That’s what the circle cultivates. It cultivates anything that is in the group, its going to show up, if anybody that stayed, and stuck around, and they had issues with it, it would have come up, and in a way where to the point where it needed to be disruptive. That would have come up. It just would have. That’s why I say that I feel like it worked enough for everybody so that didn't come up. I think it came up in the way that it did for someone, but they left, and that needed to happen. There were opportunities. That is what check-‐ins were for. It felt like everyone was honest…. to answer. JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? TR: Yeah, my own perceptions of people. There’s young people and look at, and based on what they say or how they act I might feel like they aren't conscious, or aware of certain things, they sound immature, and even some adults, I look at and I feel that way. This whole project constantly reminded me, and showed me how I can't judge people based on one moment in time. Because this took us through a process of opening up to each other, so that it makes me see more of the person, than a small part of the person. It just makes me more compassionate and that’s going to affect the work that I do in the world, and in the community. JM: Could you speak specifically to any of these divisions of race, ethnicity? 16
TR: There was one specific person whose white, and who kept triggering me, because I felt like she took up a lot of space during the process. Which tends to happen. And I felt like there was a fine line where she should have monitored herself on that. It’s just given space to confront things about race a lot more in this process. Certain people taking up space. How are we going to address that without holding the conversation solely about race now? We’re not here to just speak on that, but we know that we need to address that. We don't want al of our attention and energy on that work. Because that’s a whole another piece of work, in and of itself that people did not sign up to do. I feel like it gave space for people to just notice. What we invited people we asked them notice those feelings and to journal about them…. JM: Anything come up in terms of age and gender? TR: I just saw the power of peoples voices in general because the space was so open, and so vibrant, people made themselves so available and so present, I couldn't help but see beyond someone’s age, or race. Because look at what they're expressing. Look at what they're saying; look at what they're sharing with the group. It became much more about their story or their voice than there race. It totally broken down how I see a person based on how they look or act, or smell, or speak. And it became about pure sharing. Anything that came up other than race, I feel like we handled it. Whether it was giving that the space that it needed, putting parameters around it so that it didn't take over everything, or putting boundaries down. The group created its own boundaries and its own ground rules and guidelines for a safe space. So I feel like we handled each of those in the way that we needed to. And everybody had the opportunity to speak to it if they needed to, and I feel like the way that we moved through the process, we did so in the way that we needed to honor everyone. if anyone felt like they were disrespected and we needed to make space for that…there wasn't feedback from anyone as far as feeling like there was a breakdown at the end of that, it remained feeling whole. JM: Is there anything else you would like to share about what you experienced, that you think you did not share? TR: I’ve been thinking about art on a wall, and the process of making art. The end result, and then the process. in the way that modern society has been thinking about art. I can't separate myself from my artistic practice. Some people, and even when I'm looking at art, there’s a tendency to separate the humanity from the piece of art. i refuse to do that in my work. What that means is that when I'm thinking about my work, I'm thinking about it as a whole, and I'm thinking about the whole system. How this art interacts in the world. Who I am as a human being when i made this art, and the impact that its going to have when I walk away from it. I think about audience, but I'm not making audience…. audience has a ring of objectification what I'm doing, and what I feel like this process has integrated is art
being an integral part of the human experience, and what that human experience actually means. The process of having made this was very meaningful for a number of people, and that can't be quantified. There was a set of tools that we had access to, we agreed ahead of time that we wanted this to be beautiful. This one was more strategic, a lot more orchestrated composition, what we did; we used abstract things to work for humanity. I think instead of making humanity slave to the abstract we took the abstract framework and made it work for humanity. That’s what I see happen often in academia is that we are slaves to the abstract. And we're slaves to the academy, we're slaves to thought, we loose our humanity, because idea becomes more important. Idea becomes object. Idea becomes the THING that we talk about. We don't get to talk about our humanity in the classrooms, there’s no space for that. In the process of making this mural, it was all about sharing our humanity, and that’s what really made it beautiful. And I've been personally thinking how this is what I have been missing in my educational career. There is such a huge disconnect from my own humanity in the classroom. But yet in the 4 years, were expected to go find ourselves as artists. So the notion of artist becomes bastardized, were not longer about a human being, were talking about yet another role. Empty role even, because its another manufactures thing. It keeps being manufactured. Just like the stock market. It’s painful to think about, where academia is right now. And where the art world is right now. It’s so removed from humanity. And how it can be so elitist. I ask you to look at where are you are challenged in your institution to compromise your own humanity, and set that aside for your 'role' as a professors. Things are expected of you. You’ve got higher ups…. just like your students have expectations of you. What we've done here is an act of resistance to that same oppression. I'm happy to get to do this work as a freelance, independent contractor. The work of working for humanity is up to question. It’s on the table in this day in age as an artist.
YVETTE MURRELL JM: What was your experience with the STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project? What were the things you liked or disliked about it?
YM: I can say that, I came into this project because I was interested in engaging another part of my being, in something that was creative and dynamic, and something I had never done before, but that felt relational. And to me, the mural project felt very relational. And diffidently very creative. It was diffidently outside of my norm. I don't paint, and I don't draw, and so it was diffidently a stretch for me. But I was looking for something that would allow me to engage, and connect with people that I care about. Maybe even expand my community even more so. My goddess daughter, Tia, is fantastic, and she was telling me she was partnering up with you to do this mural project, and when I heard that it was connected and it was called STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural project, I was like I WANT TO DO THAT! I had to sit on it for a few days, and thought this is what I'm supposed
to do. So, I didn't really know fully what I was going to get into, I knew I didn't know how to paint. I knew what I would bring into it, but I was very interested in how it was going to unfold. And then when she told me that is a going to be grounded in the circle process, which is what I love, I was all down for that. That worked for me. So that's just a little bit about how I was drawn to the project
JM: What were the things you liked or disliked about it? YM: What I liked about the mural project process was the…well its a background thing for me, there was a way that I saw you and Tia worked together and interacted with each other, and worked things together that created the space for us to do the work that we needed to do together. Because that's what needs to happen in the circle process. I was really grateful that there was integrity in the process. There was a lot of thought, and planning and care given to how this was being structured. So that I felt like it was a pretty safe container to engage in and to begin to share stories, and to open up and begin to trust. Because I feel like, its the core thing of the circle process, is trust. If you don't have that, you don't have anything, and you can't really do anything with it. And so I was grateful to be able to have, to know that those background things were set in place, so that when we came to the circle, I felt like I could bring all of myself. So that’s something that I really liked about it. I also liked was that it was women led. I don't get to participate in a lot of projects that are women led. It has a whole different energy when its women led, no matter whose participating and engaging, if the people who are holding the container are women, it has a different energy to it. And it had much more of a circular energy, one that engaged and got as many voices to contribute to the process as possible. One that was based one story, and shared listening to each other. So all of those elements really worked for me, I really value that. And I think the other thing that I liked the most about the project was how dynamic it was. How we contributed to each other. And every week was another layer. I did feel like we were building something, I could feel the building happening. Even though we wee intangible from a mural perspective, early on, I really appreciated that we were building it from the intangible level together, and then when it really came to manifest it and bring it 3d, we had already done enough work with each other that we worked really well together. And I felt like I had a pretty good listening of the people that were in the process as well. So that I valued. What i didn't like about the process, or what I found challenging in the process, is that some of the stories that were shared, I had some reactions to. Opinions, they weren't just sharing a story of their own background, and their own personal experience, they were opinions being shared, and perspectives that were grounded in privilege. There was a lot of privilege that was kind of dancing around. People inserting themselves in a very disrespectful way in the struggles of oppressed people what I appreciated also about the process was that, I felt comfortable enough to just speak my mind and say what I needed to say and I spoke to it. Both in the circle process, and outside of the circle process to the 19
individuals. So there weren't many males but the few males that did decide to participate were artists, there was a way in which because they had skills, as artists that was willing to hear their perspectives and allow space for them to have input in a way that…but because we were in the circle process at that time, they were trying to insert themselves. And the way they were trying to insert themselves was pretty disrespectful. One of the males was laughing at the idea of using flowers as metaphor for the city. JM: Do you think it’s a reflection of the project? Or was it about the process that we chose to use? YM: It’s a function of all healthy group evolvements. so you chose a process, i wouldn't say that it didn't need to happen. I would say that there’s value that it did happen. Because a group has to go through these phases so that was our storming phase, we needed to storm. And it just happened to be on the premise of male privilege. That is one of the places that us as a group, we happen to storm and struggle a bit. And it was a space because we had a container where we could begin to address it, both offline and in a larger context with each other. So I wouldn't say that the project in and of itself, I would say that the process lent itself to authenticity. And when you lend yourself to authenticity, all that stuff, cuz it exists all the time, can come in. and it came in effectively and I think it was dealt with effectively. I think it was hard, and messy, but you know, messes are there to be cleaned up. That’s what they're for.
JM: Have you ever been in a project like this, or similar to this one? YM: No, never been a part of a project like this. i have been a part of circle processes, on many levels, but never like this. JM: Did you have any expectations for this project before coming into it? If so, what were they? I expected it to be a circle; I did expect that we would have this creative sharing. I expect that we would have agreements that we would come as a group that we would hold each other. And I know that that happened right away, it happened on the 2nd-‐3rd session. There seemed to be a skip over of agreements as to how we would be in the circle process as we built trust and work together. So I mean that was the only expectation that I had that I noticed wasn't in place. So to me, it was a great space for learning, and that’s what I came for, right on point. JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we were in? Do you think they changed for you as the project continued?
I worked at Pulaski high school so I traveled to the south side of town. So I mostly only go to where I need to go. I haven't really done too much exploring. I didn't really know how to expect. I felt early welcomed from the moment I walked into the space. I felt like there was a deep community, and I was honored to be allowed even, and welcomed into the space. And every time I come I feel that way I feel like it’s a family gathering. During the mural project, it has helped me feel more connected to this side of town and what’s happening so that’s been beautiful for me. On the north side of town, one of the things I realized is that I would only go to these places to do my thing, and go back out. I discovered that I really could be in community with people in that space and that was really profound. So I feel like Milwaukee has expanded for me. It has expanded because I am connecting with people that historically I would not have connected with because I didn't have a premise in which to do that. But now that we did a mural together, all kinds of things could happen.
JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? YM: I feel like what I had mostly was a wondering. I felt especially in the Latin@ community, that I'm more on the outside I feel like I'm on the edge of the peripheral, mostly because I don't really know what the assumptions are. There’s this tension that I'm told exists between brown and black people, but I don't really understand the nature of it, where it comes from. I don't have that, but I recognize that that exists for people on some level I don't necessarily but I just feel it energetically in the space. What I've been most open to, is listening for as many bridges as possible. And what those blocks are. What the nature of those blocks might be, and fundamentally what I came to in my journey in this process is that I decided that whatever I did in connecting myself to people from other ethnicities, particularly Latin@, I wanted to make sure that I wasn't engaging in a way that the perpetrators do for us. I didn't want to do that same thing. So I wanted to come in ways that were honoring and always leave room and space for know, and make requests of each other, and contribute to each other in ways that were honoring. So fundamentally what i needed to do more of was listen. And i really needed to hear how… (end of video) JM: Anything come up in terms of age and gender? YM: What I feel like I'm doing is really listening. So its a different experience for me to be held as an elder in the space, most what I'm doing is really listening and honoring and contributing where I think can contribute. I'm just noticing that some of the ways that I respond naturally to situations, or dynamics that might be challenging, are being attributed to me, because I am an elder. I am older, I'm 48. But people hold me like that. I'm still growing and learning, but in this environment I'm on the mature end of folks, so that’s been 21
valuable. So I've been able to speak to people who are my peers, and people who may be a little older than me, and younger than me. And I felt like I've experienced a lot of separating. Mostly I felt a lot of respect. Respect for young people and their voice, and also respect given back to me from others. And from a gender perspective, I think there’s a little bit more than I have been able to speak to directly. For me, gender has not been a stop. It’s diffidently been speak to though. The way it did show up was the way it needed to be. My growth space was really on the issue of race and building collaborations and connections that i felt were honoring. JM: Is there anything else you would like to share about what you experienced, that you think you did not share? YM: I want to say that the STITCH mural project was one of shared power. it wasn't power over, it wasn't even power with. It was shared power. Where there was a fluidity in how power moved through our space, so that whatever needed to manifest, could manifest. And sometimes that something very intangible, and sometimes it was something very tangible, but it was diffidently a shared power space. Maximum voices were shared. Maximum perspectives were shared. Insights were shared. Many questions were asked, and listening was happening at many different levels. Not just to the words, but to the music behind the words. To me shared power, is where I live, its where I thrive, and where I believe the most voices can actually thrive in our society. And if were going to create spaces like that, we have to be extremely intentional it doesn't just happen automatically. It takes effort, it takes work. And it takes commitment to hold those boundaries and create that space so the sharing of power can actually happen.
FRANCISCO CONTRERAS JM: What was your experience with the STITCH Milwaukee Community Mural Project? What were the things you liked or disliked about it? FC: I liked how ritualistic they were. It had a retreat kind of feel, it was really cool to have a talking piece, because then people wouldn't be talking over each other, and everyone was heard it was all planned anything before it started. Me being an artist, I can see the value in that. And I appreciated that. That we took the time doing that. JM: Have you ever been in a project like this, or similar to this one?
FC: I kind of tried doing myself a piece, but the way that I did it, is that I did the outline, and I was going to get people to paint it and finish it out. It was a lot more planned this way. And because of that it came out a lot better than my piece. JM: Did you have any expectations for this project before coming into it? If so, what were they? FC: More debate kind-‐of, instead of organized talking. I thought we were going to be painting a lot sooner, but when it developed I really liked how much time we took, it really worked out. JM: Could you expand on you saying that you enjoyed everything that happened before the painting? FC: It was not sure meeting random people, but it was forming a basis of the experiences of everyone, so knowing her story, his story, where are they coming from? And then seeing how that fits into a mural itself, and then being able to share some of yourself as well. So all the relationships that were built helped a lot. JM: Would you say that this project impacted you? If so, in what ways? FC: It has broadened my horizon with all the art stuff that is going on in Milwaukee; I had no idea how big it was. I had no idea about STITCH before then. It just showed me a whole different side of Milwaukee. That there is a big arena to play in, and that there is a lot more people out there like myself, so I will diffidently be a part of this for a long time. JM: What were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we were in? Do you think they changed for you as the project continued? FC: Living up on the south side I kind of knew how it was around here, but on the north side I didn't really know what to expect. For the coffee shop I thought it was going to be like an actual one, but it turned out to be super chill. Just kind of like this spot, it was a lot better than my expectations. JM: So you had no prior idea about what the area would be like? FC: I had been there a few times because I know people that live over there. But I never knew the actual spot itself; I didn't know how it was going to be at all. It turned out really good.
JM: What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? FC: I think besides the mediums, I think it has actually broken the barriers between artists & non-‐artists. Or people who have other talents I guess. I know there are a couple of people who had artistic inclinations before, and the input that they put in was as valuable as mine or anyone else. I think it really brought people together. JM: Could you speak specifically to any of these divisions of race, ethnicity? FC: I would say that we just got a lot more exposure to what other people were doing. Like we might know a certain local artist from here, and we'll be the equivalent on the other side. And just seeing that we have so much in common, and that we can just connect that way. JM: How about in terms of age? FC: As far as age goes, I think it was really cool how even like people who were more experienced with stuff like this already, who already kind of developed a leadership role kind of gave me more role models to look at. So I think that really helped out. As far as gender, I mean…. I feel like it was more of a collaborative thing, because I remember there was one instance where like we would ALL pitch in, and we all ended up pitching in and both the masculine and the feminine energies were in the environment. JM: I’m interested in hearing from you knowing that our city is really segregated, and then this project tried to make sure that we were in two areas of town, wondering if that was something that you thought about as the process was going on & people were sharing within the talking circle? FC: I guess with the locations it just kind of, set a different mood I guess because I never even heard of any project doing that. So it was really impacting, I thought of the idea & I was like, holy shit. That’s dope! I never would've thought of the STITChing idea. And then, that it was just a mural [and] its first year. But it had already been going on before (open mic) but I mean otherwise, the alternating locations kind of forced some people making them see a different perspective. Instead of just having the idea and not really knowing. I guess that was a really vital part to it JM: could you share what your experience was like within the talking circle, and all of the stories that were shared? 24
FC: being part of the circle you feel like you were able to talk, sometimes you wanted people to share a little bit more, cuz they only shared a little bit. It was pretty reassuring to have no judgment and stuff. And just be able to speak your mind openly, but it was kind of frustrating that some people didn't share as much. Because as like people shared a lot, you just wanted to hear more and more. Otherwise with the circle itself, I think some days it didn't seem kind of endless because we had conflicting ideas, but that’s what’s to be expected I mean otherwise I think it went smoother than what I thought in the first place. I really liked the circles. JM: Were there any things where you thought about or shared that were conflicting by other people? Or maybe something you didn't share in the circle, but you had to think about it twice because someone’s opinion was very different than yours? FC: Probably, I remember it was the first couple of sessions we were talking about politicians, and I forgot whom it was, but someone had ostracized politicians as a whole, but there are a couple that are good out there. So it was just kind of…it was just something to think about [for me]. Otherwise it was just a couple of ideas, I remember when we had the little groups and we were coming up with the statement, kind of how it was on the offensive or peaceful side, using aggressive words or pacifist words, but after hearing everybody saying there stuff it all worked out. it was little stuff like that. JM: the group was obviously majority women, was that even something that crossed your mind or you noticed? FC: Sometimes having the other male there it was a little different, but being the only boy in my family of 6 sisters, I was kind of used to it when they were there. It was a subconscious thing I guess. It didn't really matter. KIM LOPER experience within this project & process, things you liked or disliked (01:32) the process has been very awesome, i feel like some of the most important pieces for me have been meeting other people, engaging very deeply and intimately with other people, exchanging stories and histories, and then kind of, for myself watching where those stories intersect with each other, and how they react in a space. so, that has been very fun 25
and interesting (02:03) also, being able to see the different sides of town and the assets, and hear people talk about their side of town and seeing pride that people have in different sides of town. in terms of the process of creating the mural, i feel like a lot of it was kind of slow moving, but now that we're painting….at a certain point in the process (02:39) probably 4-‐5 weeks in i was like…I JUST WANT TO PAINT, we've been sitting in these circles forever but now that we're painting, and the piece is almost done i feel like i appreciate all the time that we've spent building relationships because now like the most important part of the process i see as the relationship building, and the community building (03:06) and the end result is this product not so much the end goal. (where there things that you particularly liked or disliked?) not that i disliked any part of the talking circles, but sometimes they were uncomfortable and theres that saying like, here is your comfort zone, and here is where the magic happens, so ultimately all of those uncomfortable moments where people are being vulnerable, or you're forced to be vulnerable and that moment is uncomfortable, at the end its really beautiful and really important (04:10) so that was something that i recognized that was awesome and challenging too. at another point that was really beautiful and awesome was when we had the cookout, and we had been in this incubator, i feel like just us in this circle for weeks and weeks and weeks, and we brought it out to the community, and everyone was so amazed, and we were able to bring people into that sacred space (04:56) and it was just so beautiful. people were responding very well to it, and were energized and it was the right feel, at the right time for our group. have you ever been a part of a project like this? not specifically like this. I've done community building things in the style of talking circles with public Allies, but nothing where participants who are involved, it was totally voluntary, so people who had been coming in, they're doing it because they love it. not because they have community serve hours to fill or its a job or they've made some commitment. were really a family and passionate and interested in continuing this work, without getting paid and thats magical. (06:03) (you said you had been a part of talking circles, could you expand even within that if you seem similarities and diff) (06:25) so i was a social justice minor in college, and so we did a lot of talking circles in classes, and in public allies. and those spaces are kind of challenging because there are people from different backgrounds who are forced to sort of come together, and so they get really tentious very fast, and they're really emotional and i don't feel like that happened in [this space] they were really organic, everybody wanted to be there, and so i feel like the result looked a little bit different i think, just different energy when people want to be in a space. what were your expectations for this project? i didn't really have expectations, i knew that i wanted to meet people, and develop relationships, and thats happened, but i feel like what i thought would happen is 26
happening, and even these expectations its gonna be so AWESOME, and we're going to CHANGE THE COMMUNITY, i feel like its sort of happening. would you say that this project has impacted you? & if so in what ways? as an art educator (08:02) I've typically been in positions where I'm teaching to younger people, and so i feel like i have to come with a certain amount of knowledge and have to be prepared in a certain way, and so it was kind of nice for that responsibility to not be on me in the space, and to be able to learn. and i haven't been in a space like that since college, and i love learning. and its free, its just this awesome community educational space. (08:33) so i feel like i learned a ton. (could you share some of those things that you learned?) i learned from the facilitators, how to encourage very diplomatic sharing process. where everybody is encouraged, and supported to share, and so everything in this mural is contributed very evenly by everybody whose involved. the facilitators basically just guided the process, but in terms of concept, have i feel like (??09:23) i stood back a little bit, and thats been important for me to learn how to do from the position as an educator because you can do it, you can do it….so we were just talking about how (09:37) when you don't want to take the credit for something how to not to take credit for something in community work. so that's been cool to watch how to do, i think in the right way. what were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we worked in, & do you think that they changed? i grew up on the south side, and i now live on the north side, so i feel like i have a general knowledge of both sides of towns, but i got to know both spaces really differently than i knew before th process, and its kind of like…milwaukee is so small but its so separate. so even though (10:30) in my mind i know whats happening on the south side, and i know whats happening on the north side i really don't. so getting to develop a more intimate and authentic relationship with both sides of town has been really eye opening (10:50) that we just don't ge tot see, and people from those communities that i wouldn't have met, have i not traveled outside of my backyard. What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? (11:26) Yeah. I mean, everybody who came to the space i feel like it was a really diverse group of people in terms of everything. And i think one of those diversities that I have appreciated the most has been AGE. There are fold who are pretty young who are 18, and there's babies, young young people who are involved. And older people who have been doing this work for a long time. So it's been really cool to watch and to be a part of that exchange. (12:08) So I feel like, yeah. Racially, gender, age all of those that were broken down are unique. I don't feel like we've provided a lot of space for that to happen at all. 27
And I think there are things happening where young people are encouraged to come together, maybe from racial backgrounds…but in those spaces its usually older people are organizing the younger people, so that didnt happen and that was cool. (are there specific instances that you can share, where you felt those things were broken down?) (13:00) I guess just like people in the group who are older, who i know that do really good work in the community were in positions to learn, they came wanting to learn. and they came not wanting to TEACH. And so, I think that was probably the most potent on my mind, where everybody was there to leaner things, and there wasn't issues of ego, or because of age or experience and just like a lot of questions being asked. and i think in terms of artist background (13:46) i feel like people had very varying artist backgrounds, and so maybe older people who are really strong in this certain area, or there an activist who maybe weren't strong in art, sitting beside a young artist, getting new information about how to paint, how to blend colors. that was really cool for me. i think everybody was very humble in the process which helped. and then vice versa, people who are skilled and older, and able to share their knowledge. (you've talked about AGE, I'm interested in hearing about what your thoughts were in terms of race and gender) (14:35)well, the circle was mostly women, and so that was definitely a different, i feel like, power dynamic than other spaces that I've ever been in, where males were the minority, and then in terms of race feel like there was probably less white people than people of color, and i feel that when folks were sharing, i think people were very open and honest, so especially as a white person (15:17) i just feel like i learned a lot from a position where i was forced to listen a lot and everybody was forced to listen a lot. like the time that you're speaking is a sliver of the time that you're listening, and so yeah i just feel like everybody probably learned a ton, and i just learned a lot from listening. if stitch were to carry out another project like this, what would you offer as feedback for the planning crew? i think the only thing that i had talked about was the length of the sharing, and i know that iwas hard to keep everybody in the same page when there were two groups meeting. there was a friday group, and sunday group. Are there any other things you would like to share? I feel like there were a lot of introverts in the group, i process information slowly, and i don't always feel comfortable sharing with my words. and i know the whole point of the sharing circle is to have people own there stories, but maybe at some point in the process, maybe for people to submit things anonymously, and to have that way to share as an alternative, i feel like there were a few young people. this process doesn't work for everyone. sometimes for me i have to talk my ideas out, before I'm comfortable with my idea. 28
(anything else you would like to share, maybe expanding on hearing peoples stories and that process of people being very vulnerable?) so the small group, large group way of sharing i feel like there were a lot of ideas that i was bringing to the group for the first time. i was forced to think about this thing, and i was forced to spit it out, and after i sat on iti felt omore comfortable, i would've said it differently, so especially some concepts of whiteness and privilege, that i just feel like its a process, when you're dealing with these big things (01:10) and in the small group large group, i was able to regurgitate and just kind of brian storm with my words first. i feel like that would have just given me more confidence in sharing, and maybe allowed me to share in a different way, than i did in a large circle. (what have your thoughts been, you being from mke, mke being said to be the most segregated city in the nation, and this project happening..what do you think about those two things, and how this project happened?) (02:33) ….. (03:14) I've been involved in other projects that, well since I've worked with different non-‐profits in the city for awhile, i feel like I've seen "work" done in this area thats led by white people, so the difference between that type of work, and this type of work, has been very obvious that when its led by people of color, and white people who are typically in charge of those things, and they have to sit back i feel like the progress just looks different, its more authentic, people are more interested in being involved. (03:59) because we've seen white folks try to do all these things with "diversity" and it doesn't work because its not done right. and it feels very political, and people are trying to get grants, so it just feels like this fake "integration, or de-‐ segregation" and so this project, being really grassroots…money raised from the ground up, people invested in this project, because its their lives. i just feels like that success is totally different. its what the city actually needs…. these movements don't have to be led by white people. and so, i feel like that something that was really awesome to watch and to step back on…yeah, the way that that movement is led. Josh DelColle experience within this project & process, things you liked or disliked (01:30) as soon as i hear about the project, i think i saw the video…and i thought this is awesome, i want to do this…this sounds like such a good project…and i remember the first meeting i came to at sweet black coffee was like…the best thing i had been to in a really long time…i had been in meetings for a bunch of other things, like police brutality stuff, and that work was really stressful, and my job was really stressful, and i came to this meeting, in this beautiful circle and there was just so much respect and just mindfulness that was required to be in the space, that it automatically made it a really comfortable place for me, and it ink everybody else. and i felt like i could start sharing right away. the second week when there was a lot less people, i was kind of a little bit discouraged, but then as we started meeting more and more, and it became more of a solid group, i starting becoming 29
more comfortable again (02:24) there were a couple of weeks where i was like..maybe i don't belong…i don't fit it in (being okay with feeling uncomfortable -‐-‐> vulnerability -‐-‐> realness -‐-‐> learning -‐-‐> growth) i was really trying to check myself to make sure i wasn't interrupting the space because i know i was the only white male there, so that was like.. i wanted to make sure i was there for the right reasons, and that i wasn't making anybody else uncomfortable, and that my voice was relevant, and once i felt like that, i felt like it….i think it was after maybe 3 weeks or 4 weeks that we had kind of a solid group, and it became what it is now, and we got the initial mural started. and once that got started going, it was just really cool because the process became even more healing (03:04) and even more creative. i haven't had a creative space in a long time, so having that opportunity to like kind of put my ideas into actions. even the sketches i did, we started doing sketching. i had ideas. i had preconceived ideas of what i would want to contribute towards the mural, and what i drew was totally different, and it just came out instinctually, and that was pretty cool. and then the painting process was really cool. because i had never been a part of…i never was a painter, i never was good at making figures or anything like that…so it was cool watching people that are professionals, and the people who aren't professionals…collaborating, learning, drawing and have the community help out with it too. (03:52) have you ever been a part of a project like this? (04:32) i haven't been a part of an art project like this, but i have…like when was in high school i was a part of an ACLU group called the Other America Tour, that was for high school students, from all over the Milwaukee Metro area, and it was an anti-‐oppression training that turned into an anti-‐oppression workshop, that lead into a youth development program, so we did in a very intense and intentional way, all the youth were put through many processes into creating what they wanted the workshops to be, so thats kind of like the closes thing I've been to like planing something, and having it be a collaborative effort, through racial, class gender, all those lines. and then ever since then i have been looking for something that was very similar in terms of having such a diverse group of people and then having such a specific aim, that is battling segregation in milwaukee. what were your expectations for this project? (05:37) i really didnt have any expectations coming into it. i knew like from jump it was going to be cool and i would like it. i was totally like…the second i saw the video…the minute that i heard it was about bringing the north and south side together, i was like, I'm sold. like… i don't even care if it sucks…it'll be a good learning experience. but i didn't really have any doubts about it. i think it was partially because Ani told me about it, and I just trust her. So I was like, if she backs it then its cool.
(so no expectations?) (06:16) i remember very distinctly how i felt when i came to the first meeting, because the entire week before was the most stressful week i had had in a really long time, because i got jumped by the police, my job was really stressful, my clients was going through with a big crises, there was just stuff with my roommates and friends, and there was a lot of violence going on in the city. one of my other clients recently lost one of his best friends in a shooting, so i was seeing all the really, bad aspects of milwaukee, and i was involved in all of this police brutality stuff that was stressful. i went to a march a couple of days before the first meeting where i got arrested, and the cops hit a woman…and it was real…i was just feeling really heavy. and i was really stressed out about this stuff… i didn't want to be in the city even. so it was like…i think i was so desperate for something that was different (07:19) than anything else that i was doing. and i needed something so desperately that like…i really didn't have any expectations. it was kind of like i need to go to this because i think it will be an outlet that will be positive for me. and it was. would you say that this project has impacted you? & if so in what ways? (07:46) i think its helped me be…just overall this summer be more mindful and a lot more, I'm always a pretty self-‐aware and self-‐critical person, but it added a level of mindfulness to like the way my summer went and i had to make a lot of decisions over the past couple of weeks and months. like my job, and my future, going to school and things like that. so its helped with that and its helped me get a new perspective in the city. i think the best thing about it (08:14) for me was a lot of the spaces i had been in for the past several years with most of the activism i had been doing, had been very masculine spaces. and it was really cool for me to be in a more feminine space that was more nurturing, and more reflective, whereas i have been around a lot of really reactionary things that haven't been productive. so it was refreshing, very refreshing. what were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we worked in, & do you think that they changed? With Sweet Black Coffee I had actually been working, i was part of an organization called Occupy the Hood, about two years ago, and our main area of interest was that exact street. 20th street, right off of North. so i spent a lot of time in that neighborhood, not that specific part of the neighborhood, but I had been in that neighborhood a lot. and I had also grown up in milwaukee, i grew up on for most of my life on 52nd and Lloyd so I would always go up and down North. so i feel like this is like my hood, although its not my hood this is where I'm from. i feel very comfortable there. and coming to aztec ink was a little bit different. i had been up & down Cesar Chavez and 16th street, i had friends from the south side, but I had never really spent a sustained amount of time on the south side (09:43) my conceptions of the south side have always been a more vibrant and interesting place than some of the north side. like, just even the street, theres no street that is as vibrant as cesar chavez on the north side. its just really cool to be here, and to kind of experience that. 31
(10:10) (milwaukee being known by others as one of the most segregated cities, do you think that it showed, self reflections on creating a space, where people from different neighborhoods are able to share) (10:43) i think it accomplished what it set out to aim. with the goal was to create a space for likeminded people from all different areas of the City to create a mural about segregation and then to have the whole process be people kind of define their own Milwaukee. it diffidently accomplished that. (re-‐phrased question, do you really feel like the project combated segregation?) (11:38) Yeah i really feel like we did, i mean having it be on both sides of town, obviously makes you change location and for me, i made a point almost every single time to ride my bike from where i live in river west down here, afterwards i would ride around the south side and just chill in areas i had never been to, go check out taco trucks…just to get to know this area a little bit better. and then in terms of the people in the group, i think it diffidently you had people from all over. What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? (12:33) i think the one thing, i wasn't sure what the actual make up of the group would be. i think i initially thought that it would be a little bit younger of a group, and so even when i came into it i was rely enthusiastic and wanted to be a part of it, i was thinking i might end up being one of the older people in the group, and then knowing that if i was i would be more hands off with it. and kind of lending whatever i could do to it, so it was interesting having the age kind of shift, to a more older crowd, and even though there wasn't that many younger folks, it was still really cool to have a diversity of age, kind of a 20yr age gap between everybody. it was interesting just having it be mostly female space, and then having it be, and being one of the only white people in the space, and then being pretty much the only white man in the space, it was good for me to be a part of that because even though at my job, and in a lot of my activist spaces I'm almost one of the only white people, it was a totally different experience here because not only because of the actual people in the room, but because of the goal of the project and the way it was set up, made it more…mindfulness, more creative and reflective. it really was and, i think the way you and tia set up, made it really flourish in that sense. (I'm interested in hearing more about you as a male, and how that experience was with having mostly women around) (15:27) it was good, because it let me let go. in almost any space I'm in I'm one of the only male identified people, or I'm one of the only white people there, i know that i need to back off, and its good for me to just let go, and let go of control so there was times, instinctually i wanted to be this way, and i was like, it doesn't matter how i want it to be, as long as its a collaborative effort, it got to a point where i was like, i was very happy with the drawing i had made, i don't know where this came from, and its just so cool, i like what i made, and i was like i really want the fist to be part of the painting really badly, but there was a point where it was like, it doesn't matter at all, like i don't care. and that letting 32
go point for me was like really good, was kind of freeing i guess (16:24) like i said before, I'm always a very self-‐aware and critical person and to like, be not so much policing myself and my thoughts and actions, but to be aware of like how my presence might be imposing, i think thats really good. its always really good for people to be aware of how their particular presence, regardless of like any identity issue, even in terms of personality, its always good to be self-‐aware, i think this helped me be more self aware (17:02) more conscious of how i present myself and how i act in group settings. (why did so many men end up leaving the space?) (18:08) i think, the cyclical aspect like you were saying i think it being a more open ended process might have been frustrating for some of the men in the group. and for me, i was constantly, personally challenging myself to make sure i was present because it was a good healing process, but it was a good process for me to go through and i was conscious of that of being, i need to do this. not only is it good for my identity, and making me feel good about the work I'm doing and i think its really important for it to be done, but I'm also going to change an aspect about myself, and be more open conscious person. so, if other men didn't have that intention, maybe that might have been a factor. i advent really talked to any of the guys so i don't know. but for me, I' try to be a very detached person. i don't really get in my chest or egotistical about how i think a project should be. not to say that male identified people do that. (can you speak more about the talking circle) (20:13) i think the talking circle was my favorite, just because it was good for me to (MVI_0004) listening was really good because at my job i do a lot of listening, and i hear a lot of very distressful and intense things all the time with the youth i work with, and to have it be in a different context. i was hearing things that were uncomfortable and stressful, were intense it was just a totally different context than what i was used to hearing those things in recently. and seeing these things or hearing these things in the context of a healing space, but also having it be knowing that it would come to create an end product like the mural behind me was really cool because it was like…i don't want to say….talking is always productive (00:47) in some ways, when it was almost more like how can i use my personal experiences, or how can the personal experiences of us individuals that come from all different parts of the city and backgrounds…how can we show that individuals matter, and that they can come together to create a group process and a group outcome. (01:10) if stitch were to carry out another project like this, what would you offer as feedback for the planning crew? not really, I've ran project before where it was the first time and you don't know how its going to go, whatever happens happens for a reason. group accountability is important (02:31) (03:14) for me just the process of getting here was really cool. i ride my bike everywhere and I'm so used to riding up and down north all the time, and its no big deal to go to sweet black coffee, but like just coming here, and going across the 16th street bridge or like riding around after sessions, checking out the south side has been really really cool part of it for me personally. i feel more conscious of the city than i had in a really long time, 33
in a way that doesn't stress me out either. I've been here for almost 20yrs, defidently gave me a new relaxed appreciation to the city in a way that i haven't for a while. (do you think that this project was really community driven) (05:18) yes, i think the space was defidently fluid enough and open enough that it really could be amore community driven space, because it was interesting every time i do a new project, or i do something around activism in the city i always wonder what the community is going to look like, and for the last few projects and initiatives or protests has always tended to have the same people over & over again and its the same personalities clashing and things like that. it was really refreshing for me to be a part of the space where i think, even though i knew people here that were in the space before hand, and had a pre-‐conceived notion of who they were, but it was cool because it really created its own community. the process created a community space for specific community, (06:36) the fluidity of the structure lent itself to real community building, because we were to kind of like, especially with the talking circles, they went on a lot longer than was initially expected, it was still important to the process. and even with like the sketching, i think there was like a day we thought, OKAY we're going to get this all done in a week because we got so much momentum, and then we kind of stepped back and realized like okay, maybe not everyone in the group was feeling that, we kind of got too ahead of ourselves, and now we don't really know what we want, we thought we knew what we want, but we walked out and realized…oh is that even what we want or do we really have it together….i think the structure helped us figure that out, and having it be open , its been cool. its been awesome. MVI_1532 Auddie Connor experience within this project & process, things you liked or disliked its been extremely energizing and new, and really exciting to step back and see I was a part of that. it has been a long time since I've been working, doing visual art. probably since high school. it seems like once you enter the real world, outside of school when they give you opportunities like that, you really have to seek out opportunities. and if you don't see yourself as a visual artist, then you don't really get the opportunity to. so when i heard about this project, i was a little weary. But I saw, no experience needed, so I said, why not. It's amazing just looking at that. I can't even say that I disliked anything, everything about this experience has been positive and wonderful. it was really incredible to me, to see how we were able to all contribute. Like I didn't think we would all be able to contribute so much, and in the same way. Even like having Kayla's kids and AliAlei, it was truly a community mural. And I was thinking mores the process of designing it would be community, and then we would have the "artists" come in and do it. But I think what really stood out to me was that we can do this. people. anyone. coming off the street. come do this
if this is what you are about. So that stands out to me about this project. it was really empowering. have you ever been a part of a project like this? no. not really. collectively I've done some things, because this project has really been about a political statement. a political movement. something that we've done as activists. so I've done stuff like that, but never something that has manifested in visual art. and that has been really refreshing. and new to me. so you shared right now that you have been part of something like it, or something similar thats political. what would you say then are similarities or differences between what we experienced here and your experiences in those other places? differences would be the intimacy of this group. it was a really small group, and we spent a lot of time sharing personal stories, and really being listened to. not like "hey I'm gonna tell somebody this thing that they already know" but like…it was almost like in the beginning we had therapy sessions. this is how I'm feeling. so that was different from things like rallies and marches, and different collectives of people trying to come together..and say something. the similarities then would be the feelings of safety, and comfort and understanding. like okay everybody in this space is here for different reasons too, but we all have a common ground here, and that is a very positive. there would be days where i would come to these sessions exhausted and be like "meh" and i would leave just mentally in a good place. and i think thats the same things like…labor day marches…it restores your faith in humanity a little bit, which is good (05:34) what were your expectations for this project? i seriously knew nothing about it before…i knew nobody coming into it, I'm trying to remember how i found it. i think i got an email from anti racist/anti bias teaching conference in franking, and i think one of the organizers…i read about it…i saw it was open…i didn't expect it to be so much a process, but just touching go, come do this and that. so it defidently exceeded my expectations. like i didn't expect to feel so connected and so proud of it. i tell people about it all the time. i guess i didn't really have too many. except for that i didn't expect all the talking and the artistic process (06:58) would you say that this project has impacted you? & if so in what ways? totally. i really want to continue doing murals. i was laughing the other night, i think that I'm just ognna like get on a bus and travel the country and be a part of murals…i defidently want to keep doing it. its inspired me, and energized me like oh i can do this. i can look back at the process and defidently try to do it again, anywhere. what were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we worked in, & do you think that they changed? 35
the last time i had really spent any time at the north side location, was in the fall of 2009 because i was just starting my teaching education program and i was doing a hands on classroom experience, a TA at Browns street, which is just down the street from where Sweet Black Coffee is, and i would walk passed, what is Alice's garden every day when I would get off the bus on North avenue, and I'm not sure whether Alice's Garden was as run down as it looked back then because it was off season…but i don't think so. so when we had our party there, and just seeing the area, i was so amazed by how much its flourished in the last few years. the garden looks amazing and its obviously had a lot of work put in to it, it just looks really well taken care of. it got me over there and it made me realize there really is a lot of positive things going on, and a lot of growth going on over there, and i think like..before…being over there years ago…i just kinda of thought, "oh this is just run down…there's a lot of abandoned buildings" there was one time when we were painting the mural outside of Sweet Black Coffee, and we were coming up with our mission statement, and there was this moment…(10:00) and i think other people felt it too…there were people working on the workshops for the open mic, it was just so many of us, so many different people and ages, genders, backgrounds and languages…and we were all just there (use outside photo) and there's this beautiful garden, and we've got all this good stuff happening and it was such a pretty thing. and i felt powerful and i wondered if people driving by were attracted to it because just the presence itself was so important and positive. so yeah that was the north side and how I've come to see it as there are socially conscious, artistically driven, socially justice oriented people in this neighborhood working to transform it for the better. and its not decaying (interesting and problematic…) the south side location (11:25) i didn't spent a lot of time in the neighborhood around here, but i think just the fact that it was here at aztec ink was cool because i think i would've expected a tattoo shop to be so sharing, this kind of thing or would have been so supportive. but i thought that was pretty cool. to see the support from the guys at the shop have given us really kind of changed my outlook. could you speak more to perceptions with the neighborhood itself. you sharing that you have lived in the north side… yeah I've lived in the same place the whole time….(12:39) i guess like i mean, obviously the segregation. the south side is latino, latina and the north side is african american, and thats just how it is, and thats what…i mean i kind of knew that that was what STITCH was about, i had read about it. and so i knew that that was what the STITCH collective is trying to dismantle, but i defidently feel that way…not still like its exclusive, but the city sees it that way. and we have a lot of work to do in regard. to make people feel like oh I'm not going to be shunned…. What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? 36
It was nice for me personally to be in the minority (white) and to take a listening role as a white person. because, i mean, you rarely get a lot of open dialogue about experiences in race that aren't just run by white people anyway (14:30) that is very much the case at UWM, and especially in the English Education program theres a lot of white women. so it was kind of a new thing to me, to be with other adults and to take a listening role in that regard. because like with teaching it was kind of similar…because i spent a lot of time listening to my students because they have so many experiences…so that was in the circles, present. and that was a really good thing. i was a little bummed out that we didn't have a stronger male presence and a male voice because i felt like i don't know what it was that made so many males kind of flee the scene from the first meeting…and my hunch…my suspicion is that it had to do with, "we don't want t talk about our feelings and experiences" because…not to stereotype…but that is what happens…from observing from the process. so i was a little sad that we didn't have that voice, and i thought about that a lot. and then i thought that its okay that we had a lot of women…because we are a group of women from different spaces, backgrounds and experiences and we are all coming together for the same mission. i want to know more about the male perspective…especially in a city where the public education system where males are really underserved…so the project kind of failed in that regard…but what could we do about it (16:40) we couldn't force someone to come in and share from their heart. i think what we had ddefidently, just by listening…even if i didn't share my experiences i still had a really rich growth experience, and still really felt connected. could you talk about age? its interesting…it almost…in my mind…when we were designing and conceptualizing i don't feel like age was really…like we didn't really value OR devalue people based on their age so much, at least in my eyes, because at least for me, that was really nice. we had a few people who were older adults that didn't have this attitude of "let me tell you" and we also had Ammars daughter..who to me just seemed very wise beyond her years…we had kaylas daughters…like actually helping, not just pretending..but like holding doors, asking what can i do…so i think that in itself…the fact that everybody participated and shared…spoke to the fact that people didn't feel ignored because of their age…i think that was really good…and i really appreciated all the artistic skill that people brought to the project…because they really put some weight. if stitch were to carry out another project like this, what would you offer as feedback for the planning crew? I would say that…speaking back to the idea of retaining. the amount of people that came to the first meeting…versus the people that stayed…we couldn't have done it this time, because there wasn't something done beforehand…but i think there has to be something…maybe more transparency about the process…and about what it produces…like the end product…not just the psychical product…but how it makes people feel and so in the future maybe having, obviously look at what we did…and have people that were a part of it, come back and say STAY. i know you don't want to talk but its so 37
important to the process. it connects you in a way…you can't just come up in here with a spray can and have it mean something….you have to have a connection to it….otherwise you're not going to take pride in it. its a community art project, and it is both a strange, and unfamiliar concept i think…so there were a lot of people that wanted to come and mess around, do some art by themselves…which is cool too…but if their not willing to connect and get to know people…and incorporate their ideas and talents…then…i guess they left because they didn't want to. MVI_1533 and thats okay, because at the end we had a group of people looking to be…changed..and be changed. and that was really important…and its evident in our mission statement. (photo of mural statement) it was cool when we all wrote it out…it was all the same thing…but we were all in different places…and that was really powerful thing. another powerful thing…(01:12) do you remember how excited we got that it was an infinity…it was like…YES. end of session….it was little things like that where…theres no real reason to an outsider…but there was just something that we were all feeling…that just happened…and it fit…and it came out of ("it is the story that cuts across the map") (01:43) could you expand on the the talking circle process? (02:01) so it was really an honest and a space that is rare because it was such a small group a lot of the times because we split it up. so a couple of times the talking circles were 4-‐5 of us…and its so hard…and really important also to come and be that vulnerable with people you don't even know…and i think that we defdently experienced the challenges that you would expect with that…feeling uncomfortable…i know that for myself personally…there were things that were shared where i just felt helpless…like thats such a problem…and i feel empathy…and…so that was hard dealing with some of that stuff, like oh I probably know some people, or have seen some things go down like that, that sucks…and theres nothing i can do about it…some of those moments where i personally felt we lost sight of the positive where we're going. (03:33) and how we can work to change it, and sometimes i just got bogged down by the sadness, and the stories of betrayal, and the stories of pain, the struggles we shared…so sometimes there were a couple of talking circles where i came feeling like i know these are problems, and i knew they were problems, and it wasn't something i had never thought of before, but it was a little bit disheartening, because it just felt like i wanted to do something, but i couldn't but those sessions were good (04:28) (roberto bodeyo, being okay with feeling uncomfortable) i knew that those were important for people to feel like they were actually connecting to the project, and other people knew why other people felt connected to the project too…so…and i think once we worked through them (almost like family!) it was nice that we could come back the next time and it would feel like a fresh/new page. those feelings of down-‐ness, never stuck around for too long…and they were defidently important to the process. (05:12) i should give some of the men that were there credit… thats where we lost a lot of people that wanted to be artistic…but not vulnerable. the talking pieces were good. really set a level of respect…and really keeping up with the "I" statements (06:10) they were intense, but good. 38
are there any other things you would like to share? i wish we had more young people working on this project too. if we could get middle high school…i did expect there to be more high school students to be part of the project, because there were so many open mice…and that was part of STITCH's goal... Daisy Romero experience within this project & process, things you liked or disliked what i liked about it the most, was that i just got to meet more like-‐minded people. because i don't think i had found those people, or a community where everyone shared similar interests or wanted to do something in a community together, as a collective. that was to me, enlightening. its hard to find the right group of people sometimes. (trying to find sense of belonging, Roberto Bedoya) especially when you are moving around so much all the time. so when you get to it..its like a relief. to me that's what it was. and as far as the process of the mural, I'm not an artist…the closest that i got to art was in high school (04:37) i took some classes…but me my friends, chloe and kayla we were talking about it that same day, or the night before that about how we wanted to do something for our community. and how we were looking at the walls and the businesses in milwaukee on national, and we felt something was missing there…or that…i don't know…there should be more that people could see or view. so, i think the next day we ended up coming to STITCH. it was the first open mic, and we also found out about the mural project… i can say when we did the circles, and we had to share and use the talking piece it was like…i want to say therapy also (05:58) (healing) because you don't really find that many people that you could just share your personal stories with, especially people that you don't really know that well, so that to me was kind of personal i think. because you don't just sit down somewhere and just meet people, and you decide to share your life story in a way, so it was special to me. that was special to me. and like i said, just meeting people that had common interests. its really hard to find some people that just have those same interests (06:40) have you ever been a part of a project like this? as far as a mural project, i have never been a part of it. i have heard of true skool when i was working with summer of peace. i saw them paint the mural on 16th and washington…that was as close as i got to being part of mural. but this was my first time doing a mural project. and I'm glad i did. what were your expectations for this project? i don't think i had any expectations, i think i just went with the flow. i think maybe sometimes there was a lack of communication… 39
would you say that this project has impacted you? & if so in what ways? yes it has impacted me. because i got to meet people, and i got to learn more…i found knowledge here. i met people that recommended certain things or told me about certain things (09:10) so i knew i wasn't the only person thinking about that, i knew that there was other people wanting to solve a certain issue. just sharing our stories when we did the circles, you found somebody else that was going through the same thing, or the same situation. what were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we worked in, & do you think that they changed? (10:14) the open mic started here, and it was i think you could slowly feel the energy of the people that were in here. i felt like on the south side when we came to aztec ink, versus when we were at sweet black coffee, i felt like there was [more energy here], as the time went by both places…you felt the same type of atmosphere. -‐rephrased question-‐ (11:52) well on the south side it was a tattoo shop, i liked coming here. i kind of tend to adapt to wherever i go. and i have friends on the north side also, so its not a whole other world to me, because I've had those experiences…but i can say that if i didn't know, it would be different. also, i didn't even know (12:38) alice's garden was right behind that, so…it just told me that were just not aware. and i bet a lot of people don't know either…as far as with what we're doing…a lot of people don't realize that milwaukee is segregated…mainly because there just stuck in whatever community they are a part of already, and they don't know whats out there. and they don't want to go somewhere else, you can say, build a stronger community What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? (13:46) i want to say yes. like i said before most of my closest friends in high school were mainly african american, and thats because of where i grew up from, i grew up in an environment where there was not really any segregation…i grew up in new york, in queens. and the area that i lived in was mainly people from the carribean, DR, African American, Gayanese, Trinidadian, just different types of people. (14:37) i was used to that, so when i went to high school, the girls that were mexican , and those that were black, i felt like a lot of them stuck to each others groups. so i wondered, where do i fall in? (15:11) my parents are both mexican, born in mexico. but i was raised in a different environment. so to me its like…for example 40
(17:26) most of the people in the project were women, so i would say that maybe there was a more feminine energy, so (17:44) i think men aren't taught to express themselves, so i think it is harder for them to sit in a circle and open up their personal stories. so i think in that way it made people open up more, or share their story. i did meet older people, and i got to learn from there. they have more experience so they know more. Ammar he shared information about the lack of funding dealing with murals, and theres stuff i didn't know that there is a history to all of this. i guess it was all a learning process to me. if stitch were to carry out another project like this, what would you offer as feedback for the planning crew? lack of communication sometimes. not getting a message to somebody. this was also the first time for the mural. when i started i was kind of shy, because i didn't know these people, i didn't know how to express myself. or what to say. for me it takes time to be able to do that. even at the open mic. i found myself writing more (02:18) i went back to it. as well as art…it made me see a different world (03:00) like there is people that are art oriented, and are doing something related with it. to me it had a big impact in my life. i really had to (04:06) think deep about what the question was, and sometimes the questions were really deep! so there was no way to just give you a direct answer when you got the talking piece. and then you have the option to pass, i liked that abut it, because it gave me time to think. as well as listen, and i listened to somebody, then it would give me an idea of something i wanted to share. i liked the circles, when we had to open up and listen. i lied to listen sometimes, more than talk. what your thoughts are about this project having to do with a group of people coming together to do a mural, but also it having a process of sharing, storytelling, of designing it, painting it. it was really based on a group of people, instead of an artist telling people what to do. was that something that you noticed? or reflected on? (06:41) nobody came and defined it for us, said oh this is what you have to do…we all did it together, and we all shared our personal stories. like coming up with the mission statement, we all came up with it together. it just wasn't one person. it was a large amount of people that did this mural (07:53) even people we didn't know, like at alice's garden little kids. (so how does that make you feel?) that this isn't just our story (08:24) (use for photos of alice's garden painting)its the story of a lot of people in milwaukee. they might not realize it. or not understand it. because even the people that came to the event, they thought it was amazing, they had their opinion about it. you don't just go to a garden and see panels of art as the center piece. (does that make you change the way you think of art or murals?) yeah. because i didn't even take notice of the art that we had in our city before. i started looking at other murals. until i would drive and notice, it would be worn out but… (09:50) when you really start looking at them, theres a story behind them. thats the other 41
thing with graffiti artists and people that work on murals, that was another thing that was brought to my attention. i never really payed attention to that and i didn't know there were regulations or laws. Zari Blackmon WHAT WAS YOUR EXPERIENCE WITH THE STITCH MILWAUKEE COMMUNITY MURAL PROJECT? WHAT WERE THE THINGS THAT YOU LIKED OR DISLIKED ABOUT IT? I was introduced to the STITCH Community Mural Project by my mentor Tia Richardson. I had a lot to learn about the significance of Murals and how to collaborate to create a community where we feel comfortable to work together. I like the space I had to share by passions, concerns, personal stories, and ideas. I also enjoyed getting to know people I otherwise might have never met, and coming together to create a mural with a purpose. It was a challenge at some times because I had a lot to learn and had to challenge myself to commit to weekly meeting times. I am proud of the overall experience. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN A PROJECT LIKE THIS, OR SIMILAR TO THIS ONE? I worked at Artist Working In Education were I was able to work with other aspiring and professional artists to go out in the community and work with youth to learn and enjoy different forms of art, but I have never worked with others on a mural which gave voice to the community about the topics that affected us the most. This project goes beyond just an art project because it carries so many personal stories and experiences in its message. DID YOU HAVE ANY EXPECTATIONS FOR THIS PROJECT BEFORE COMING INTO IT? IF SO, WHAT WERE THEY? I came in the project curious about exactly how the project was going to unfold. I expected to start sketching and painting sooner, but then I realized the importance of forming a community with everyone first, getting to know each other on a deeper level to be comfortable enough to share our ideas before starting on the mural. The mural took a lot of work beyond the sketching, painting, and finding the location. It embodies the Mural Crew’s emotions, stories, and strength. WOULD YOU SAY THAT THIS PROJECT IMPACTED YOU? IF SO, IN WHAT WAYS? Art was never introduced to me as a way to voice my opinion about issues in the community that I face. Instead, it was looked at by people around me as a way to past time, making things look pretty, and a way to express myself. I knew that somehow, art was 42
important to me even though it wasn’t highly valued by people around me. This project inspired me by proving that art is more than an activity. This mural addresses important issues that our community faces every day. It has impacted me to the point where I incorporate art in any program I find space to do so. Currently, I’m working with Public Allies YWCA Racial Justice Program, and Pathfinder’s Garden, and I plan on incorporating art as a form of activism. The STITCH Mural Project introduced me to new ways to do that. WHAT WERE YOUR PERCEPTIONS OF THE TWO SIDES OF THE CITY THAT WE WORKED IN? (SOUTH/NORTH) DO YOU THINK THEY CHANGED FOR YOU AS THE PROJECT CONTINUED? The North and South side of Milwaukee seemed like two different cities instead of two different sides of the city to me. As this project continued, and as people form the North and South gathered and built relationships with each other through potlucks, meetings, STITCH Open Mics, and other events, I saw the North and South side as a community working together to vibe together and reconnect. WHAT PERCEPTIONS DID YOU HAVE BEFORE THIS PROJECT THAT MAY HAVE CHANGED THROUGHOUT THE PROCESS? (EXAMPLES: PAINTING, TALKING IN A CIRCLE) At the beginning, I was new to everything, and was trying to figure out the purpose of the talking circle. Throughout the first or second time, I appreciated the talking circle because it allowed people to be vulnerable and open about their experiences living in Milwaukee. I also was able to draw connections and similarities with people in the circle through the stories they shared that I otherwise might have never knew. I was nervous about how the painting was going to turn out because I’ve never painted on suck a large scale before in such a short amount of time. I was also nervous that my painting skills would not be good enough for the mural until I realized that for all of us, this was a learning experience.
WHAT STITCH SEEKS TO DO IS TO BREAK DOWN DIVISIONS OF RACE, SPACE, ETHNICITY, GENDER & ARTISTIC MEDIUM. WOULD YOU SAY THAT THIS PROJECT BROKE DOWN ANY OF THESE, OR ANY OTHER DIVISIONS FOR YOU? This project broke down all of these divisions. Even though some of us came from different backgrounds and beliefs, we all built a community together, and made this project successful. It also allowed the space for other people in the community to break those barriers, and enjoy each other. IS THERE ANYTHING ELSE YOU WOULD LIKE TO SHARE ABOUT WHAT YOU EXPERIENCED, THAT YOU THINK YOU DID NOT SHARE ABOVE? PLEASE FEEL FREE TO WRITE WHATEVER YOU’D LIKE. This ties into how this project has impacted me. I was struggling with identifying myself as an artist because of the looks or judgments I would receive from strangers, friends, and family who had preconceived notions about artists. This experience allowed me to be around successful artists and people who accepted artists without judgment. This is a quote that I heard after the experience, but as soon as I heard it, I thought about the STITCH Mural Crew: “Artists Are the Gatekeepers of Truth”-‐Harry Belafonte Barbara Whaley experience within this project & process, things you liked or disliked The process was challenging, difficult and sometimes almost painful for me. I guess, to start with the talking circles (01:44), i felt like they were too long, or too many of them, and i really didn't care for the whole monologue thing. I would've liked more interaction, conversation, and back and forth. I also would've liked more, painting from the beginning, not that i would have to be on the mural, final project, but just to get out ones ideas, instead of with words. And then the actual patenting process with the projecting of the image, and the tracing the image, and then coloring book style, filling in….staying within the lines…for me was very, and is very restrictive, and i feel like theres no room for freedom of expression, and I felt very controlling, and i felt lie there was one person in control of the entire mural, from the cool of the paint that was chosen. it was bought even before we discussed color, to the mixing of the paint, having it mixed for me…and told where to paint (03:56), how to paint, and even the style of painting, which was pretty much determined by the paint that was purchased, the colors. There was no red, red. And i often felt like in the 44
group session, that my ideas weren't heard. It's very difficult to put on to a sketch (04:36) fully what i see in my head, and I felt that a lot of my ideas were rejected (end of MVI_0002) *crying* have you ever been a part of a project like this? (MVI_0003) I haven't been a part of a project like this, I have worked on murals, I've done murals with kid, i have collaborated on works with 2-‐3 other artists at a time, not this many, and not in this way. the differences would be in how the mural was created, when working with kids, you have to have a general idea of theme, and you kind of organize them in their painting, so its different when you work with kids, than working with adults. and then when I've collaborated with other artists, the differences would be, its more of a free form, back and forth on the painting, not so much discussion of composition, where things go. it's been more of a free-‐flow of ideas and back and forth. what were your expectations for this project? (MVI_004) I guess I didn't really have expectations, but if I did, I guess, I never imagined it, the way it happened. that wasn't even in my realm. how do you feel about that then? (01:14) I guess, disappointment. but then i really like the mural and how its turning it, i think its beautiful, and its still not done yet. would you say that this project has impacted you? & if so in what ways? (01:38) yeah it has a lot. working in a group and its taught me, a lot about working with different personalities, strong personalities, and my reaction to them, it's taught me a lot. sometimes i feel like I'm not vocal enough, where maybe its not…maybe I'm not doing a good job of explaining my ideas, or voicing my opinion (02:36) and it brought up issues of like well, maybe some people with some control issues, and then what is my part in that. because i don't like to be controlled, its a real…interaction between people, and it just kind of opened my eyes to that. what were your perceptions of the two sides of the city that we worked in, & do you think that they changed? (03:27) i guess i didn't have any perceptions, i live on the north side, i drive down fond du lac, i used to drive it every day when i would drive my daughter to school, and I've been on the south side, but it was nice spending time in both areas. and both places had a lot to offer, and a lot of support of the arts in all aspects, from visual art to spoken word, to all of that, so its conducive to what we wanted to do, which was to paint this mural, and i thought both spots were great for that to happen (mke being know to be most segregated, and this project happening) (04:57) I understand that Milwaukee is the most segregated city, where I live in Sherman Park, its a pretty diverse neighborhood between white and black and then we have the orthodox jewish community, so I would like to see…and i like having that diversity, and thats one of the reasons why i chose to move there, i would like to see more, Latinos and Asians come into the community, because i think the more differences we have, the richer we are in regards to our culture, music, all of that. So, north side and south side (05:51) and bringing those two communities together, i thought was great because I do think there are kind of…a 45
lot of prejudices, or thoughts in peoples head like "oh the north side is dangerous don't go there. or the north side is dangerous, don't go there" and its not any more or less, dangerous, between the two sides. There is problems in our city, there are people shooting people, but that crime…happens everywhere. (END OF MVI_0004) What STITCH seeks to do is to break down divisions of space, race ethnicity, age, gender and artistic medium, would you say that this project broke down any of these, or any other divisions for you? (MVI_0005) Yeah I do, I think it has. Just by having, the two locations, people coming from both sides of town, spending time in both sides of town, and working on the mural together. and working on the mural together, and that we all have a common interest in making this mural happen, i think that alone breaks down barriers. (01:07) (could you speak on age?) I'm probably one of the oldest in the group, and I like having all the different ages, I always like being around young people, i feel like they have fresh ideas and hope, they're still young so things are still exciting to them, and they haven't been beaten down, and so i really enjoy being around that energy. and its just since to have all the different ages represented. (in terms of gender?) yeah, i think it did, because we were in creating the mural, people were sensitive to that, thats why the face at the top is non-‐gender, or without a face, and i think people in the group were sensitive, i don't think there was any issue. (03:13) But there were points where there were the subject did come up, where we were doing the composition, and am mar felt that in that first composition, where is the male point of view? where is the male represented, and then for me, it seemed like when that was set, then it was devoid of the feminine, it seemed to be it was all the masculine was being represented, the female side was kind of taken out (04:01) again, and thats kind of why we have the feminine looking hand on this side, and the masculine looking hand on this side, to get more of that balance. (04:20) (how was that experience for you?) it was interesting, i was okay with it (05:00) i did want to see more of a balance between the two, and i feel like we are as human beings, we have both inside of us, and i think we as human beings ned to embrace that, both sides. if stitch were to carry out another project like this, what would you offer as feedback for the planning crew? (05:55) i would like to see more of a dialogue, more of a back and forth conversation. and more painting and drawing from the beginning, to put those ideas on something, on canvass to see them, and kind of work things out that way, sainted of just all verbal. i thin kit would also be helpful, like when we came up with that statement, things kind of took off from there, so having that statement, that purpose, get that done immediately right away so we can focus on where were going, and what were trying to say in the mural, and i think that would kind of keep things moving along. (you don't think that with the talking circles, that the conversation wasn't getting anywhere, or did you feel there is a disconnection between everything we talked about and the mural) (07:20) the first question, if milwaukee was a flower, what would it be? i think if we could've instead of 46
talking and explaining, if we could've put that on paper and canvass right away, and then the second question, how did milwaukee betray you, that one….ind of threw be for a loop, because milwaukee has't betrayed me. people have betrayed me. (how was your experience listening to peoples stories? and peoples responses to them) it was, some of it was hard to hear, but necessary, and kind of sad to hear all the kind of experiences of racism, it just makes me sad because, i wish that didn't exist, because we are all human beings. (09:00) i guess i was unclear on…i can see where it was going, but yet, then, i mean it really wasn't until we came up with that statement, that we kind of got down to the imagery that we wanted to use…i just felt like i needed that sooner. we had started the composition, and that part was missing, and as soon as we got that part, the composition came together. Any last words? (11:57) let me just say this, because I've heard it a couple of times on how this project was organic. and i don't feel that way at all. for me personally it was just the opposite, which i touched on before. but it wasn't what i would consider organic. it was just very controlled. and i would like for it to be organic, more free, and having more freedom of expression. and a lot fothat is just how I am, and how I paint too. I'm not that controlled painter. the positives, seeing everybody work on it, and getting people from the community involved, even like…right now…the tattoo artists, Royal, working on the skulls, and then when we had the cookout, and we started painting on it, and to see the little kids painting on it, everybody just painting on it, and getting it started. that was really nice to see too. and just the communities coming together, people from the south side coming to the north side to paint, and vice versa. thats what i enjoyed about it (14:18) (without mentioning any names, several people have used the word organic, and everyone will experience things differently than the person sitting next to them. so it's interesting to hear what you felt. for most folks it has been a liberating process, and i think thats also…all of those people have also not experienced a project like this, its been there first time painting, and sharing stories in a circle, and so, thank you for sharing your honesty on how this project hasn't been any of these things for you. i wish i would have heard this before, especially for me, someone that put this together, and make it a safe space for everyone) (16:00) because i did talk to alida about it, and there were things that were going on. i am very sensitive to other peoples emotions, and actions, and reactions, and body language and all of that. and so there was some of that going on, and at some point it was so kind of in my face, i was kind of like..am i just crazy, am i imagining that this was just said, and this was just done? (17:21) and i did not feel comfortable to bring these things up in the group, and i don't know, maybe i should've brought up to you, i felt like…i don't know whats going on, does this have to do with me. like i said, is it really happening? is it in my head? is it an issue with myself? (17:58) (i think we all carry our own backpack of our own experiences, and sometimes we just ignore, and keep them in our backpack to deal with them, or reflect on them, or even bother to think about 47
them, do you think this space, because people were speaking from their heart, maybe that shook up things that you've been carrying? and maybe its been the first time ever things like that have been brought up, in the form of a talking circle, with people you don't know, do you think it might be a layer of things?) END OF MVI_0005
Published on May 15, 2014