Want to know what energizes an art museum staff, beyond knowing that we share a world-class art collection with almost 400,000 people a year?
Believe it or not, for the Milwaukee Art Museum staff it was a coloring contest.
Of course, it helps when that coloring contest is both inspired by and judged by Wisconsin artist Reginald Baylor. (And also, when the prize involves a free lunch with the artist.)
Earlier this year, the Museum Store launched a Coloring Book inspired by the Milwaukee Art Museum Collection and illustrated by artist and Milwaukee native Reginald Baylor. Baylor’s On Duty, Not Driving (2010) was recently acquired by the Museum, and as of now you can find it in Gallery 19. (The Museum Store has collaborated extensively with Baylor on a line of other Museum-exclusive items designed by the artist, which includes jewelry, a T-shirt, and limited edition art-embroidery.)
During one of our recent monthly all-staff meetings, in which all employees get together before our workday begins for briefings on Museum exhibitions, happenings, and other news, Director of Visitor Experience Bryan Kwapil announced a staff-wide coloring contest.
The Simple Rules:
1) Start with the page in Baylor’s Coloring Book inspired by the Pablo Picasso (Spanish, 1881–1973), The Cock of the Liberation painting from the Museum’s Collection. At right you see our blank canvas, Baylor’s coloring book version of the Picasso painting.
2) Each museum department would work collaboratively on the same page.
3) Artistic free reign (markers, mosaic, sculpture), as long as the page itself was incorporated in some way.
4) We had two weeks!
Reggie Baylor would judge the contest himself, and the winning department would have lunch in the Cafe with the artist/judge.
I’m not sure if our ears perked up more because Reggie himself was judging or because of the promise of a free lunch, or just because we were game for a little team-building competition, but either way, the staff was abuzz–and the contest had officially begun.
Staff gathered in anticipation in the hallway of the upstairs offices to await Reggie’s arrival. Although we were all very busy, somehow we all carved out time to create some pretty beautiful, intricate entries, if I do say so myself.
Here is what our creative staff came up with:
The Finance Department created a textural interpretation of The Cock of the Liberation, while Curatorial made a collage using only Museum Collection images (fitting!) and even made a very accurate label.
Security’s entry had a gold background (fancy!) and Human Resources made the rooster and dove into a paper doll!
Here’s a detail of some of HR’s outfits for the birds.
Facilities constructed metal legs for their entry, which was colored meticulously with colored pencil.
Visitor Services collaboratively and creatively collaged their page (love that pineapple tail!) and Events even incorporated some brand logos they use every day in the Cafe.
The Museum store used materials from their gift wrapping, bags, and other paper literature to create their work. Meanwhile, Communications, which includes the Graphic Designers, made not only a laser-cut wood panel but also a gallery label, impeccably mounted and framed, and a hand-held gallery guide explaining their creation. Phew.
The Development Department, which raises funds for the Museum, collaged the rooster with (faux) coins and dollar bills. The Art Preparators were inspired by Picasso’s abstract art to create a zig-zag effect.
We in the Education Department went full-out 3D and let the birds jump from the canvas/coloring page. The Cafe worked collaboratively to create a brightly colored interpretation.
So… who won!?
Reggie admitted it was a tough decision and insisted on giving first, second, and third place. He also asked staff to “pitch” him and explain why each department should win the prize.
Third place went to the Development Department who gave an impassioned speech explaining the importance of their mission to raise funds for the Museum. (Editor’s Aside: It was Halloween that day, which is why some of us in the photos are dressed up as cats or Dale Chihuly!)
Second place went to Communications for their amazingly detailed entry! It was even framed!
And… First place went to Education! Woohoo!
I must admit that all of us educators let out a huge cheer when Reggie announced we won. Reggie talked about his deep respect for teachers, and how an art teacher in high school had helped instill an appreciation for art and learning in him. He volunteers in Milwaukee-area schools often because he believes so strongly in our young people–which of course we all, not just the Education Department, love to hear. I know I for one am looking forward to sharing a meal with him and learning more about his work!
On behalf of all the staff, I’d like to thank Reginald Baylor for taking the time to come judge this fun team-building contest for us. I also want to acknowledge the Events and Cafe Team, who are generously donating that free lunch I mentioned above! This was one of the most fun things I’ve had the opportunity to do during my time at the Museum and it was great to work together creatively on this project! (And, I swear, I’m not just saying that because my department won.)
PS: If you’d like to meet Reginald Baylor at the Museum, you can! He’ll be at the Museum Store on December 13. More details are below along with information about other opportunities to meet artists at the Museum.
If you’re interested in getting your hands on the Coloring Book and perhaps holding your own contest, I’d suggest coming by for one of the Store’s events for Members! Double Discount (20% off) Days are on November 23 and 29, as well as December 6, 7, 13, 20. For more opportunities to support and meet local artists, stop in on December 6 for the UWM Object Group Trunk Show or on December 13 to meet JoAnna Poehlmann and Reginald Baylor. Reginald Baylor’s collection can be shopped online right here at the Museum Store online site–just search “Baylor”!
All photos by the author, unless otherwise noted. Special thanks to Donele Pettit-Mieding and Jan Fleming for their assistance in preparing this post.