How does one respond to a show like 30 Americans, which raises so many contemporary issues about identity, place and culture? How does this exhibition fit into a city that at first glance is all about motorcycles, baseball, and beer? Teens in the Milwaukee Art Museum’s ArtXpress program tackled these questions this summer.
Teens in the program were tasked with creating a collaborative public mural that addresses community issues in a positive way in a style inspired by 30 Americans. Their finished mural will be displayed on a Milwaukee County Transit bus for 8 months, inspiring the city!
The group looked past the surface to understand that there is not one answer to the above questions, nor just one identity. People are complicated–many identities, cultures and voices make up this city. These differences are all held together; there is only one Milwaukee.
As the program educator, it was an amazing experience to collaborate with the 16 teens who were part of the ArtXpress High School Program and with RedLine Resident Artist Johnny Kowalcyzk. Over the course of three weeks, we spent about half our time at the Museum visiting, thinking, and talking about 30 Americans and the other half of our time at RedLine making artwork in response to the show.
The program included many guests who helped us think through how the teens would create the mural. We also had the great opportunity to have Clayborn Benson, executive director of the Wisconsin Black Historical Society, talk about Milwaukee’s history to help ground our experience of the show in our local experience. Christopher McIntyre, an artist represented in Wisconsin 30, led the group through the show, offering his perspective and enhancing our dialogue. Lastly, Nina Chanel Abney, an artist represented in 30 Americans, came to talk about her experiences as an artist and provide feedback on the artwork being made for the mural.
Keep scrolling to view process photos of the program and the mural. Great job, ArtXpress teens!
—Tim Abel, ArtXpress Program Educator