This past summer, we hosted 30 Americans, featuring works of art by contemporary African-American artists. The exhibition was, by the numbers, a huge success: we had an attendance goal of 85,140 and our actual attendance was 114,389! But impact goes beyond facts and figures, which is why we wanted to round out our blog posts about the exhibition with a look at a powerful expression of the city that was embedded in the show.
Within the galleries, we included three sticky note stations for folks to anonymously respond to works of art by Gary Simmons, Leonardo Drew, and Lorna Simpson. We have now archived all of the sticky notes for future study, thanks to dedicated staff and volunteers. This post will highlight just a few of the many powerful responses to works of art in photos, plus written reflections about 30 Americans from visitors and Museum staff that we received over the course of the exhibition.
“What struck me is that we had small, designated areas for the sticky notes, and it became obvious in the first weekend that they would not contain all of Milwaukee. We decided to let it grow as big as it needed to be.”Brigid Globensky, Milwaukee Art Museum Barbara Brown Lee Senior Director of Education and Programs
“This was a fascinating, revealing, disturbing, memorable show.”Visitor Comment
“It was a joy to watch the voices of our entire community materialize on the wall in lively, emotional and provocative conversation throughout the summer. But after three months of reading so many remarkable statements and questions, in the end, it was a wordless post-it response that moved me most deeply. On the second to last day of the exhibition, a man who had been crying in front of Gary Simmons’s Duck, Duck, Noose reached for a post-it. After politely declining the pencil I handed to him, he pressed the blank yellow note first to one eye and then to the other to blot his tears. He then silently pressed the tear-soaked post-it to the wall. In that single, wordless gesture, I was reminded that sometimes a work of art can be so powerful, so personal, and affect someone so deeply…there are no words.”Amy Kirschke, Director of Adult, Docent, and School Programs
“I was excited to see so many people having a desire to share their voice through a small yellow note, dare I say be empowered to do so. As the exhibition continued, the post-it notes really became a reflection of the community who viewed the art in the space and in some ways became a work of art in itself. Personally, I was most moved by the conversations that took place between notes, the different languages listed, and the overarching reminder of forgiveness, love, and the importance of teaching the next generation.”Laci Coppins, Milwaukee Art Museum Manager of School and Teacher Programs
“What an amazing exhibit. My eyes never stopped looking.”Visitor Comment
“30 Americans was profound. I cried.”Visitor Comment
“By bringing awesome and stimulating artwork, as well as opening up avenues for discussion, Simpson made the entire gallery poignant and meaningful.”Visitor Comment
“I’ve been three times already, bittersweet that it’s leaving soon. I loved all of it.”Visitor Comment
Chelsea Emelie Kelly was the Museum’s Manager of Digital Learning. In addition to working on educational technology initiatives like the Kohl’s Art Generation Lab and this blog, she oversaw and taught teen programs.