This year, the Milwaukee Art Museum was pleased to work with artist and Milwaukee-area native Reginald Baylor for its annual Member mug. The mug features a detail of his painting On Duty, Not Driving, which is part of the Museum’s collection and currently on view.
I recently took the opportunity to ask Baylor a few questions, including some about the painting.
Each year, the Museum develops a special gift for Members who renew early—something we encourage so they don’t experience a lapse in benefits. Many Members, in fact, take great pride in their mug collections, which they’ve acquired through the years. We’ve seen entire cupboards within Member homes filled to the brim with these collectible items, which are available only to Members.
Reginald Baylor’s painting On Duty, Not Driving is a visitor favorite, and many of us hoped to feature the work on a mug. We were thrilled that Baylor was amenable to this invitation, and we used the collaboration as an opportunity to hear from him about his work, Milwaukee’s creative culture, and the Reginald Baylor Studio.
What inspired the painting On Duty, Not Driving?
Listening to music in my truck-driving days. It also alludes to the independent contracting business model found in the trucking industry, similar to the contracting business for the self-employed or freelance designer.
Tell us about the operations of the Reginald Baylor Studio.
At the Studio, we have a passion for employing Milwaukee creatives. The Studio operates with the belief that Milwaukee can be the Creative Industry Capital of this country, similar to how we all think of Nashville as the Music Capital. We believe we have all the talent we need right here, and the Studio is doing its best to heighten the Creative Industry Movement in Milwaukee.
What has been your most memorable Milwaukee Art Museum experience?
It would be hard to forget the moment when I heard that the African American Art Alliance had decided to purchase On Duty, Not Driving from Hollis and Taggart Gallery, in New York.
Your favorite Museum exhibition/artwork?
The Quilts of Gee’s Bend. The exhibition tied together the fact that my folks grew up in the South, Mississippi, and Alabama. The stories behind the quilts had similarities with my parents’ roots and stories. Also, my fascination with straight-edge painting. Those patterns were all meticulously designed, and the straight-edge compositions in general get me going. “Outsider art” is not my preferred label to the genre, and I understand that “folk art” is not a term used much anymore. I like “self-taught” art and design, and I liked that aspect of the Quilts of Gee’s Bend.
Your favorite mug beverage?
Now that you asked, Dalmatian’s Coffee. It is a brand that is currently in the conceptual design phase at Reginald Baylor Studio. Stay tuned.
As an established artist in Milwaukee, what do you see as the most promising aspects of the arts and culture scene in our city? What are the challenges?
Good question. The most promising aspect is our talent pool—we have what we need here. The most challenging is the consumer. The challenge is to increase the number of consumers for Milwaukee’s design products and services.
Elisabeth Gasparka was Development Officer for Membership. She crafted Member communications, planned and oversaw Member events, and managed relationships with external partners, including through the Neighborhood Discount Program.