On November 2nd, Artist Reginald Baylor and ART Milwaukee opened the TypeFace project, a public art installation revitalizing previously dilapidated spaces in four Milwaukee neighborhoods. TypeFace creations were born from community conversations conducted by Adam Carr and include the words of residents in the artwork itself. The exhibits opened at 10 a.m. with a presentation of the Typeface process at Shiloh Tabernacle, 3418 North Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Drive.
The idea for the project came to Milwaukee-based artist Baylor while driving past the former Finney Library on North Avenue and Sherman Boulevard, down the road from his current home. Like many folks who grew up in the area, Baylor remembers the space as a place of gathering and learning. After closing its doors 10 years ago, the building became one of the many foreclosed, vacant or underused areas in Milwaukee neighborhoods. Baylor took a closer look at the boards covering those shuttered windows and saw an idea, an event, and a voice. That was the inspiration for TypeFace — to bring the words of community members to abandoned spaces.
"Public art, particularly public art that expresses sentiments of neighbors, adds vitality and unity in the area where it is displayed,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said. "A project like TypeFace does something more; it engages people in a common endeavor that builds community strength."
During summer 2013, Milwaukee-based storyteller Adam Carr led conversations that shaped the artwork. Each process was tailored to the history and identity of its community, resulting in four very different journeys. This included 100 street interviews in Burnham Park, free-flowing discussions over barbecue in Lindsay Heights, sessions with a church congregation and residents in Harambee, and a series of spoken word workshops—co-produced with spoken word artist Dasha Kelly—in Sherman and Washington Park.
Incorporating text into his artwork was a new challenge for Baylor, whose style typically involves using lines to create details on canvas and textiles.
“I thought of the words of the community as simply physical shapes that are constructed into a composition,” he said.
Baylor and ART Milwaukee were able to create TypeFace thanks to the prestigious Joyce Award. The award is a $50,000 grant given to artists of color who engage the community while producing quality artwork.
“The Joyce Foundation invests in the capacity of artists to push the boundaries of public dialogue and engage citizens in contemplating issues facing their communities today,” said Angelique Power, Senior Program Officer, Culture at the Joyce Foundation. “Typeface is a result of this dialogue, and the artwork continues to speak to residents every day.”
The following local funders also made the project possible: Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Zilber Family Foundation, Helen Bader Foundation, City of Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation and the Wisconsin Arts Board with funds from the State of Wisconsin and the National Endowment for the Arts.
For more information about Typeface and to view the archive of community conversations visit: www.typefacemke.com.