The Milwaukee artist known as C.M.P. has blended his creative focus with social justice and a deeply rooted Christian foundation.
With his father a drug dealer and his mother an evangelist, Christopher McIntyre Perceptions lived in two very different worlds at the same time. His only outlet to find peace was the arts. His personal story and visionary work in the community has made an impact on marginalized youths who felt they had no voice.
Q&A with Christopher McIntyre Perceptions
Milwaukee Independent: What is a spoken word artist and how has Milwaukee been supportive of this creative expression?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Spoken word is one of the most powerful forms of expression. It encompasses poetry, story telling, confession, testimonials, nonfictional and fictional accounts. Spoken word artists speak from this paradigm. Milwaukee has a large spoken word community and it is very close knit and competitive.
Milwaukee Independent: How did you get the idea for Br(OK)en Genius?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: It came from an opportunity and then manifested as an artistic rebuttal to an eugenics Nobel peace prize winner who stated that black people should not reproduce for the sake of sparing the world of stupidity. The opportunity came from the former director of the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center, Chad M. Piechocki, who is now the managing director of Present Music. Chad saw my work at the Milwaukee Art Museum and was moved so we had a meeting. After the meeting, the opportunity was given for me to have a production and then Br(OK)en Genius was born. It has been my most rewarding and challenging project to date.
Milwaukee Independent: Br(OK)en Genius has toured around Milwaukee as a fine art exhibit. What has been the public reaction to your photography?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Everyone calls it different. The scope is positive and most pieces were purchased for new homes. I’m always looking to sell new pieces.
Milwaukee Independent: You were able to perform Br(OK)en Genius at the South Milwaukee Performing Arts Center in November 2014. What was that experience like?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: It took all of me to manifest that production. So much change, so many moving parts, so many other schedules to meshed together, so many lives to impart life into, and so much prayer. From having our violinist split her thumb open the day of the performance to spitting up blood for a portion of time before the production, it was a grind until the end and I am so proud of the gifted artists who were stretched creatively. Most of us, if not all of us, still talk on a very frequent basis. A bond was created with every audience member and every artist who performs in the space during the Br(OK)en Genius era.
Milwaukee Independent: How has the recognition from Br(OK)en Genius affected you personally and professionally?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: It affected me in a professional sense due to the fact that my educational curriculum got a spotlight. I built a custom curriculum for St. Marcus Lutheran School which ended in a similar fashion of a performance done by seven St. Marcus students. It was a wonderful final product. I am currently in a partnership with ArtWorks For Milwaukee doing an arts entrepreneurial program that I built myself. It is in its second season. Other organizations are interested in my curriculums. Personally, I feel like I can do anything. I am truly blessed and thankful to Jesus for this gift.
Milwaukee Independent: What has the combination of art and faith meant to your life?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Without Jesus, I am nothing. My art is a reflection of my life. For me, there is no separation between art and the spiritual world. So for me, I choose Jesus while others choose a darker path in the art world. Jesus is Lord and I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ.
Milwaukee Independent: Can you explain your experience with the Milwaukee Art Museum, from its early influence to holding an exhibition there?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: The Milwaukee Art Museum and I started a relationship around 2010. In 2011, I showcased my artwork during one of the Kohl’s Family Sundays. I stayed in touch and kept going to the Milwaukee Art Museum. A connection introduced me to Sande Robinson who I knew from the Daniels family. Sande invited me to be apart of a community task force for an exhibit called “30 Americans.” I met curators, museum workers as well as Dan Keegan, the director of the Milwaukee Art Museum. I knew I was in the right place at the right time by the grace of God. Dan spoke on having a desire to make sure the community received the “30 Americans” exhibition well and questioned the task force on how that could happen. After I spoke, the whole room looked at me then Dan expressed his thanks. I met a lot more people after that. Then at the next meeting the task force had, Sande spoke about a “Wisconsin 30” exhibit where 30 African American artists would be featured. Originally I was not on the list. I knew this exhibit would be a life changer. About a week later I got a call and Sande told me that it was decided I should have a place in the “Wisconsin 30.” In amazement, I accept but all the glory belongs to God. Shortly after the news I called my mother. I may have shed a tear or two.
Milwaukee Independent: Your artistic efforts have touched the lives of many people. What accomplishment are you most proud of, and what yet do you wish to achieve?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Br(OK)en Genius by far is my greatest blessing and a gift to Milwaukee. The opportunity to collaborate with the Milwaukee Bucks by doing a community mural is currently my favorite opportunity because I didn’t see it coming! I want to do so much, and a lot more is about to manifest.
Milwaukee Independent: What is ArtWorks for Milwaukee and how did you get involved?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: ArtWorks for Milwaukee is an innovative agency that strives to create a workforce of youth with 21st century skills by partnering with artists who make art practical. The executive director of ArtWorks sat on a Milwaukee Art Museum committee that I was also on and we happened to strike a conversation. After one meeting, it seems like we were meant to partner. That was in summer of 2015 and my program is now a permanent one within the scope of ArtWorks. It’s a great organization with so much growth coming.
Milwaukee Independent: Your interactive iBook “Memoirs and Visions” was published on Apple’s iTunes. What was your goal in producing this?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: My goal of “Memoirs and Visions” was to share with the world my personal testimony. Having it be a top ten on Amazon’s photojournalism eBook section for a time was a blessing because it was a strictly grassroots effort.
Milwaukee Independent: Have you seen progress in reducing economic and racial inequality in Milwaukee?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Yes. But Milwaukee needs more because we are at the tipping point. If it tips one way, the abyss will open and swallow us whole. If it tips another way, there will be no limit for what we can do. Milwaukee has so much potential but it just needs to stop being scared of it.
Milwaukee Independent: What do you think is needed to help ease discrimination in the community?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Transparent efforts, real conversation, action that is manifested in economics and leaders who are liaisons for both sides to have equal representation. Who better than an artist?
Milwaukee Independent: What advice would you offer to someone who is disadvantaged and is looking for a direction?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: Seek Christ. Create like your life depends on it. Don’t be afraid to learn about the business of creativity because if you’re not aware, you will be swept away by “opportunities for exposure” when you haven’t eaten in three days. Take charge of the future today by networking. Be sure to have your online face strong. A business card always helps. Strive to take hold of mentorships, and stay in creative environments where you are able to grow from so many great people around you. Learn quick. The art world can be fickle so don’t take everything personal, everyone has an agenda except for a handful who will always keep it real with you. Politics is everything. You will learn more by observation than conversation. Work with organizations such as Alive, the Fellowship Open, RedLine MKE and ArtWorks for Milwaukee to gain knowledge as well as creative opportunities.
Milwaukee Independent: Do you have any new artistic projects on the horizon we should be watching for?
Christopher McIntyre Perceptions: I will be doing a solo exhibition very soon. My wife and I have launched a new apparel line called “ARTLife Forever” and will be opening a creative marketplace called Perceptions Plaza. A lot on rumbling under the surface even if the outer layer looks calm. Follow me online at www.cmperceptions.com and you will always be in the loop! Quite excited for the future and thankful to be alive. Long story short, stay tuned for greatness. Milwaukee is about to see something artistic, revolutionary and spiritually driven by the power of God. Amen.