“My collage shows activists like Vel Phillips and Father Groppi fighting for free housing rights. It shows them marching and locking arms. I chose Father Groppi as my hero because even though he is a white priest and got a lot of hate, he still fought for fair housing.” – Sara Orozco

The Milwaukee County Historical Society (MCHS) presented an art exhibition by student artists from around the Milwaukee area on October 9 at its downtown location

In partnership with the UW-Milwaukee ArtsEco program, the event was the third annual program to feature artwork from area students. The purpose was to help the youth reflect on their lessons in Milwaukee County history, and also to elevate those issues for adults as a reminder.

The theme for 2018 was “My Milwaukee Monument.” The focus was inspired by curriculum related to the open housing marches that took place in the city 50 years ago, from 1967 to 1968. That series of events is best remembered, within the white community, as an effort supported by the Catholic priest, Father James E. Groppi.

The MCHS exhibition asked the students to reflect on current issues and create their own Milwaukee monument. Visitors who attended the event commented on the heartwarming messages and powerful impact that the creative work displayed. Some of the captions, written to explain the thinking behind the artwork, underlined not only the creative spirit but the social awareness by the 7th and 9th graders.

“The artwork I created is a mural. I put a part of the Milwaukee flag and a part of the Wisconsin flag, but I changed it a bit. I put the words, “Couo la Flor,” a rose, a cactus, and the green and red colors over the cactus, to represent the Mexicans and Hispanics of Milwaukee. I have lived here for most of my life and I know there’s a variety of people and races here.” – Jennifer Puebla

“This painting is inspired by Guernica. What I’m trying to show in my painting is how in Milwaukee we are fighting a war of fair housing for everyone. Not only in the present time, but in the past. I chose the colors to show the colors from the past to make it look old. But you could also see the present side of the picture, because the apps and the phones represent how teens and adults are protesting and fighting on social media for things like equality, justice, fair housing, and much more.” – Celeste Garcia

“My painting is inspired by Monet. It’s painted dark in the middle of the city to show the hard times Milwaukee faced when there was racism and no fair housing, and the rainbow on the side represents the new and better future for Milwaukee.” – Emilio Guzman Robles

“My building represents all the squares, each person is a square, and we are all united and equal. It doesn’t matter what color or race you are.” – Evelyn Zuniga Herrera

“Milwaukee inspired my work. The process wasn’t exactly long but it was complicated. I hope that it communicates by saying that not all superheroes wear capes.” – Johan Moreno-Santos

The annual program believes it is vital for children to understand where they live and why it is unique. Art in the classroom is also very important. Students can best relate to history when they can relate with their own experiences. The curriculum gives them the opportunity to learn about children in Milwaukee in the past. It also integrates the arts with social studies through an in-school collaboration that their teachers, and this program, facilitate.

The Milwaukee County Historical Society is the place for people to learn about and to celebrate Milwaukee. Since 1935, the Society has collected, preserved and made available materials relating to Milwaukee County through events, programs, educational programs, exhibits and our research library. ArtsECO stands for Arts Education/Community Ecosystem. Based in UWM’s Peck School of the Arts Department of Art & Design, it develops teachers as change-makers.

“This drawing represents how empty Milwaukee felt with all the unfairness Black and white only because of the old times. The reflection on the water it reflects the pain the people had felt without a home to own.” – Dulio Martinez Ornelas

Not owning a house.
Feeling direness like a mouse.
Even it was a long time ago.
It doesn’t feel good I’m telling you so.
But now it is all good and we are free.
We now live in a great place called Milwaukee.

© Photo

Lee Matz