By Nyesha Stone
In a city that is known for violence, potholes and beer, muralist Tia Richardson see’s Milwaukee for so much more. She was born and raised in the 414, and she will continue to stay grounded here until she sees the change she wants to see, and she’s using her artwork to do it.
You know you’re a good artist when your name is referred and then picked by the city to do a project. A year and a half ago, Richardson was contacted by Safe & Sound, Inc. to do a mural for the city.
This conversation was held in late June/early July of 2016, and then the plans were put on hold. It wasn’t until the city of Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Development Services contacted Richardson in April of this year that the ‘Sherman Park United’ project moved forward.
Last month, Richardson held two workshops to gain insight on what the community thought should be included in the mural. Richardson is a community artist, meaning she doesn’t just like to sit in a studio, paint, and then sell her work. Instead, she likes to be in a room full of vibrant people, connecting with each other by doing art, and this project is no different.
Starting next week near Sherman Park, Richardson will begin working on her mural on 4715 W. Center Street. Any and everyone is invited to help Richardson paint the mural. She will either put color dots or numbers on sections, so volunteers know which color goes where. Richardson expects to be done with the project within two months.
“You don’t have to be an artist to be a part of this,” said Richardson. “Art is a vehicle to get people together.”
It took Richardson two weeks to create the design for the mural. Her love for community involvement is so strong, she had a revealing of the mural’s design on July 11. She wanted the community’s input before starting the mural, and she’s happy with their reactions.
“It was a good turnout, a good cross-section of the community, [and] I did gain more volunteers,” said Richardson.
Richardson said she has been doing art her entire life, but she became a muralist and art teacher in 2007. She works though non-profit organizations like Arts At Large, Inc., who find her teaching jobs at Milwaukee Public Schools: Hampton Elementary School, Bruce Elementary School, and more. She’s worked at over 20-30 schools within the last nine years.
Richardson loves to see the looks on her students’ face as they use art to grow and express themselves. She sees art as a way for people to “channel themselves.” It’s not about the finished project, but more so about the journey, said Richardson.
After going to Lily Yeh’s artist workshop held in Milwaukee, Richardson decided to become a community artist. Richardson saw herself in Yeh, and three years later she’s been heavily engaged in getting the community involved in art.
Her entire summer is dedicated to this mural and she’s documenting every step with her videographer. She wants the community to “see how the vision has evolved,” from the planning stages to the final product.
Richardson will continue teaching art, in hopes of one day opening up a creative community expression space. This will be a space where creativity is used to deal with emotions, creativity and anything needed to help an individual become at peace with themselves. “Milwaukee is my anchor,” said Richardson. “I want to continue to build in Milwaukee.”
Community paint days and times: Tuesday July 18th 3pm-7pm; Wednesday July 19th 3pm-7pm; Thursday July 20th 10am- 2pm; Friday July 21st 3pm-7pm; Saturday July 22nd 1pm-5pm; Sunday July 23rd 1pm-5pm, unless it rains.
Editor’s Note: ‘Sherman Park United’ was later changed to ‘Sherman Park Rising’