Jeramey Jannene

DNC-Timed Art Installation Covers Downtown

Work by local artists highlights democracy for convention, though delegates won't attend.

By - Aug 10th, 2020 04:04 pm
"Road of Democracy" banners. Photo by Pat A. Robinson.

“Road of Democracy” banners. Photo by Pat A. Robinson.

A temporary public art project will blanket Downtown for the remainder of 2020.

“Roads of Democracy,” curated by the Milwaukee Downtown business improvement district, will showcase the work of three Milwaukee artists working in different mediums.

The installation, originally intended as a showcase while the Democratic National Convention was underway, includes 58-street-pole banners.

The banners will display words from Dasha Kelly Hamilton‘s poem “Of” and collage images from Della Wells. Kelly Hamilton currently serves as Milwaukee’s poet laureate, an honor bestowed on her by the Milwaukee Public Library. Wells and Kelly Hamilton were jointly crowned “Artist of the Year” by the Milwaukee Arts Board in 2016.

Emmy-award winning filmmaker Brad Pruitt will commemorate the installation as well as the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act and 100th anniversary of Women’s suffrage in a film scheduled to be released in fall.

The banners, centered around Milwaukee City Hall, will run along N. Water St. and Kilbourn Avenue.

“‘Road of Democracy’ commemorates the 2020 Democratic National Convention and aspires to spur local and national dialogue on race and democracy,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown in a statement. “This project is dedicated to the countless individuals who have participated in historic movements near and far, and for the thousands yet to march.”

The exhibition will be moved to America’s Black Holocaust Museum for permanent display. All three artists participating in the project are Black. Pruitt serves as a consultant to the museum.

The exhibition is happening as another tribute to the Voting Rights Act, by artist Shepard Fairey, was rejected last week by the Historic Preservation Commission because the commission has not yet completed guidelines for murals on historic buildings, though it has announced to plan to eventually complete this work.

Milwaukee Downtown has commissioned a number of murals in recent years, including two large pieces completed in July and October of last year as well as new pieces added this year by artists Ken Brown and Jaime Brown.

But DNC delegates will not be on hand to see the artwork, at least not in August. The Democratic National Convention Committee announced a switch to an entirely virtual convention last week.


“Of” by Dasha Kelly Hamilton

The Road of Democracy
Layers Mud, Gravel
Liberation and Tar Long Legacies Flattened
Into Foundation

Speckled With Quartz
Conflict, Sweat and Sand
Limestone and Gall
The Road of Democracy
Glistens Back at the Sun
Hums Lowly Beneath the Stars

Paupers, Barons, Newly Born
And Nearly Departed
Impress Spiked, Square and Bare Heels
Fleeing From
Journeying Forward
No Pound or Purpose Shrugged Aside

The Road of Democracy
Absorbs Brutal Storms, Frost, Heat
Buckles and Splits Open
Shimmers Skyward in Vapors
Reinforce, Reroute

Millions Yet to March
This Old Road
Hoisting New Signs
New Directions and Limits
Clearer Navigation, Wider View

The Road of Democracy
Interrupts Treelines
Shorelines, Skylines
Shoulders Canyons, Glens
Banks and Caves
Bends Passage and Promise
Into Every Horizon

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