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Friday, Jan. 17, 2014

The TypeFace Project

Public art invigorates four Milwaukee neighborhoods

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Last summer Reginald Baylor and Adam Carr spearheaded the TypeFace Project to create site-specific art installations in four Milwaukee neighborhoods affected by foreclosure and neglect, but located on busy thoroughfares. The installations were developed from conversations with neighborhood residents led by Carr that Baylor then synthesized into visual artworks. In each neighborhood, local organizations contributed to the project.

Burnham Park’s An Arrangement (on the corner of 31st and Burnham) began with a conversation centered on the simple question, “Why here?” Located about 12 feet off the ground on a corner store’s façade, the work is an elaborate bouquet of floral and gemstone shapes imprinted with snippets of text (unfortunately hard to read from this distance).

The old Finney Library (4243 W. North Ave.) in the Sherman/Washington Park Neighborhood hosts Panel Discussion, TypeFace’s largest and perhaps most successful installation. Spoken-word artist Dasha Kelly collaborated, leading self-expression workshops incorporating folklore, legend and mythology. The colorful panels covering the sides of the boarded-up library carry lyrical statements hidden in a word search, connected by arrows, fitted inside building blocks and otherwise conveyed in ways inviting viewer engagement.

The Harambee Neighborhood’s Puzzled and Amazed is located in a vacant lot between Keefe and Milwaukee Boulevard on Port Washington, across the street from neighborhood partner Shiloh Tabernacle and Johnson Preschool. This seems apt as the artwork is comprised of a labyrinthine arrangement of child-size aluminum benches emblazoned with text. The fragments include people’s names, grammatical parts of speech and questions such as, “When will you let the pain from your past propel you to progress?”

Lindsay Heights’ Bookshed (Center Street, between Teutonia Gardens and Franklin Square) is TypeFace’s most interactive installation. A large-scale version of the Little Free Libraries springing up all over town, the installation bears the instruction “Please take books, read and return,” as well as extensive interview segments.

Clearly a powerful vehicle for social revitalization in these four neighborhoods as well as an aesthetic window for outsiders, TypeFace is an astute and sensitive project. Although the fusion of graphic and literary forms is not always seamless, the work is innovative and well worth seeing.

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