Home / Columns / Off the Cuff / Milwaukee’s Fidel Finds Unity in Race, Religion and Politics
Wednesday, Aug. 5, 2009

Milwaukee’s Fidel Finds Unity in Race, Religion and Politics

Google+ Pinterest Print

Local artist Fidel, or “Viva Fidel” as some call him, is energetic, multitalented and full of rhythm. Born and raised in Milwaukee, Fidel has traveled widely throughout the United States, sharing his love for hip-hop and social change with various audiences. This year, his documentary Controlled Demowas screened at Marquette University, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and Running Rebels. Fidel’s art sheds light on issues such as race relations, politics and religious differences, and explores how communities can build bridges of tolerance and understanding.

Fidel, what inspired you to become an artist?

I was inspired by my mother, a photographer and sketch artist, and my father, a performing artist and singer. Growing up, my parents exposed me to political activism and grassroots movements. They were both heavily involved in the civil rights movement in Milwaukee. In time, I started to emulate them. I wanted to continue their legacy. I came to appreciate the history of hip-hop and how music moves people and causes them to tell their stories. At the same time, I began “self-creating” by writing, drawing and exploring theater, and I have continued to grow as a performer ever since.

How would you describe your artistry?

Urgent, layered, timeless, attention grabbing—a conversation piece. My art is a part of my life. It is an extension of my inner self. I constantly ask questions even while “expressing myself.” I feel liberated to say what I want to say…and I hope that my work encourages others to do the same. Most importantly, I enjoy interacting with the audience.

Who is your audience?

I create documentaries and perform my work to inspire others. I want to inspire individuals who are looking for something outside the box. I also like to work with educators and researchers who want to know more about hip-hop and African-American culture or who want to facilitate a dialogue with their students.

What impact do you think your work has had in Milwaukee?

For the most part, Milwaukee has responded positively to my work. I have had the opportunity to screen my latest documentary, Controlled Demo, at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the Wisconsin Black Historical Society and at various community centers. However, I feel that the “mainstream” has not embraced my work because it brings up issues that some people do not want to talk about. For example, racism, poverty, homosexuality and much more. But this does not discourage me. I try to encourage people to share their ideas; I strive to facilitate conversations and understanding so that these issues can be discussed without inhibition. I think we can all learn from each other.

For more information, visit www.vivafidelonline.com.