MAKING PEACE IN MIDTOWN - PHASE I

The neighborhood surrounding Tiefenthaler Park is home to a diverse community of long-time residents and new homeowners; families that have deep roots in the area as well as recent transplants. While the neighborhood is a beautiful mingling of different cultures, many of the residents are isolated from each other due to safety issues in one of the highest crime areas in the city. Our goal is to create opportunities for neighbors to safely come together in a central location. To have fun, be creative, stand in solidarity for peace, share their desires for the future of the park and colead the activation of a safe, peaceful, and vibrant park.

There is an urgent longing in this neighborhood for a foundation of peace, safety, engagement, and connection.  Anne and Ben Koller in partnership with Lake Valley Camp, Activate MKE and funding from City of Milwaukee Arts Board and Harry & Mary Franke Idea Fund worked together to support and stand for peace. The goal being to unify the neighborhood by instilling a sense of safety in the park by engaging residents and local partners in a process of peacemaking and community integration through the universal language of art. We want to create a space for neighbors to actively reimagine the park they want and express their hopes of peace for their community.

Phase One, in the spring of 2018, phase two began with the commission of community-based public artist Muneer Bahauddeen, who led the neighborhood through a process of peacemaking to craft five (5) Peace Posts made using the residents intentions for peace as the inspiration and foundation of the art pieces.

Moving into the summer the United Species, a diverse team of local artists sought to re-envision a basketball court, the most active yet volatile resource in Tiefenthaler park, as a platform for peace. Crafted with vibrant colors, geometric shapes and symbolic words imbued with subtle metaphorical detail, their Home Court design used a basketball court as a 5,000sf canvas to share a unified narrative of our common humanity on planet Earth.

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PEACE POST PROJECT

The Peace Post project, which is Phase I in the overall Peacemaking efforts in Midtown at Tiefenthaler Park exceeded our expectations.  Not only did the project provide much needed art and beautification for the park and neighborhood, it spurred the gathering and unity of local residents, organizations and artists to honor their ownership of the park and work towards a safe and vibrant community.

With the help of local youth and Anne Koller, Muneer Bahauddeen led three workshops with Midtown residents and gathered over 50 peace intentions that were written on sheets of paper and 250+ peace tiles made in clay.

His process brilliantly used ceramics training to create art that encouraged community members to find commonalities in the hopes for peace in
the community and create art with their own hands together. Muneer worked with three local artists and five youth to fire the tiles and put them into five 12 foot cedar posts that were donated by Habitat for Humanity.  In total, 40 tiles per post were placed into the posts , a total of 240 tiles.  

The peace visions that were written on sheets of paper were rolled up and put inside of the posts to lock in the intentions for peace as well placed in the ground before the posts were cemented in.  
The five Peace Posts were installed on August 24th, with artists, local contractor and leaders in an intimate, joyous sacred circle.

A short ceremony was led by Muneer who called in the ancestors and did an African prayer using water to bless the posts while the peace intentions were placed in the ground of all five posts by the people gathered. These posts will stand as a visual symbol of the community’s commitment to each other.  We hope their impact will ripple out sparking conversations between households, streets, blocks, and families.

The five Peace Posts were installed with four of the posts making a square and one post in the middle that holds the supporting partners plaque.

As the basketball courts are the place of sport, exercise, fun and often times disagreements and violence, we thought it was important to have the Peace Posts to be seen from the court. The posts are in a cluster of five to the east of the basketball court, where the HOME Court was designed and painted with symbols of peace in our earth through art and heart.


HOME COURT

After receiving funding from the Harry &. Mary Franke Idea Fund, Ben Koller recruited a team of local artists to transform one of two basketball courts at Tiefenthaler. The artists painted the court symbolically to thanks a community-based art project created by a team of Milwaukee artists.

The HOME COURT Project is an homage to Milwaukee’s deep culture of court art and a memorial to its creator Robert Indiana, whose MECCA Floor brought together the seemingly opposite world’s of sport and art in a meaningful and impactful way. Within his original design, Indiana interwove artistic metaphors to convey a deeper message by using vibrant color, geometric shapes and symbolic words. The HOME COURT design was crafted with the same attention to metaphorical detail: • HOME = Heart Of the Mother is in Everyone (Robert Indiana laced the MECCA Floor with multiple M’s representing many motifs including: “Every athlete has a mother because we are all children of Mother Earth.”) • Looking at the center circle from various angles one can see the words Earth, Art and Heart creating the main poetical metaphor of the design: “Art is in the Heart of Earth, the Home Around US.” • The four (4) polar opposites of Black and White are united through the full-spectrum of colour • Free throw circles use the new Milwaukee flag colors to represent our own Circle of Influence on Earth. • The center diamond connects each end of the court as an an eight-pointed compass representing all directions • The design is signed in the lower right as the United Species

STAND 4 PEACE

In collaboration with the HOME Court Project (Ben Koller, Joe Franke, Activate MKE, Harry & Mary Franke Idea Fund), the Stand 4 Peace event drew over 150 people to Tiefenthaler Park to celebrate the newly designed and painted basketball courts and the five peace posts with community residents and the newly formed Friends of Tiefenthaler Park group.

Opened by Mayor Tom Barrett who declared August 25th, city wide “Stand 4 Peace” event with a proclamation, Neighbors and friends of the Park, including Supreme Moore Omokunde and Reggie Moore, gathered to unveil the newly designed basketball court and community art work in the form of 5 peace posts with tiles individually designed by community members. We were also join by Milwaukee's own Webster X for a hip-hop performance to celebrate everyone who gathered, the peace and friendships that are being created and fostered, and the official launch the Friends of Tienfenthaler Park.  

This event was the third event in a summer series of connection with community members to showcase positive change and celebrate art in action. Three News channels covered the event including: Fox 6, 58 and Channel 12.

This is the beginning of a great legacy that Friends of Tiefenthaler is driven to continue, and the various partners support helped us greatly in making this happen. It was really wonderful, especially as a relatively new resident, to see the beauty and strength of the people of Midtown represented in the peace posts. It was also so refreshing to see, even in the days after the event, how much the residents have appreciated and engaged with the basketball court and peace posts. I am looking forward to the greatness that is to come.
— Megan Shepard, President of Friends of Tiefenthaler Park

FOX 6 NEWS Article and Video HERE