Road of Democracy

Traveling Towards One Collective Voice

Throughout history, our American streets have traveled countless individuals towards one collective voice. From cobblestone walkways to main streets to highways, our roads have always upheld our First Amendment Right, the Freedom of Speech. In this historic year of transformation, the streets around Milwaukee’s City Hall will be outfitted with images and verbiage by two local artists, Della Wells and Dasha Kelly Hamilton. The Road of Democracy project, curated by Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, commemorates the 2020 Democratic National Convention and aspires to spur local and national dialogue on race and democracy. Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 commissioned the poem, “Of” by Milwaukee's Poet Laureate, Dasha Kelly Hamilton, and paired the text with original artwork from previous Artist of the Year, Della Wells.  

In all, 58 banners will be on display near City Hall (Water Street and Kilbourn Avenue), between August – December 2020, before finding a permanent home at America’s Black Holocaust Museum, where they will be preserved for future installations and exhibits. Dedicated to the countless individuals who have demonstrated strength and perseverance in historic movements on our streets near and far, and for the thousands yet to march, this is The Road of Democracy.   

"Here It Is," Della Wells, 2020 

Imagine MKE's Call for Artists

Released Monday, September 21, 2020, this is an open call for artists to create a short-term project that responds to: What does democracy mean to you? How is our city contributing to the road of democracy this election season? How might your project continue this momentum? 

Imagine MKE is particularly interested in project proposals that include a tangible call for action as a component of the work (ie. voter registration, voter commitments, etc.) and/or engages with an audience or community in a public space (virtual or safe physical).

Four artists will be selected to receive a fee of $1500 each to design and implement an artistic project that responds to this theme. Learn more by visiting Imagine MKE's Call for Artists webpage

Learn More by visiting Imagine MKE's website

Meet Our Milwaukee Artists

In the summer of 2020, Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 commissioned three local artists to curate the "Road of Democracy," a project inspired by the historic movements on our streets near and far, and to commemorate the 2020 Democratic National Convention, the 100th anniversary of women's suffrage, the 55th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and the present Black Lives Matter movement.
Learn more about our artists, and how they've helped transform the streets around City Hall into a public art exhibition, and have placed Milwaukee on the national arts and culture stage. 

Della Wells

One of two recipients to receive the City of Milwaukee’s Artist of the Year Award in 2016, Della Wells is a self-taught artist who works in various media, from collage to painting and folk art dolls. Her work has appeared in various publications, including “Self-Taught, Outsider and Folk Art: A Guide to American Artists, Locations and Resources” by Betty-Carol Sellen and Cynthia J. Johanson; “Permission to Paint, Please: A 150-Year History of African American Artists in Wisconsin” by Evelyn Patricia Terry; “Messages & Magic: 100 Years of Collage and Assemblage in American Art,” by Leslie Umberger, 2008; and “Miracles of the Spirit: Folk, Art and Stories from Wisconsin,” by Don Herbert Krug, Ann Parker and Roger Cardinal.
 
Her work is exhibited in Europe and throughout the U.S. in folk art and outsider art galleries. A play about her life, “Don’t Tell Me I Can’t Fly” was commissioned by First Stage Children’s Theater and was selected to be read at The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Wells has illustrated two children’s books.

Della Wells is represented by Portrait Society Gallery, Milwaukee, WI. portraitsocietygallery.com

Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Dasha Kelly Hamilton is a writer, performance artist and creative change agent, applying the creative process to facilitate dialogues around human and social wellness. She is the author of two novels, three poetry collections and four spoken word albums. She has taught at colleges, conferences and classrooms and curated fellowships for emerging leaders. An Arts Envoy for the U.S. Embassy, Dasha has facilitated community building initiatives in Botswana, Toronto, Mauritius and Beirut. Her touring production, Makin’ Cake, uniquely engages communities in a forward dialogue on race, class and equity. Dasha is a former Artist of the Year (2016) and current Poet Laureate for the City of Milwaukee.

Brad Pruitt

Brad Pruitt is an award-winning writer, producer, and director, whose focus as a filmmaker is born of his interest or concern around a wide range of subject matter. From race and class to the state of education in America, his work is rooted in advocacy and engagement. Pruitt often works at the grassroots level on issues, with a through-line of community development and empowerment. 

For the last decade, he has been focused primarily on the continued development of America's Black Holocaust Museum and the legacy of its founder, Dr. James Cameron. Working on many varied projects and initiatives, from community relations and engagement to strategic planning, funding, organizational and physical space development, Pruitt has been and remains inspired by and committed to this critically important work. He also continues to collaborate with local developers, artists, researchers, architects, and builders on behalf of the museum, as it completes its reemergence as a physical space.

"Of" by Dasha Kelly Hamilton, 2020

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
REPAIR
 
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
HOULDERS CANYONS, GLENS
BANKS AND CAVES
BENDS PASSAGE AND PROMISE
INTO EVERY HORIZON

Listen to "Of" Delivered by Dasha Kelly Hamilton

Democratic National Convention

Anchored in Milwaukee, August 17 - 20, 2020

This August, the Democratic Party will formally nominate the Democratic nominee for president and vice president of the United States at the 2020 Democratic National Convention, anchored in Milwaukee.

In addition to fulfilling their nominating duties, Democratic Party members from across the country will also work together during the convention to adopt the official 2020 Democratic Party platform. 

#demconvention 
 
Visit Official Website

Pensive

Sculpture by Radcliffe Bailey 

Located on The Road of Democracy, in front of the new BMO Tower on the corner of Water and Wells Street, Pensive by Radcliffe Bailey, 2013, made its Milwaukee debut in 2019 as part of the third annual Sculpture Milwaukee exhibition. African American artist Radcliffe Bailey is part of a new generation of artists bringing the complex and often hidden realities of contemporary America to life. He is deeply influenced by history, family, and community, and his work reflects an appreciation for the alternative voices that shape how we live. 

Pensive depicts African American writer, historian, sociologist, editor, and activist W.E.B. Du Bois (1868-1963) in the position of Rodin's iconic work The Thinker, originally designed in 1880 as the cornerstone for Rodin's masterpiece The Gates of Hell. In Rodin's version, The Thinker is 14th-century Italian poet Dante Alighieri, author of The Divine Comedy, completed in 1320. Dante sits in his well-known position, contemplating the circles of hell as described in Christian theology. In his epic poem, Alighieri wrote about his own life and exile, mirroring perhaps Du Bois' alienation. Both Du Bois and Alighieri are depicted as deeply philosophical men, pondering the harsh realities of human behavior although separated by centuries. 

Visit Official Website

Thank You to Our Community Partners

Photography for Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 and Sculpture Milwaukee by Kevin Miyazaki. Banner installation photography for Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 by Pat A. Robinson. Additional thanks to Marcus Performing Arts Center.