Monday, May 21, 2007

Phoua's Artist Statement

From the start, this research project was daunting. The first difficult aspect was choosing a topic – to focus on one of the many possible options Walnut Way presented. I was initially drawn in by the history of the area – intrigued by Milwaukee’s Bronzeville, a place I didn’t know once existed. Originally, I wanted to focus on the circumstances and factors that led to Bronzeville’s destruction, specifically direct causes such as urban renewal and the freeway construction; however, as I progressed, my attention shifted to the topic of segregation. Some people believe segregation was only a problem of the South, but as studies and history records, segregation also existed in the North. We have to be aware of this problem that still exists today.

It was quite difficult for me to find reading material on Bronzeville, so I searched online. After reading an online article, I was referred to a book, which has been very helpful in my research (info on the book is on the links page). That book then referred me to a 1954 Milwaukee Journal newspaper article that aided in my research on Milwaukee segregation. Besides those two “hard-copy” documents, I turned to the Internet for other resources. The Internet is an incredible tool and accessible to almost everyone. It’s amazing that this class (Film 150) built an online archive. It’s practical – instead of all our efforts closed up in a box and shut off in a room no one can find, they are displayed on the Internet where anyone at anytime from anyplace can obtain the information (which allows us to reach farther and broader audiences).

Bo un da ri es is broken up into three main sections: Bronzeville Borders, Drawing Lines, and Sidewalk Project. History is rich and one can never learn or study it all. Bronzeville Borders and Drawing Lines are brief overviews of what I’ve read and researched. For the purpose of time and space, I’ve only selected certain details and points for my website. To get a more detailed look on certain topics, one should do his/her own investigative research (you can check the links page for further information and resources). Sidewalk Project is the more conceptual aspect of my research on segregation. I love working with children – and took whatever opportunities I could to interact with the youth members in the Walnut Way neighborhood. The children radiated a sense of energy and desire to learn – yet have fun also. They live within borders, yet are the most accepting and interested, especially in what I was doing. I wanted to present the Sidewalk Project as a conceptual piece to convey the message that boundaries can be crossed.

I’ve learned how difficult it is to research and collect material. It was vital for me to plan ahead and know specifically what I was looking for when visiting the periodicals at the public library, city hall, or historical society. And when I didn’t find what I was looking for, I kept trying and made the most of what I had already collected. I spent a great amount of time reading – the difficult part was selecting what was significant and what was not because I believe every little detail plays a part in the bigger story. I learned a part of history that is localized and relevant to my life in Milwaukee and met people I would have never crossed paths with.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Colin's Artist Statement

The Walnut Way area once endured a history of decline from a vibrant, culturally rich community to a wasteland of poverty and hopelessness, suffered through hardship, prejudice, neglect, and poverty. In the face of this, an almost miraculous turnaround in economy and the outlook of the residents has been accomplished. I wanted to explore this positive side of the story. As someone who is heavily involved with economic development programs for business development through my career in the railroad industry, I was interested in exploring the role that the various economic development initiatives at work in the Walnut Way community had in the revival of the neighborhood. The effort that the community has gone through to get to the point where they are at now shows great optimism and a determination to succeed against great odds, this is what I sought to highlight and record through this project. I was inspired in particular by the efforts of the founder of the Walnut Way Conservation Corporation, Mrs. Sharon Adams, who has guided the neighborhood back from the brink of despair in less than 10 years. I also wanted to provide useful information for Walnut Way residents to continue the revitalization process by summarizing the different economic programs at work in the area. Initially when I began this project, I researched the individual economic development organizations at work in the area. I attempted to track down information from representatives of these organizations, but I soon realized that this would probably be too great of a task for the scope and timeframe of this project. My thought was, why should I try to figure out on my own what role all of these different organizations played in the revival of the neighborhood, when I could just find out from the central figure? I then attempted to contact Sharon to get a firsthand account of what has made the community become successful, and what the future holds for the residents. My attempts to contact her directly did not have much success, so I contacted Nicole at the Walnut Way community center to assist me with arranging a meeting. Sharon was very gracious and helpful in taking the time to talk with me even when she was in the middle of a busy schedule, I cannot thank her enough. I was interested in finding out about the revitalization from her perspective, so in the interview I asked her rather broad questions so that she would have the freedom to highlight what aspects she thought were most important. Marta and Lawrence also participated in the interview and asked her questions as well. Once the interview was done, I took the video of her comments and combined them on a topical basis. I thought it was very interesting how much the revitalization process has centered around the production of crops, from remediation of the soil to providing a source of income to forming a common bond within the community. She was also able to provide information on how organizations such as WHEDA and the local Business Improvement District are working in the community, as well as the neighborhood plans for the future. Hopefully what I have created does justice to the accomplishments that the community has achieved.

William's Artist Statement

I would start by saying that when I signed up for this class I didn't even have the closest idea that it was going to be like this. All-in-all, the class exceeded my expectations and even more. Walnut Way was a GREAT organization to work with, I wish I had met Larry, Sharon and Nicole earlier in the semester because they are one of the nicest people I had ever met, and my documentary would have never been realized if it wasn't for their help and support.

Speaking of the documentary, I must say it was a challenge to make. I didn't think I was going to pull through with what I imagined. To start, I changed the whole concept two weeks prior to the due date, then I wasn't able to find enough media to cover my new concept. These must have been for me the hardest two weeks this semester, I've "call off" twice from work because I didn't think I had enough time. I really felt like a ping-pong ball when all the municipal agencies sent me back and forth to other departments because they didn't have the information I needed, which is a shame by the way. What made my experience even better was those municipal employees that pretended to be busy just because they don't want to help you (ahem!) Historical Society (ahem!). Anyways, those of you expecting a History Channel-esque documentary I'm sorry but I didn't have all the information I needed. But it was for the best!

Going back to the making of the documentary (which is my first one), doing the research I did on the house was very interesting. I learned a lot about the house's past and through the interview I had a sneak peak about its future. Interviewing Larry and Sharon Adams was the best part of this project. I could really tell they are very committed to their cause and that is very inspiring. It was really hard for me to cut as much footage as I did when all they said was very important. Now the hardest part about making this documentary (aside from getting all the information together) was editing. To be honest, its been a year exactly since I haven't use Adobe Premiere, so going back was like starting from the beginning. I spent 3 days just to put 10 minutes together (but thats my computer's fault, its a bit too slow), but they were worth it and it shows (I Hope). In the end, I didn't get what I wanted (due to the lack of historical content) but I did get what I didn't think I wanted.

Well to finish this off, this class has been a great experience overall (I'm glad I left my GER for last), I don't think we could had gotten a better organization than Walnut Way. Vicky, Larry, Sharon and Nicole thank you so much for this great opportunity! This is William Ramirez...signing off!

Hope you enjoy this documentary!

Marta's Statement

Sharon Adams said in her interview, “The restoration of this community has exceeded my imagination.” I couldn’t agree with her more, especially thinking that at the beginning of this semester Walnut Way meant nothing to me. Having just moved to Milwaukee two years ago when I started school at UW-Milwaukee, I was placed in a city completely foreign to me. The fact that I didn’t have a car kept me isolated from all that this city has to offer. To be completely honest, I didn’t even know where North Ave. was until this year, let alone where the Walnut Way neighborhood was—or that it even existed. I knew Milwaukee was highly segregated and that beyond the east side the city was economically diverse. Then this class, and particularly this project, introduced me to Walnut Way, a once economically stable community, wiped out by the proposal of an expressway and the closing of major manufacturers. A community, which now is undergoing restoration, rehabilitation, and redevelopment—the words are endless. This project forced me, or shall I say allowed me to go out and discover the rich history of the culturally diverse city I live in. Once I was briefly exposed to the brief history of a once thriving African-American community, I was eager to learn more about its past, and once I was exposed to the youth of the community, I was more importantly concerned with its future. This is what made the interview with Sharon Adams so engaging. As an African-American woman who grew up in the Walnut Way community, her story is so inspirational. She returned to Walnut Way after leaving for school and she saw what had become of the wonderful place she once loved, so she decided to do something about it. My goal in this project was to link the community’s economic past with its economic future. Thus, I converted my portion of the interview footage into black and white as a reminder of history. I also accentuated certain words of hers I found important by visualizing them. Mrs. Adams quoted a Greek philosopher who once said, “You can’t step in the same water in the same place.” In response to that, all I can say is my feet are wet.

Drew's Artist Statement

From a media standpoint, I chose to rely heavily on oral interviews with Pastor Ken Wheeler and Marilyn Miller of the Lutheran Human Relations Association (LHRA). I did this because I knew both of them would give some great insight on racial issues, and I felt the best way to get across what they were saying was to actually show people first-hand. I learned a great deal about recording (especially recording sound) as a result of the interviews. For the first interview, we used a stereo microphone, but unfortunately the cord wasn’t quite long enough and we had to resort to placing the mics on the table in front of Pastor Wheeler. It wasn’t an ideal set-up, but it worked. The interview upstairs with Mrs. Miller provided us with a different problem: the stereo mics were picking up every single noise from the stairwell nearby. To solve this, we simply decided to shoot without a microphone. The audio quality wasn’t what I would’ve liked, but at least it cut out all the excess noise nearby. Back in the lab, I got my first experience with iMovie. I was surprised at how easy the program was to use; it really made editing a breeze. We didn’t do anything too fancy (we cut the interviews into a few different sections and added fade-ins and fade-outs) because there wasn’t anything that we felt needed to be cut out. Finally, I learned how to make a photo slideshow with PhotoBucket, something I hadn’t done before. I decided to use a slideshow because I thought it would look better than having 10-15 images cluttering up the page. Overall, I’d say I got a lot of great experience with forms of technology that were unfamiliar to me.

The most important insights I gained during this project weren’t technological, but cultural and social. In my estimation, fear is the biggest cause of racism, prejudice, and intolerance in the world. Fear blinds and impairs us, and we lose out on so many gifts because of it. So much progress still needs to be made in our country, especially in a hyper-segregated city like Milwaukee, and when it comes right down to it, the only way to make that progress is to conquer fear. As Noah and I were leaving Cross after our interviews, we found ourselves alongside a school bus at a stoplight. The bus' windows were all rolled down, and as we waited a voice from the back of the bus rang out: "hey, what are you doing here?" We hadn't done anything; we weren't blasting music, yelling obscenities, or driving like idiots. We were basically called out for being white kids in a predominantly black neighborhood. Some people would have been intimidated by this, or would've been discouraged to be involved in the community as a result of it, but both of us just shrugged it off. After all, it was just some immature kid saying that, definitely not the community as a whole. If anything, it strengthened our desires to lend a hand in whatever way we could. I'm not in a position of power, so I won't pretend that I'm going to make some grand difference in the city or community; realistically, my efforts don't mean much. But I believe what is most important is my understanding and that I spread that to others who haven't been exposed to it. After all, that's all it takes to deal with any fear; exposure and understanding.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Lawrence's artist statement

I've always been a big advocate of blogging. I hate to admit that I have a myspace page, but it's not so embarrassing because I was introduced to writing and posting blogs and the rest is history. This project was very enjoyable for me because it was an extension of one of my pastimes, and I truly felt like I put out some information that isn't exactly common knowledge. I wasn't aware of this knowledge at the outset, so I'm a generally more informed individual because of it.

I hold this contention that the governments in any country at any time, whether local or federal, have a longer track history of depriving its people rather than aiding them. So when I heard about the eviction and destruction of houses that took place around the Walnut Way area some fifty years ago, I knew I had to focus my project on it. History is usually my guide. It allows you to see why things exist as they do today, and without that reference you're just kind of lost without anything to compare your subject to. I immediately started doing research on the governmental decisions that were made pertaining to housing and road construction in the mid-20th century. What I found was a story mixed with elements of racism and segregation.
A lot of the research I conducted through almanacs that contain stores of information. If there was a reference too recent then I would scour the internet for a source. On one of my trips to the library I came across a dissertation written by a former graduate student right here at UWM. His thesis essentially dealt with migrating African Americans from the post-Civil War South to the industrialized North, and I learned that many of these travelers opted to go to Milwaukee over Chicago because the former was less hectic.

Other references that helped me were news articles pertaining to Bronzeville provided by MKE magazine. They discussed a lot of the issues that faced Bronzeville of yesteryear, and they juxtaposed that with some information about the proposed, 21st century rejuvination. Since most of the work is being conducted by the Department for City Development, their website offered a wealth of information on the topic as well.

Finally, the gentlemen that visited our class that had also compiled a book on Bronzeville, Paul Geenen, had many great photos and quips about the old days. Ivory Black's book about Bronzeville also provided a good historical context. The last, and perhaps most heartfelt information, I gathered came out of the interview I helped collaborate on with Colin and Marta. I got a touching description from Sharon Adams about how every time you drive on the interstate around North Avenue, you're essentially driving atop destroyed homes.

As for the blog compiling, I conducted a lot of research that dealt with reading comprehension and formulating the information into a coherent historical story. I posted information about legislation at the federal level as well as the local level and detailed how and why Bronzeville was torn apart. I then broke the story into numerous parts, first writing up a quick introductory foreward, and then putting in an informative account of what Bronzeville was in its heyday, as well as what it looks like now and what it will potentially become. Gathering photos, coming up with interview questions, and manipulating photos was also part of the job. I'd also like to thank Marta and Colin very much.

(I guess I don't have to write "written by Lawrence" here)


Working on the walnut way project was a rollercoaster ride to begin with due to the fact that I didn’t really understand the concept of the project but as time went on it became a very good experience. This was my first time ever creating a blog and also my first time working with any kind of video editing software’s, which I found interesting due to my admiration of video and movie directors. I really appreciate the opportunity to be able to work on a project like this and I look forward to visiting the walnut way office after school is over on my leisure time.

I guess at the beginning of my research, I was more concerned about the how much material I actually collected and less about the quality of the material. But during my visits to the walnut way office, I gathered that there was more to the neighborhood than just the house.

As time went by I realized that I wasn’t devoting enough time to the project because of my personal activities and watched other class members get involved and I was amazed at the kind information they found, and this was when I felt more attached to the project.

I went about this project by basically looking at what the walnut way community could potentially turn into, which would be historical and also trendy. This is why I decided to tackle an area such as the current developments and future proposes structures in the neighborhood. Another reason I decided to choose this area was because growing up I was always into constructions and I always thought a community was always judged by the kind of buildings located within it, which is not always the case, and a prime example of this was the Walnut way community.

During my research, my goal was not to get too attached to the community, so I could get a clear perception of what the final project will look like to someone who had not visited the community and also how much information they would grasp by just taking a look at our online archive.

Some ways by which I did my research was by visiting the area randomly and trying to find changes such as new constructions which could possibly give the neighborhood a new look in the near future and also to check for other uses of land apart form housing such as the rain gardens. I also took a trip to the community during an event and I got a chance to take pictures while being showed the neighborhood which made me feel like a tourist and this helped me get a clear view of how different groups of people might view that community.

I also used the internet as a major tool in my research because the aided me in finding more information such as proposed plans issued by developers within the Milwaukee area.

During my research I encountered problems such as scheduling times to dedicate to the project and I also found out that there were not too materials which documented the development of the community which people could access for personal knowledge.