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André Saint-Louis: Neighborhood markers and partnership

After two years of planning and work, André Saint-Louis ’01 (Sculpture) and Brandon Minga ’04 (Illustration) have finished a monumental public sculpture project for Milwaukee’s Near West Side neighborhood. The last four of the seven neighborhood markers will be installed in different Near West Side communities at the end of the month, thanks to a U.S. Department of Housing and Development Choice Neighborhoods Initiative grant awarded to the Near West Side Partners to bring revitalization elements to the neighborhood.

Saint-Louis and Minga originally won the bid for the project in 2020 and have since weathered challenges ranging from COVID-related metal and paint shortages to moving into a new studio space, but the creatives finished production of the final sculptures this December 2022. The markers, intended to showcase the unique history of each neighborhood in the Near West Side, were selected and planned by a committee that included residents of the neighborhood. “We went back to each one of those communities and did research on the history… culture, some of the architectural references, and then we took a lot of those elements and incorporated them into the design,” explains Saint-Louis.

“It’s always fun to work with the community,” Saint-Louis continues. “…it was great to hear insight, the logistics of where they thought [the markers] should be… It helps reassure you that you’re on the right path, as well as helps guide you to what the path should be.” All the markers feature intricate metalwork, community-specific elements, striking colors and text providing a basic overview of neighborhood history written by a Marquette University graduate student. Saint-Louis hopes the markers will eventually become a landmark that residents can feel proud of, “like a homecoming kind of feel.”

Although Saint-Louis and Minga have collaborated before, this is the first large-scale project they have completed together. Minga, who founded the creative and collaborative House of RAD (Resident Artist Doers) in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood, works with 33 local artists in the space, including Saint-Louis. “It brings a lot of unique flavor and talent together which is fun,” says Saint-Louis. “…it really keeps the juices flowing of being inspired by other people’s work, as well as other crafts. The things that you might not have had access to anywhere else.” During the neighborhood markers project, Saint-Louis appreciated how both creatives played to their strengths: Minga enjoys hand-bending and torching metal, while Saint-Louis tackled the jig setups and structural elements.

As a student at MIAD, Saint-Louis developed his understanding of the resources and connections he could build with other artists and creatives. “Having that experience and understanding how you can team together and bring those projects to life that sometimes are daunting to imagine by yourself” was foundational to completing the neighborhood markers project, he says. He also credits Professor Emerita Jill Sebastian with guiding his experience in public sculpture, from community involvement to submitting bids.

Keep up with André on his website or Instagram, read about Brandon Minga’s involvement in the neighborhood markers project, and learn more about MIAD’s New Studio Practice: Fine Arts major!

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