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MIAD students, alumni, faculty create work for ThriveOn King

An in-progress painting of a Black child playing trombone while two adults encourage them.

Isaic Pulliam, “A Performance to Remember,” work in progress, 2024.

Four Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) community members will contribute to the first floor of the new ThriveOn King community hub on North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Drive. They make up part of the 20 Milwaukee artists who will convey the history and heritage of Bronzeville in this collaborative space.

Professor Brad Anthony Bernard ’93 (Painting), adjunct faculty member Vedale Hill ’11 (Integrated Studio Arts), alum John Kowalczyk ’10 (Painting) and current senior Isaic Pulliam ’24 (Fine Art + New Studio Practice) will all be providing work for the new first-floor space. The call for artists sought Milwaukee creatives with a strong understanding of the Bronzeville community.

ThriveOn King is a collaborative effort linking the Greater Milwaukee Foundation, the Medical College of Wisconsin and Royal Capital. Envisioned to create a place-based community center, the ThriveOn Collaboration sought input from community members about their needs and desires for the space. Residents emphasized art’s importance to the culture and community narrative of Milwaukee’s Halyard Park, Harambee and Brewers Hill neighborhoods. From tile to embroidery, painting to sculpture, the art of ThriveOn King will vary in size, medium and placement, but collectively, the works will immerse guests in the legacy, vibrancy and potential of Milwaukee’s Black community.

For Pulliam, the opportunity to contribute to this project meant a lot. “My goal as an artist is to impact the community with positive influence, so to get this opportunity to make a piece of work for a community-oriented space motivates me to continue representing the people surrounding me,” he explains.

Currently working on his senior exhibition project, Pulliam is balancing both his MIAD coursework and external projects. “It may be a lot of work, but I am fortunate enough to have access to workshops like the 3-D lab and empty classrooms to have the necessary space and resources to construct the canvas and paint the composition,” he says. Pulliam also has work on display in MIAD’s current “Growing Resistance” exhibition, a portrait created for Cherry Street Community Garden as part of a service learning class.

“It was very important that our process for selecting the art was carefully attentive to the rich history of the community,” said Staci Young, PhD, senior associate dean for community engagement at the MCW School of Medicine. “We took the time to thoroughly discuss the submissions, recognizing that artists put considerable effort into their work. We wanted the results to showcase their gifts and talents for the community’s benefit.”

Community history was at the front of Pulliam’s mind while preparing for this opportunity. “After researching the history of the destruction of Bronzeville and the steps they’re taking to rejuvenate the area, it’s an honor to be able to positively represent the rich history of the area to the community that’s been here for generations, and tell their story for the future generations to come,” he says.

The four MIAD community members, along with the 16 other artists, will create a cohesive, meaningful narrative reflecting the values and priorities of the community, including respecting and preserving the culture and history of Bronzeville, honoring the vitality and community connections present today and celebrating youth and the promise of a thriving future.

“I want to thank the Thrive on Foundation, the Greater Milwaukee Foundation and the Medical College of Wisconsin for supporting me as a young artist in college,” finishes Pulliam. “I’m thankful for how invested they are in uplifting the communities around Milwaukee while supporting local artists in the process.”

Read more about the ThriveOn King project, keep up with Pulliam and learn more about MIAD’s Fine Art + New Studio Practice major!

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