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Service learning class highlights local LGBTQ history

Illustrated portrait of a person in glasses smiling with large earrings and glasses.

Intan Zulkifli, portrait of Janice Colby, “Storytelling the Environment” installation

Passion and purpose combined to make Adjunct Instructor Hj Bullard’s service learning class unique this year. Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design (MIAD) students in Bullard’s class “Storytelling the Environment” partnered with LGBT milWALKee in 2023 to provide creative solutions for their new House of History project, which aims to share the stories of Black LGBTQ+ Milwaukeeans.

Created and directed by Dr. Brice D. Smith, LGBT milWALKee is an app and website dedicated to showcasing historically significant LGBT+ sites in Milwaukee. When the organization sought creatives to help launch their new House of History website, they partnered with MIAD students to create portraits of interviewees, produce animations, posters and comics and even design shirts. In turn, students at UW-Milwaukee and Milwaukee School of Engineering conducted research and interviewed and filmed participants.

“It’s really interesting to take my experiences with art and bring them to other people,” says Kira Breitlow ’24 (Illustration), a student who worked on the House of History project. “Putting everyone’s skills together to see what you can make of it is really exciting to me.” Another student in the class, Intan Zulkifli ’24 (Illustration), said “being able to interact with people more in this city our school is in, it’s nice. Being able to form connections with them is lovely.”

Instructor Hj Bullard says collaborations like this one prepare students for life after graduation. “It’s so important for students to work with people outside of the school because that’s what they’re going to be doing, even like a commission or even in a completely different field,” they said. “When it happens right, there’s so much creative potential and so much potential for collaboration and friendships.”

Illustrated poster of

Rylee Zuniga, Black Nite comic cover, “Storytelling the Environment” installation

Working with members of Milwaukee’s LGBT+ community has also been a meaningful experience for students. “It’s very difficult to find material for LGBT historical stories in the first place, but especially Black oral history,” explains Bullard. “It hasn’t been recorded, or it’s been overlooked or even erased.” Zulkifli also appreciated connecting with a vibrant, thriving LGBT+ community outside of school: “Knowing there’s a community out there for us to connect with and even go to if necessary, that there are resources for us outside of MIAD, it’s really comforting,” she says.

In June 2024, students attended Milwaukee’s PrideFest with House of History and Bullard to celebrate the launch of the new website. Student illustrations featured on the House of History website include work by Zulkifli, as well as Sebastian Penn ’25, Giselle Pritzlaff ’25 and Ellery Pascual ’26. Jamie Messerman ’27 also created a comic about the origins of House of History. The MIAD group handed out 1,000 copies of this comic at PrideFest. 

Read more about the House of History project and explore an interview with Dynasty Scott (illustrated by Intan Zulkifli), watch the video that students worked on for LGBT MilWALKee and learn about MIAD’s Critical Studies and Service Learning programs!

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