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Twenty pieces of Faith Ringgold's artwork are currently on display as a part of the "Stories Shared" exhibit at Arts @ Large.
Twenty pieces of Faith Ringgold's artwork are currently on display as a part of the "Stories Shared" exhibit at Arts @ Large.

Chatting with Caldecott-winning author and artist Faith Ringgold

The day just got cooler today at two MPS schools. This morning, renowned author and artist Faith Ringgold read her 1992 Caldecott-winning children’s book "Tar Beach" to students at Hampton Elementary School. Then tonight at 6, Ringgold will give a public lecture at North Division High School.

The two events coincide with the new "Stories Shared" exhibit on display at Arts @ Large, 908 S. 5th St., which features 20 pieces of Ringgold’s artwork, illustrations and quilts.

OnMilwaukee got a chance to quick sit down with the award-winning author and artist – who has her next book, "Harlem Renaissance Party," coming next year – and chat about her lecture this evening, "Tar Beach" and the importance of sharing stories.

OnMilwaukee.com: What was it like adapting "Tar Beach" as your first novel, both writing and illustrating it?

Faith Ringgold: Well, the real story is "Tar Beach" was a quilt before it became a book. That’s how the story got written. I had written my autobiography in 1980 and had decided that I was going to make quilts and write my story on them because I couldn’t get my autobiography published.

I also noticed that when I made these big paintings into quilts, I could carry them around. I could ship them easily. People would stand there and read the words. And I mean actually read the whole thing, and if they didn’t get it all read, they’d come back and finish it. I was shocked because I thought, "Who’s gonna stand up there and read all of that?"

OMC: Why do you think that is with a quilt that had that power?

FR: I don’t know. I don’t think just writing on a painting that is framed has that power, no. I don’t know why. But the quilt does.

OMC: What was it like having adapting this quilt and having to expand upon it, especially visually?

FR: I had written it at first as a series of quilts. There’s five of them, and the first one I did was for a musician named Sonny Rollins. He used to go up on the bridge to blow his horn, and I …

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The Grateful Hearts Giving Network assembles gift bags to benefit young mothers in the NICU.
The Grateful Hearts Giving Network assembles gift bags to benefit young mothers in the NICU.
Grateful Hearts Giving Network founders Erin Nevicosi (left) and Amy Scott talk to reporters at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital.
Grateful Hearts Giving Network founders Erin Nevicosi (left) and Amy Scott talk to reporters at Columbia St. Mary's Hospital.

Grateful Hearts Giving Network gives back to local moms

Some families will celebrate Mother’s Day at home, perhaps playing around on the lawn and making a nice meal for their beloved matriarch. Some might travel to visit grandmothers. Others might even celebrate moms’ special day with a gorgeous afternoon at the ballpark.

Some mothers and new or expanding families, however, will be spending their Mother’s Day this year in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU).

Amy Scott was lucky enough that neither of her two boys required time in the NICU, but she remembers her time in the hospital. In fact, as she walked around the Doerr Family NICU at Columbia St. Mary’s Thursday afternoon, gathering 100 blue tote bags – filled with items of comfort and necessity, like lotions, journals and even quarters for the hospital vending machine – to hand out to mothers in the unit, she even recognized one of the nurses at work.

"She probably doesn’t remember me," Scott noted, "but I remember her."

It can be an intense, lonely time for mothers in the NICU. That’s a part of the reason why Scott and her friend Erin Nevicosi – a mother of two boys herself with a girl currently on the way – created the Grateful Hearts Giving Network. The fledgling charity organization was founded to give people a chance to give back to those in times of need – in this case, those in the NICU – by donating and assembling useful items into gift bags.

"We both have healthy children – a lot of us have healthy children – but it could be any of us having a baby in the NICU," Nevicosi said. "When you’re traveling back and forth, and you’re spending hours upon hours in here, it’s tough. So we put together items to let these families know that other moms are empathizing with them."

The idea for the group came to Scott back around Christmas time in 2012 thanks to a simple Facebook post from Nevicosi, asking what friends and family were doing to give back to others during the holiday season.

"People give to charities around the hol…

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Mark Ruffalo (right) and Matt Bomer star in "The Normal Heart," which will have a premiere screening here in Milwaukee.
Mark Ruffalo (right) and Matt Bomer star in "The Normal Heart," which will have a premiere screening here in Milwaukee. (Photo: Jojo Whilden)

Milwaukee one of five cities to premiere HBO's "The Normal Heart"

Two years ago, Milwaukee Film and HBO teamed up to bring the North American premiere of the Alex Gibney church sex scandal documentary "Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God" to the Milwaukee Film Festival. The film was terrific, but perhaps best of all, the 2012 collaboration seems to spawned an equally terrific relationship between the two organizations, one that's bringing yet another premiere to town.

HBO is currently prepping their latest – and, considering the network's track record, most likely acclaimed – film "The Normal Heart." Based on the Tony Award-winning play from Larry Kramer (nominated for Best Adapted Screenplay Oscar back in 1971 for "Women in Love"), the film follows the gay community and its allies in 1980s New York as they attempt to bring desperate attention to the growing HIV-AIDS crisis to a country in denial. 

It's a star-studded affair, directed by "Glee" and "American Horror Story" creator Ryan Murphy and featuring a cast of Kenosha's own Mark Ruffalo, Matt Bomer ("Magic Mike," TV's "White Collar"), Taylor Kitsch ("Lone Survivor," "John Carter"), Jim Parsons ("The Big Bang Theory"), Alfred Molina ("Spider-Man 2") and an up-and-coming actress named Julia Roberts. 

"The Normal Heart" airs at 8 p.m. on HBO on Sunday, May 25. Milwaukee, however, was chosen along with five other cities (Chicago, San Francisco, Atlanta and Boston) to get an early look at the film. The movie will have a premiere screening here at the Oriental Theatre on Wednesday, May 21 at 7 p.m. Tickets are exclusively available to Milwaukee Film members and supporters by invite, but a limited number of tickets will also be made available to the public through selected media partners. 

"Milwaukee has been identified as one of the top markets for 'Game of Thrones' viewership, so we felt it was only logical to bring a film like 'The Normal Heart' to a market with a proven following," said HBO director of corporate affairs Mike Hopper in a press release this m…

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Taking in a game with my new friend Uncle Slam, the mascot of the Potomac Nationals.
Taking in a game with my new friend Uncle Slam, the mascot of the Potomac Nationals.
You never know who you'll meet on the baseball trip.
You never know who you'll meet on the baseball trip.

The triumphant return of the baseball trip

Last summer was pretty eventful for me. I graduated from Marquette University. I managed to convince my bosses here at OnMilwaukee.com that I was competent enough to be employed. And, perhaps the most significant for me personally, I started making a living doing what I always dreamed: reviewing movies, the good, the bad and the "Grown Ups 2."

It was surely a busy summer between moving and interning and job hunting and occasionally sleeping – eating was off the table. But oddly enough, something was missing, one of my fondest family rituals. Something had fallen through the cracks.

Lost in all the hubbub was the Mueller boys’ annual baseball trip.

Ever since 2003, my dad and I pick a part of the country with a hefty supply of baseball and sightseeing, pack up and head off, prepared to get a week full of good eats, great games and even greater memories.

Except for last year. With my employment status, housing, money and overall future still a question mark, taking even just a week off from the post-grad hustle seemed out of the question. So the baseball trip was sadly shelved. 

I missed the less-than-exotic sights of cities like Erie, Pa., and Springfield, Mo. I missed scoring incredible games as the warm summer sun gracefully melted into cool night, lit by the stars and the lights of a ballpark. I missed eating like Guy Fieri – but with even less concern for my arteries. And, most of my all, I missed laughing, joking and talking sports – and just life in general – with my dad.

But be gone, feelings of bittersweet nostalgia and gloomy regret! The baseball trip is back. This time, the journey – set for a month from today – takes us to Texas for five games in Dallas with the Texas Rangers, followed by a visit to San Antonio to see the Missions, the city’s AA minor league affiliate for the San Diego Padres.

Of course, we’ll get a taste of more than simply baseball and ballpark franks. We’ll sample some of the region’s delicious barbeque and see i…

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