By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Mar 22, 2018 at 4:03 PM

Artists Working in Education, Inc. (AWE) is partnering with Milwaukee Public Library on implementing the Gathering Art, Stories and Place project that will be housed at the Milwaukee Public Library Mitchell Street Branch.

The project, which the two organizations "envision as a unique hub for creative expression, according to a statement released today, is being funded by a $150,000 "Our Town" grant from the National Endowment of the Arts (NEA).

The library opened last fall as a replacement for the nearby Forest Home Library. It is part of a mixed-use development that also includes apartments.

"AWE is enthusiastic to tell the stories of Historic Mitchell Street through public art," said John Kowalczyk, a program director at AWE. "Our professional artists will nurture the imaginations of community members by bringing creative visual arts experiences directly to them in and around the Milwaukee Public Library Mitchell Street Branch.

"Meaningful arts programming helps youth develop new ways of seeing the world, enhanced inquisitiveness, creativity, flexibility, imagination and confidence."

AWE also announced today that Milwaukee artist Erick Ledesma will be the first artist in residence at the library as part of the project. Ledesma also served as the first artist in residence for the Cesar E. Chavez Business Improvement District.

"I'm honored to have been selected, and thrilled to continue building on our accomplishments in and out of the Milwaukee area," Ledesma said in today's release. "I believe we build trust and respect for others witnessing how they process ideas-concepts when we spend time creating things together.

"Having those types of connections, to me, is crucial for building community and dialogue. All of this can be accomplished through art."

A number of community partners will also be involved in "Gathering Art, Stories and Place" – which is seen as building upon the 2014 "Listening to Mitchell" public art project on Historic Mitchell Street – including artists Sonja Thomsen and Adam Carr and storytelling group Ex Fabula.

Additionally, AWE’s mobile truck studio will visit the Mitchell Street Library branch on the last Saturday of every month from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.

"Historic Mitchell Street encompasses some of the most dynamic blocks in our city, and is also home to our newest and most technologically advanced branch library," said Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely.

"We have made a commitment to foster creativity in our new library environment and Gathering Art, Stories and Place will do that while also celebrating the energy and diversity of the residents, employers and visitors to Historic Mitchell Street. We are so proud to partner with AWE and ExFabula to showcase and celebrate the richness of our talent right here at home."

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.