The Milwaukee Art Museum has commissioned artist Derrick Adams to create a 93-foot mural that will be installed in the museum’s East End, overlooking Lake Michigan.
“Out Time Together” – inspired by the legacy of The Negro Motorist Green Book” – will be unveiled on Friday, Oct. 29.
It will include representations and references to important sites in Milwaukee’s African-American community, from Gee’s Clippers and Coffee Makes Your Black, to the Wisconsin Historical Society.
According to a statement from the museum, those sites will be, “combined with vernacular photographs from the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s and dynamic figures that Adams created. By referring to sites of intergenerational congregation, ordinary moments and pop culture, the imagery references a richer and more nuanced understanding of Black life in America, beyond historical trauma.”
“In Our Time Together, I highlight Milwaukee by representing commercial and social spaces known within the Black community,” said the Baltimore-born, Brooklyn-based Adams. “These dwellings, and those who occupy them, are essential to the cultural, political and creative growth of American society, which is then spread out to a global audience."
“The installation reflects my respect and admiration for the perseverance of Black Americans in their pursuit of happiness and speaks to transformation, belonging and normalcy.”
Adams said his work was inspired by by Victor Hugo Green’s “The Negro Motorist Green Book,” which was a guide for African-American traveles during the Jim Crow era. The book also inspired a popular 2018 film.
The artist came to Milwaukee in 2018 and ‘19 to do research for the work, and met with African-American artists and business owners. He found that none of the Milwaukee sites listed in the “Green Book” survive.
“Through his monumental wall mural and sculptural installation, Adams underlines the importance of commemorating—and archiving—ordinary daily activities as central to shaping community and collective identity,” said Herzfeld Curator of Photography and Media Arts Lisa Sutcliffe.
“We’re honored to share and support this site-specific commission, which celebrates Black-owned businesses and culture, and asks important questions about the role of media and visual imagery in the construction of identity and cultural value.”
Adams’ work will remain on view at the museum in 2024. It is part of MAM’s “On Site” series, which started 20 years ago and has featured works by artists like Chakaia Booker, Liam Gillick and Andrea Zittel.
“On Site: Derrick Adams allows the Museum to take a different approach in programming. We have three years to explore the amazing themes of this commission: to gather together, archive Black everyday experiences and histories, and honor Black-owned businesses and service industries,” said the museum’s Curator of Community Dialogue Kantara Souffrant.
“I want to use this time to co-build with community partners, organizations, and Black artists, to create events and opportunities together that help us strengthen Milwaukee’s arts ecosystem and promote a more unified community.”
Adams and Sutcliff will kick off the exhibition of this work with a conversation at 6 p.m. on Friday, Oct. 29. Visit mam.org for details.
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.