2240 North 17th Street
Milwaukee, WI 53205
Phone: (414) 264-2326
The Men’s Wellness Council was developed as a space for African American men to explore the meaning of health and wellness and identify areas of action in their community. The Council proved to be a model for fostering transformative social connections and mentorship across generations and resulted in a documentary film to promote community dialogue.
Funded by the Wisconsin Partnership Program, the initiative is a partnership between Walnut Way, the YMCA Northside, UWM Zilber School of Public Health, Center for Urban Population Health, and UW Collaborative Center for Health Equity. Additionally, we would like to thank Darren Cole and Amy Harley for their efforts in making this project a success.
We thank all of the men that dedicated their time and voices for creating an authentic space of healing and peace.
I am interested in art that helps make communities strong. That was my initial attraction to the Walnut Way Conservation Corps., located in one of the oldest African American neighborhoods in Milwaukee. In 2006, I was invited to create artwork based on the life experiences of neighborhood elders as expressed in interviews collected during a UWM service-learning project. For two years, I worked on the pieces, and learned from Walnut Way staff and neighbors.
Project from Watershed: Art, Activism, and Community Engagement (July 2010 Interventions, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, organized by Nicolas Lampert and Raoul Deal) Filmed and Directed by Laura Klein.
In a recent conversation with Walnut Way’s Director, Sharon Adams, I discovered that the neighborhood once had a pool where everyone learned to swim. Water, she pointed out, links us all. After thirty years working and living out of state, she had returned to find a dilapidated community sadly in decline. There were few recreational options for young people. The pool was gone, and the children did not swim. Indeed, many had never been in the lake. There was no longer access to water and all of its recreational and healing benefits. “Access,” she insisted, “flows to stewardship.”
Over the past 6 years, the Walnut Way Conservation Corps has taken great strides towards re-building an impoverished neighborhood through collective entrepreneurial activities largely based in gardening. As part of this effort, they installed 40 rain gardens throughout the community. This served several important needs. It brought together neighbors who helped provide the labor necessary to build the gardens; It raised consciousness among residents about the importance of environmental stewardship; Since 70% of the pollution in streams, rivers and lakes is carried there by storm water, it contributed in a concrete way to the reduction of the contamination of Milwaukee’s watershed.
In the spirit of collective action central to the Walnut Way philosophy, and mindful of their understanding of water access as both a human right and responsibility, I will work with residents to produce a series of silk-screened prints that explore water issues. We will combine and rework the prints into a mural installed in the alley that runs along the side of the Walnut Way neighborhood house. The work will be formally “unveiled” on October 2nd, 2010 during Walnut Way’s annual Harvest Day held from 11:00am 3:00pm.
This portrait of a Milwaukee north side Neighborhood features a couple, Sharon and Larry Adams who work in tandem through their creation-The Walnut Way Conservation Corps-to bring restorative practices to a once blighted part of the city.
The documentary was a collaborative project made with University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee film students in a course I taught on Ethnography, over a 6 month time frame. They follow the restoration of a home by a craftsmen's guild formed by Larry Adams to bring jobs to skilled workers. The documentary follows the house's restoration and its opening to the community.
Larry Adams is also shown in his role as Bee Keeper, another reveal of the unique subjects in this moving story.
Edited by the talented Mr. Darren Alexander Cole, also the projects Director of Photography.
Played recently at the 4th annual Reel Black Film Festival in Columbia, South Carolina in February 2012.