Decaying urban areas have plagued many of Milwaukee neighborhoods, but a new public art installation, TypeFace, sponsored by ART Milwaukee and executed by artists Reginald Baylor and Adam Carr, seeks to breathe new life into these dying places.

"Public art, particularly public art that expresses sentiments of neighbors, adds vitality and unity in the area where it is displayed,” Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said in a statement.  "A project like TypeFace does something more; it engages people in a common endeavor that builds community strength."

The idea came to Baylor while driving past the former Finney Library, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Now decrepit and shuttered for more than a decade, the library decays just like many other foreclosed, vacant or underused buildings in the city. Baylor sought to change that.

TypeFace, the brainchild of visual artist Baylor and storyteller Carr, is comprised of four separate installations including the words and memories of neighborhood residents. During the summer of 2013, Carr conducted hundreds of street interviews, asking residents to recount their thoughts and memories of the physical spaces. Those words and phrases were then incorporated into four large installations throughout the city.

Baylor and ART Milwaukee secured funding for the project through the Joyce Award – a $50,000 grant given to artists of color who engage the community through quality works of art.

The installations were unveiled Nov. 2 with a presentation of the TypeFace process at the Shiloh Tabernacle. Angela Damiani, executive director of NEWaukee, said "We had about 60 of the project's funders and community contributors attend the exhibition presentation and tour... We are so grateful for the opportunity to expose to the community what its members have shared with us during the last year throughout the TypeFace process with the final works of art. We sincerely hope that the works are well received and look forward to the conversations continuing in the future."

For more information visit the program’s website, or watch the video below.

To learn more about how art can help revitalize cities, watch our exclusive interview with Americans for the Arts Vice President of Research and Policy here. And watch for our upcoming Issues and Trends story on how art programs can lead to positive financial outcomes for cities.

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