Change We Can Believe In


Friday, May 9, 2008

Documentary Film: Artist's Statement

Final Project Artist’s Statement
Andrew Dicker
9 May 2008

Washington Park Documentary

For any human it is important to see positive things around you. It’s hard to feel good about yourself and be an active and positive agent in society when that same society constantly tells you that you are outside of the status quo. I think that Washington Park’s history is emblematic of this tendency. Initially, the park was a galvanizing force in the growth of Milwaukee in the 20th century. As circumstances changed, the park became a less than perfect place for residents to relax and spend leisure time. I hope that our film encourages people to invest in Washington Park. Milwaukeeans need a new source of hope and inspiration and community pride in the center of our city. Since 1960, when the zoo was removed form Washington Park, city residents’ perception of Washington Park has become very cynical. I wanted to make this film to address that, and inspire Milwaukeeans to see this park as an asset once again. Hopefully this new perception can have a positive impact on the community similar to that of the zoo when it was there.
The production of this film was in two phases: researching and interviewing. I really valued the research component that our group took on. We chose to explore UWM’s archives and special collections, and along the way I ran into some pretty fascinating artifacts form Milwaukee’s history. Hours upon hours researching was enlightening and brought my attention to the vicissitude of rich history we all have at our disposal. Doing research for this film made me want to encourage all students at UWM to utilize our wonderful library’s resources. Secondly, I found the experiences of interviewing people for the film to be invaluable. It was very informative to interview Greg Miller at LAND, however, I foresee myself using skills that I gained in the field much more regularly. I would walk around the park with my camera and simply try to engage people in a discourse about the park; an attempt to get a feel for how residents felt about and used Washington Park in 2008. I pride myself on community organizing skills, and so this exercise really pushed me to try new things and scrap old strategies that did not produce positive results. I learned how to approach strangers and how to discuss issues that are very important to them. I found great success speaking with children form Right Step school and other folks who were using the park on various days.
To close I would like to discuss how this project will aid me in my professional career. As a student in the School of Education, I see film as an extremely valuable tool for teaching. Require students to create films. Students explore a subject and learn about it and then allow them to take the next step in their education: creating a film a bout that subject. This process reinforces what they would have learned, forces them to organize their ideas into a script. Besides this cognitive value, students also enjoy the creativity and technical skills that used when producing film. As a high school history teacher, I will undoubtedly ask my students to create a film as an assignment every year. I think that film can encourage students’ self-perception while increasing intellect and creativity in unison.

While conducting Reasearch @ UWM...

Creating this media archive has been an invaluable experience for me. I have learned a lot about resources that are available on our campus at UWM. As a student of history, I enjoyed spending hours in our Archives, The American Geological Society, and Special collections. This blog entry is a brief essay on how students and Milwaukee residents can learn more about the community we serve and live in. Hopefully, I will show how much academic assets are at our disposal right here in UWM’s Golda Meir Library.
Special Collections is located on the 4th floor of our library. It houses rare and fragile materials that are relevant to many things, including but not exclusive to Milwaukee’s history. First edition books and photographs from all over the world are housed here for students’ perusal. There, we were able to collect some photographs showing what the Milwaukee Zoo was like when it was still in Washington Park. In our film, we used colorful postcards, dating back to 1905. It was quite easy to include these image sin our film. We simply took digital photographs of the postcards, and dragged/dropped the images into our imovie software for film editing.
UWM is the only place on the planet that has an American Geographical Society. Formerly housed in Mew York City, AGS moved to the 3rd floor of UWM’s library in the 1970’s. It is the largest collection of maps in the world. Our group was able to use AGS to trace the growth of Washington Park and the emergence of the highway system in Milwaukee. We did not use the images, however AGS does scan maps and put them on compact discs to use in digital media.
While researching, I spent the most time in the Archives room. On the second floor of the library, approaching the computer lab, there is a small room that is filled with amazing archival resources about Milwaukee. Research Universities like UW Madison have archives of more national or even global topics. However, at our university students and the community will find volumes upon volumes of Milwaukee’s history. Housing only primary sources, those form the period in subject, archival material can help all of us Milwaukeeans learn more about the past of ourselves, our neighbors and our city as a whole. We found newspaper clippings and were then able to find the actual newspaper on microfiche in our library’s basement. The movers and the shakers of Milwaukee’s history often send their memoirs and all of their documents form their lives to our Archives. We found minutes from a Zoological Society Meeting that was given to UWM by the estate of a former director.
There are materials like this for countless subjects in the Archives. It simply takes the know-how to find what you’re looking to research, and our Archives will surely have something of interest. I hope that any student of history, or anyone wanting or needing to learn more about things that have happened in our city over time, will remember that the archives are so valuable and take advantage of these resources on campus. The best way that I have found is go to the Library website, look at the bottom, for “Finding Aids,” and enter you’re desired search. Make a note of the citation and subject and then go into archives and parse through Milwaukee’s history at your disposal.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Milwaukee's First Zoo: Postcard Collection at UWM

These are from the Postcard Collection @ UWM's library. One finds many artistic images of the zoo that would have been used to attract folks to Milwaukee. The gaces remind fo Chicago's Lincoln Park Zoo. It seems veyr confined and its unsettling to me. I think taht if animals must be held captive for our enjoyment, we need to do everything we can to make their lives pleasant. The images of the zebra and lions look like some pretty dull existences. Barless Bear exhibit does look cool, and feels like they are a bit more free, but its still in the zoo. In any case, what follows is what was printed on the back of these postcards>

- "Milwaukee's pride, Washington Park, an immense playground, 150 acres of rolling lawns, shady walks and beautiful drives. Contains a large artificial lake of 13 acres for boating, canoeing, and skating. Also, the zoological gardens where about 900 specimens donated by the Washington Park Zoological Society are on display for enjoyment of visitors."

- "There are about one hundred boxes of water lily plants distributed among the four ponds in Washington Park. Each box contains five or six plants whose beautiful blossoms are admired by thousands each season."

- "Prominent as a gathering place for music lovers is the Blatz Temple, a modern music shell where outstanding artists perform every year in a full summer schedule of concerts, operas, and cultural programs."

-Sheep Mountain Postcard
"5,000 tons of Lannon Stone were used for building this miniature mountain, 236 feet long, 118 feet wide, height 27 feet; a stairway leading to the upper part of the hill for distribution of food. Narrow paths are provided, intercepted with crevices and jutting crags. Water falls in a cascade down the south side of the hill into a small lagoon."

- Monkey Island Postcard
"The only Monkey Island in the world, 165x87 ft., a large oval mound with a continuing running rivulet, grottos, sand beach and cave for this protection of the monkeys in bad weather. Surrounded by a moat of water 30 feet wide.

Group Project Proposal

Washington Park "The Community and The Environment": A Documentary Film
For our group project this semester, we have decided to examine the history of Washington Park. It is just a stones throw from L.A.N.D., and could be used a great vehicle for change in our neighborhood. WE will create a film that addresses how the residents of Washington Park have related to the park, the role that the park plays and has played in the lives of residents. We will interview our neighbors who use the park now and some folks at LAND who are committed to change. In addition, we will try to trace some of Milwaukee’s history, and use UWM’s library to research Washington Park. We know that Washington Park housed our city’s zoo until 1960. We can research how the zoo expanded and grew, why it left, and what affect the void that was left behind had on Washington Park and the city of Milwaukee. Also, we will search for some answers and suggest ways that the park can be used create positive change in people’s lives.

Note: I have electronically misplaced the proposal that was turned in. This is basically a synopsis of what we wanted to achieve in our film.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

HomeSoure - A Photo Essay

HomeSource is a function of LAND. It is a memebers-only retail store for the people of Milwaukee to purchase and rent tools, materials and supplies necessary to make home improvements. HomeSource has some strict regulations because they get funding from the city.
Members must apply to the program. Criteria are as follows:

  • Live in the city of Milwaukee (anywhere in the city)
  • Present valid I.D.
  • Provide tax info and fall in low to moderate incomes

Once Approved, members gain access to the HomeSource store.
The front of the facility is HomeSource’s primary retail store.

Supplies in retail store:

Paint and Paintbrushes
Concrete, cauk and grout

In The Back of The House:

HomeSource also sells appliances and larger materials needed to begin renovation. Residents can purchase Refrigerators, Laminate flooring, windows and toilets
Everything up to and including the kitchen sink is available in their storage facility.

Laminate flooring was donated by Menards. Other Materials are donated by private citizens.

LAND is committed to making Homesource a user-friendly resource. By relying on residents and businesses for donations to sell, Homesource is able to effectively enable Milwaukeeans to revive our neighborhoods. HomeSource is located at 3701 N. Lisbon Avenue in Milwaukee.

Artist's Statement:

The photographs that I took at Homesource were organized in a way that reflects the conversations that I had when I toured the facility. My objective was to present what Homesource would look like in use. I wondered what residents would see when they walked in. I wondered which tools and materials were in highest demand. Hopefully, PowerPoint allowed me to present the images I captured in a way that seems meaningful to residents. I wanted to make an essay that spoke to the ways that people would use a resource like Homesource.

Spending time with Terri at Homesource gave me insight to the community that LAND serves. While discussing the requirements for membership, she detailed an exemplary three-person family and told me that this family could make anywhere form $18,000 to $48,000 per year. After that, she told me that most of the people who use Homesource are females.

Regrettably, my essay did not address the Toolsource tool loan program. It should be noted that through Toolsource, residents who are not members of HomeSource could still use the tools and equipment provided by LAND. However, without membership to HomeSource, one cannot purchase any supplies or materials. Tool and HomeSource provides residents with the faculties to perfect home improvements. From saw to sanders and power drills, to refrigerators, light fixtures and doorbells, these programs aid residents in our community and should not be overlooked. HomeSource should stand as a model for non-profit neighborhood development organizations to follow. I hope that my essay captured the effectiveness of the program and aroused the many possible benefits from the program in the minds of my audience.

Concerning the production of my essay, I found PowerPoint to be very effective and very flexible in allowing for creativity. It was extremely easy for me to import still photos and video. The ease with which media can be incorporated to projects makes PowerPoint greatly versatile. Moreover, choosing and/or creating your own slide backgrounds and arranging elements in each shot, PowerPoint greatly enables the artist to package their message in a particular way, to achieve a particular response, in other words.

The software greatly enabled the creation of my essay, but filming itself presented an unanticipated hurdle. Terri was camera-shy! I guess it seems obvious that photographers and filmmakers always have to worry that their subjects are acting unnaturally or uncomfortably. I think it’s difficult to document reality without getting an appearance of fabrication or superficiality. By creating sequences of photos and trying to tell a story, I was able to see how difficult it must be for artists to convey or package messages within their art. I learned this as I tried to tell a narrative through my images.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Found Footage: Father Groppi

^click to enlarge

This image was taken in the Wisconsin state assembly chamber in 1969. Father James Groppi had come to Madison to protest. Groppi is surrounded by cohorts and fellow demonstrators of all skin colors. This outcry for social welfare initiatives transcended color lines and rallied all poor folks together. From the image, one can infer that Father Groppi was a unifier. He is centered in the photo and immersed by his own crowd in; he owns that part of the room. Further, these demonstrators stand out in the raucus room, separate from reporters and legislators. It appears that Father Groppi has been able to stir, rouse, galvanize, inspire his troops and caught the ear of the state government and media . Its a powerful image to see a clergy member so committed to his neighbors and creates a brilliant symbol for the grass-roots, cooperative and communal action that drove the civil rights movement and other freedom movements of the transformational sixties.

The angle we are given shows how much attention had been paid to this demonstration and how passionate these folks were. From our perspective, we can feel how close it is for people on the ground; standing shoulder-to-shoulder and shuffling around one another. Father Groppi and fellow demonstrators are elevated, and appear to be looking past us. From our given angle, we can't really tell where the action is, though it appears as though there is a lot of action. The audience is looking all over the place, and we can also see that one man's hand is moving. Perhaps there are people behind us. I assume that there are state officials seated above the chamber and listening to the demonstration. The angle of the shot effectively captures the emotion of the subjects and the mood of the room.

Also, we see the intensity of Father Groppi's civil rights advocacy. The priest had played an active role in the civil rights movement, marching next to icons like MLK and John Lewis. Groppi rallied Milwaukeeans to call for civil rights and to the March on Washington in '63. He walked from Selma to Montgomery in 1965, to get the voting rights act passed. Groppi fought for the plight of the working class across the country and fueled the civil rights movement from Milwaukee.

From Wikipedia:
"In 1967, Groppi discovered that several judges in the Milwaukee area belonged to the Fraternal Order of Eagles, which at the time did not admit non-whites to its membership. Groppi questioned how a judge who was a member of an organization that did not welcome African-Americans as members could rule impartially in cases involving African-Americans, and reacted by organizing pickets at the homes of some of the judges."
Clearly, Father Groppi stood for change. He unified people around equality and fairness and justice. He demanded and protested for immediate change in those areas when he did not have to, and persisted when it was unpopular with the Catholic Church's hierarchy. He risked his life and lost his life's work of ministry for change that he believed in.

FYI: The original papers of Father Groppi's
memoirs are available at UWM's library (archives, 2nd floor).

Friday, February 1, 2008

This is OUR Turf

Lisbon Avenue Neighborhood Development addresses the concerns of one of Milwaukee's most complex urban landscapes. Working with LAND, we will involve ourselves in this neighborhood and commit our time to encouraging positive growth and change wihtin this area: North Ave. to Vliet Ave. and 27th - 47th Streets. The area has been revitalized since LAND's conception in 1988, though issues such as sanitation and safety continue to affect the lives of many of our neighbors.

LAND is committed to involving community members. The agency works hard to address the real needs of real Milwaukeeans. This is inspiring and has proven to make some real changes, restoring a sense of hope and opportunity that have not been afforded to so many folks for so long. It is with utmost pride and respect that I engage with my community, and I hope to be helpful. Helpful in bringing about a that we can believe in.