Final Project Artist’s Statement
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.