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FS19 Groundwork Conference

Loca­tion: Milwau­kee, WI

Over the course of three days, FS19: GROUND­WORK will center around the idea of​‘research’ or​‘where inspi­ra­tion is drawn from’ through main­stage presen­ta­tions, discus­sions, artist presen­ta­tions, work­shops, demon­stra­tions, exhi­bi­tions, and an exhi­bi­tion crawl. Partic­i­pants will explore the idea that much research, or​“ground­work” is needed in the field of furni­ture history and mate­ri­als study in order for our makers to under­stand the under­pin­nings of our artform.

In Craft for a Greater Good’s first launch, The Furni­ture Society part­nered with two local orga­ni­za­tions: HOME GR/OWN, which works to trans­form neigh­bor­hoods, and the Milwau­kee Art Museum (MAM) Teen Intern­ship Program, connect­ing teens with prac­tic­ing artists to address issues impor­tant to their communities.

Community Partners:

Milwaukee Art Museum Teen Internship Program

The Milwau­kee Art Museum Teen Intern­ship Program addresses the issue of access to high-level arts educa­tion programs and a connec­tion to cultural insti­tu­tions by offer­ing a summer intern­ship for 18, 16 – 18 year old students in an envi­ron­ment uniquely suited to their goals. Intern­ships at MAM expand teens’ career hori­zons while empow­er­ing them to recog­nize their strengths, follow their passion, and lever­age a large cultural plat­form to engage their commu­nity and express their artis­tic voice in a meaningful way.

2019 Summer interns’ creative jour­neys will be by inspired by MAM’s feature exhi­bi­tions and a local issue they feel is impor­tant to address in their commu­nity. Under the direc­tion of Shannon Molter, teens will work with contem­po­rary artists (includ­ing Raoul Deal, James Nares, Tom Loeser, and Charles Radtke) to create public artwork; educate chil­dren; and execute public events to connect their peers and families.


HOME GR/OWN iden­ti­fied the Victory Over Violence Park as an ideal loca­tion in Milwau­kee for our project. Almost 20 years ago, the site began under­go­ing a trans­for­ma­tion into an engag­ing –and safe– gath­er­ing place for the neigh­bor­hood. Although much of the work was completed in the 1990s, the space contin­ues to require care, atten­tion, and main­te­nance. The current restora­tion is focused on creat­ing engag­ing places within the neigh­bor­hood to spend time outdoors. 

Leading into our confer­ence, the MAM teens did site-specific inter­views in the neigh­bor­hood where the benches were to be installed. They drew inspi­ra­tion for their own bench designs from the work of furni­ture maker, Tom Loeser and engaged in object studies with Dr. Sarah Anne Carter from the Chip­stone Foun­da­tion to better under­stand the impact of objects on our world. During the span of the 

confer­ence, atten­dees and students worked seam­lessly together in the 3D lab at the Milwau­kee Insti­tute of Art & Design, using unique, locally-sourced mate­ri­als to construct the benches. Work begun during the confer­ence was contin­ued by teens in the MAM program. The benches are in the final phase of build-out and the students have devel­oped engag­ing signage for the Victory Over Violence Park. [See Press from CGG 2019 for cover­age of the Milwau­kee project in supplemental materials]

Lead Volunteers:

The Project:

In conjunc­tion with the FS19 Ground­work confer­ence, The Furni­ture Society part­nered with two local orga­ni­za­tions: HOME GR/OWN an initia­tive working to trans­form neigh­bor­hoods in Milwau­kee, and the Milwau­kee Art Museum (MAM) Teen Intern­ship Program, connect­ing teens with prac­tic­ing artists to address issues impor­tant to their commu­nity. During the span of the confer­ence, atten­dees used unique and surpris­ing mate­ri­als to construct benches designed by Madison, Wiscon­sin artist, Tom Loeser, for the Victory Over Violence park. Along with Heather McCalla and Heath Matysek-Snyder, local Milwau­kee artist Christo­pher Brooks helped facil­i­tate the construc­tion of the project during the confer­ence. Benches begun during the confer­ence contin­ued to be worked on by teens in the MAM program, who completed the bench build-out and devel­oped signage describ­ing the process and impact this project has on the park.

Partic­i­pat­ing in the project exposed the MAM teens to differ­ent careers in the arts and crafts, helping them to consider a wider variety of work options after high school. The hands-on element of the project was espe­cially useful towards this goal, as it entailed students learn­ing about tools, mate­ri­als, and proce­dures which they had never before seen. Second, the project allowed the Museum of Art to bring artis­tic work into the commu­nity they serve, rather than relying on commu­nity members to come into the museum itself”

I think a lot of the teens in the city don’t neces­sar­ily know that (furni­ture making) is a job, so just letting them know that if they love to work with their hands, they can go into some­thing that’s a more fine trade, like furni­ture design, and then this is where you might do it if you’d like to.” 

- Shannon Moulter, Milwau­kee Art Museum Teen Intern Program Director


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More about Victory Over Violence Park


Tim McCol­low works in the City of MKE’s Envi­ron­men­tal Collab­o­ra­tion Office and runs the Mayor’s HOME GR/OWN initia­tive. They convert vacant lots into farms, commu­nity gardens, orchards and parks and rehab city commer­cial corri­dors. HOME GR/OWN has completed over 30 projects citywide.

Victory Over Violence Park is well known through­out Milwau­kee. For years, the site was a vacant lot, and had become one of the most danger­ous and violent areas of the central city where multi­ple shoot­ings, muggings, and assaults were reports. Almost 20 years ago, Charles Haus­mann, Linder Law LLC, and Jeanetta Robin­son, Career Youth Devel­op­ment, came together to trans­form the space into a gath­er­ing place for commu­nity members. Although much of the work was completed in the 1990’s, the space contin­ues to require care, atten­tion, and main­te­nance. This iter­a­tion of the VoV park restora­tion is focused on creat­ing engag­ing places for neigh­bors to spend time outdoors.

Our current project part­ners include the MLK Drive Busi­ness Improve­ment District, Ground­work MKE, Bader Foun­da­tion, MSOE, West­Care, Safe & Sound, Alder­woman Coggs, Walnut Way and the family of Jeanetta Robin­son, among others. The park was very over­grown and last year we did a lot of editing with Ground­work MKE’s Green Team. We plan on remov­ing trees, adding better light­ing, redoing the exten­sive paths with asphalt (for hand­i­capped use), and adding new seating, among other things.” ‑Tim McCollow

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