88Nine Radio Milwaukee

Pianist performs *inside* Milwaukee Art Museum’s featured exhibition

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88Nine Radio Milwaukee

If you visited the Milwaukee Art Museum recently and skipped the feature exhibition, sad to say, you really missed out.

But there’s still time to go back to see it.

Rashid Johnson: Hail We Now Sing Joy is a thought provoking and rare installation featuring the work of a living artist.  Johnson explores themes of race, identity, escape and anxiety, and he incorporates powerful symbols significant to African and African-American culture.

Mounds of shea butter and black soap appear in several of the pieces. Hand-picked literary works are included, too, alongside multimedia experiences.

But the exhibit truly comes to life – as the artist intended – at select times throughout the week when a live pianist climbs inside the featured piece, Antoine’s Organ.

Patricia Monroe is one of those pianists lending her talent to enhance Johnson’s work.  A retired music teacher with 25 years in the classroom, Monroe says she’s thrilled to be doing public performances now that she has a little more time on her hands.

“It’s such a joy,” Monroe said. “It’s so great to have found this again.”

In fact, you may have heard her perform without knowing it.  She also plays the piano in front of thousands of people at a very public Milwaukee location (I won’t spoil the surprise from the audio story below).

And her contribution to the living piece of art elevates the artistic experience for patrons.

“That’s what I love so much about this installation, the idea that Rashid Johnson wanted music to be the heart of the piece,” Monroe said.

Look closely and you can see Monroe perched several feet above the floor.

Take a listen to her performance and interview below.

Live musicians will climb into the exhibit Thursdays from 5 p.m. – 6 p.m. and also on Fridays and Saturdays from 12:15 p.m. to 1:15 p.m.

The exhibit runs now through Sept. 17.

Visit Milwaukee Art Museum’s website for the full schedule.