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Milwaukee muralist Tia Richardson uses art as a way to forge a common bond

For Women’s History Month we’re looking at women and femme-identifying artists who are defining and changing Milwaukee’s creative scene.

Tia Richardson is one of them. She’s a muralist who recently worked on a new mural called ' Bridging Milwaukee's Heart' as part of the Brighten the Passage located between Downtown and the Third Ward, under I-794. Currently Tia is looking to restore the Sherman Park Rising Mural she painted. The mural has has sustained some water damage due to a leak in the roof of the building the mural was painted on. 

Tia says art is life for her.

“I'm trying to create something in life that's gonna offset a lot of what I see out there as far as an inability or an unwillingness to work together and work in practical, constructive ways,” says Tia.

As Tia has created murals, she has come into using art as a means of healing. It wasn’t something she set out to do.

“I started meeting people who were doing community art around the world and working with villages and healing and working around hard issues that these people have been through like genocide and war,” says Tia. “Growing up, I had always wanted to help people with my art. So the pieces came together when I started being exposed to what other people were doing in my life.”

Tia is a born and raised Milwaukeean, though she’s lived in Kenosha county for a bit too. She studied art in Milwaukee Public Schools and stayed in Milwaukee for college. She says she paints murals where she is asked. She completed a mural in Rockford, Ill., that she raised funds for through Kickstarter. There’s a short film on the mural showing at the Beloit International Film Festival.

In her time painting murals in Milwaukee she says she’s noticed how much people, no matter their background, want to find solutions to some of Milwaukee’s harder issues like racial inequality and segregation. But there needs to be action when trying to create and engage around these conversations.

“As human beings we all have a need to express our feelings and have those feelings be valued,” says Tia. “Unless a space is set up and facilitated where those needs are met, people can get at each other's throats. I've observed that in different settings where a constructive conversation is trying to take place.”

Tia says when she’s creating murals she holds workshops where people offer input about what they want to see. In the workshops, people need to be seen and heard, especially when it comes to projects like that of the Sherman Park Rising mural where the art addresses communal emotions.

“They want to see something happen,” says Tia. “They don't want to just talk. So the benefit to doing art is where we're gonna have something at the end of it at the end of it. In my case, what I'm offering people as a chance for them to say where they are.”

Tia also works with Milwaukee students to teach them how they can paint. With a lot of the murals she produces, she runs into people who don’t feel that they can pick up a paint brush. Yet Tia says she’s there to help people realize they have the capacity to create.

“I have found beauty is one of the things that draws out the good in people,” says Tia. “It's attractive and it makes people push past their limits in a way that I don't understand. But that's one of the things I'm realizing is when we can have something beautiful at the end of our work together we're much more willing as human beings to put aside some of the smaller things that can undermine our ability to work together effectively.”

You might see Tia’s work as you drive around Milwaukee. Tia really focuses on centering the voices and input people who will be impacted the most by the murals she produces. So when you see one know you’re seeing the community’s voice, too.