Milwaukee is frequently referred to as America’s most segregated city. Tia Richardson knows decades of racial division have opened a lot of wounds.
“Our city is literally segregated and divided, geographically and racially,” Richardson said.
Richardson is an artist and teacher. Her official title should be optimist.
“As a teacher, if I were to have a sense of hopelessness in my students? That wouldn’t work. What kind of teacher would I be?” Richardson said, “Milwaukee is like my classroom.”
Milwaukee is where Richardson spent much of her childhood.
“The mentors that I had, the relationships that built me up were outside of school and they were in my community,” Richardson said.
Richardson now uses her talent to give back to the community. She works full-time with schools and non-profit organizations to produce public art projects, including outdoor murals. Her work often incorporates people and places in Milwaukee to depict a unified city.
“We need more cooperation. That is something we need more in this city is cooperation,” Richardson said.
Richardson realizes that she can’t fix segregation, inequity or any other issue with a single painting.
“The key is in transforming our relationships with each other,” Richardson said, “How do we transform our relationships with each other?”
Richardson’s goal is to create public spaces where people can have conversations about Milwaukee’s most difficult issues.
“I see hurt and I see pain and I also see people who are doing diligent beautiful excellent work in the community,” Richardson said.
That’s why Richardson is determined to paint her city in a positive light.
“I believe in my city. I believe in Milwaukee. I believe in what we can do when we come together,” Richardson said, “That’s my life. That’s what I eat, live, drink and breathe, and since I see that, and I experience it, then it’s real for me, and that’s what Milwaukee is.”