Episode 1: The Power of Listening (with Arijit Sen)
Who are the experts in a city? In a neighborhood? In this episode, we meet a professor of architecture who has designed a ‘field school’ that encourages students to dig into these questions. We sit on front porches in some of Milwaukee’s most economically challenged neighborhoods to learn from residents that building community, and caring for a place, takes more than a hammer and nails.
The Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures Field School, part of the School of Architecture and Urban Planning at UW-Milwaukee, has received several grants from Wisconisn Humanities in support of projects that centralize listening and community-student partnerships. During 2020, the pandemic required creativity that resulted in a new effort to distribute fresh food and zines about food justice to residents of Sherman and Washington Park neighborhoods. Longtime local partners Cheri and Camille, featured in this episode, helped rethink the project, assess needs, and distribute resources to their neighbors.
Read Arijit Sen's Love Wisconsin feature story. "School usually teaches that you need to solve problems. We want our students to un-learn that and teach students not to rush to a solution. An important lesson for our architecture students is to listen to what the community wants first, not to rush into action."
Camille Mays talking with producer Craig Eley on her front porch in July 2020.
Cheri Fuqua on her porch during the interview with Craig Eley for Human Powered.
Across from Cheri Fuqua's house is Unity Orchard, a park that was created from vacant lots. It includes benches and planters created in partnership with Building-Cultures-Landscape Field School students, as well as the trellis mentioned in this episode.
Aris Owens joined the Human Powered team on location in July to photograph production of this episode.
The Victory Garden Initiative has installed over 3,500 gardens, developed a 1.5-acre urban farm (pictured here), and planted 26 orchards in low-income neighborhoods. Victory Garden is one of the locations the Building-Cultures-Landscapes Field School has partnered with during the pandemic to help distribute food.
Dr. Arijit Sen is a professor at UW-Milwaukee, where he teaches courses in architectural design and urban cultural landscapes. He cofounded Buildings-Landscapes-Cultures, a program for students in the Architecture and Art History doctoral programs at UW-Milwaukee and UW-Madison. The BLC Field School mentioned in this episode has ongoing projects that are documented on this website. Arijit has worked on post disaster reconstruction and community-based design in the Lower Ninth Ward, New Orleans and written extensively about South Asian immigrant cultural landscapes. He served on the board of the Vernacular Architecture Forum, a national organization dedicated to the study, preservation and analysis of the everyday world.
Camille Mays is the founder of Peace Gardens MKE. She explains that with the blessing of families who have lost people due to gun violence, she plants perennial flowers as a way to care for her neighbors while improving the neighborhood. She speaks as part of local and national forums about her work and serves on city and local committees. Camille has been featured in many articles, including:
- Picturing Milwaukee
- My Block: The Peace Gardens of Sherman Park
- Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service: How Camille Mays finds peace after gun violence took her son
Cheri Fuqua is the founder of The Middle Ground, a community organization that provides employment opportunities, along with resources and life skills, to help Black youth in Milwaukee. She is an AmeriCorps Alumni and a graduate of the Neighborhood Leadership Institute. In 2016 Ms. Cheri was honored with a Resident Leader Award from Mayor Tom Barrett. For over twenty years, she has maintained a strong presence in her community by connecting residents, leaders, and stakeholders at monthly meetings.
Chelsea Alison Wait is a PhD candidate in Architecture at the School of Architecture and Urban Planning (SARUP) at UWM. Chelsea focuses on community collaboration, storytelling, public history, local architecture history, and finding ways to integrates her public art practice. Chelsea’s research looks at how people practice care as it relates to the built environment and urban landscape. She is an adjunct faculty at SARUP, teaching introduction to design and local architecture histories, and an associate lecturer in the Peck School of the Arts, where she teaches teaches multicultural history of America and artwork.
Host: Jimmy Gutierriez
Senior Producer: Craig Eley
Producers: Jessica Becker, Jen Rubin, and Jade Iseri-Ramos
Executive Producers: Brijetta Hall Waller and Dena Wortzel
Photographers: Aris Owens, Craig Eley, Jessica Becker and Gary Porter