Work by Western Illinois University Alumna to Be Featured on Voting Rights Mural in Milwaukee
Western Illinois University alumna Tyanna J. Buie, of Detroit, MI, is one of five artists chosen to collaborate on a 7,400-square-foot mural in downtown Milwaukee, called “Voting Rights are Human Rights.” Buie received her bachelor’s degree from WIU in art in 2006, and is now an assistant professor and printmaking section chair for the College for Creative Studies in Detroit.
The mural, by internationally-acclaimed artist Shepard Fairey and his Obey Giant team, was started on the north side of the Colby Abbott building last week. The central image is of an African American man looking skyward, surrounded by artwork and imagery provided by the five artists. Fairey is best known for his creation of the “Hope” poster of former President Barack Obama.
“The opportunity to collaborate with Shepard Fairey, as well as the other amazing artists, on a mural that is dedicated to all those before me who fought for the right to vote, is a privilege and honor, as well as a full-circle moment where my narrative, art practice, and political perspective are collectively at the forefront of a major moment in history where voting rights are still a challenge to this day,” said Buie.
She takes inspiration from the scant family photographs remaining from her youth and translates them into large-scale, print-based portraits and installations. Buie collages various elements into her prints, such as bits of clothing, jewelry, hair accessories and other youthful adornments, which adds layers and density that function as an artistic memoir of her family’s history.
The mural was originally part of a national tour to support the 2020 election and the central portrait is based on an original photograph by Steve Schapiro. The tour had to be cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but Fairey remained committed to installing the Milwaukee mural.
“The impetus for this project was rooted in activism and advocacy” said Fairey. “Although the original pre-COVID funding of the project was stripped away due to the pandemic, it remains a goal of mine to work within the community of Milwaukee to lift up the urgent message of democracy and voting.”
The installation of the mural began Oct. 6 and Obey Giant began painting the mural’s imagery Oct. 10. The mural is part of the renaissance of the Colby Abbot Building, which is being rebuilt following a fire earlier this year.