By Anne Marie Gunn and Nina Winkler
The Neighborhood Marker project is one of the Near West Side Action Activities, designed to add history and vibrance to each neighborhood and create distinctions between the seven NWS neighborhoods. Neighborhood markers will be installed in each neighborhood and contain information about the history and culture of each neighborhood to celebrate the differences that make the Near West Side community whole. This undertaking is funded by the US Department of Housing and Development grant that Near West Side Partners was awarded in 2018. The grant, the Choice Neighborhood Initiative, is funded to restore the historic vibrance of neighborhoods. For more on the awarded grant and Action Activities proposal, please see the previous blog post (https://nearwestsidemke.org/action-activity-update/). This project has been a collaborative effort among the Marquette Center for Peacemaking, Near West Side Partners, and Near West Side neighborhood associations.
The artists and fabricators, Brandon Minga and Andre St. Louis, have been working to make the neighborhood markers come to life. In the spring of 2021, residents in the community were given the opportunity to share input on the verbiage of the signs and give proposals as to what the markers’ designs should look like. Minga explained that this has been one of his favorite parts of the project so far; “Community involvement and hearing the peoples’ voice and opinion about what’s going to go in their neighborhood and how passionate some of those folks are [has been] one of the highlights.” St. Louis expanded on this point by sharing, “The residents are the clients. At the same time we are trying to represent a vast community with a lot of unique history and culture and I think that’s exciting to get feedback and hear what’s important as well as creating some deeper thought on what community can be.” The process began in drafts, using basic shapes with significance and representation for each neighborhood. Minga and St. Louis used a technique called layer tennis to narrow down the specifics; “Andre and I passed that design back and forth and added or subtracted as feedback came in or as we came up with better ideas,” Brandon shared. Through all of this drafting and revising with feedback, the vision resulted in 12 feet tall, 3 sided markers that are universally similar in design, but have neighborhood-specific ornamentations and biographies. Minga and St. Louis explained that the project is about trying to put together vibrant markers that bring permanence, color and liveliness to the area; these markers will be vastly different from traditional signage.
The markers are expected to be enjoyed frequently by pedestrians passing through the Near West Side. The markers are to be placed along walking corridors; residents are encouraged to live active, healthy lifestyles and walk through the different neighborhoods to read the Near West Side story that all seven markers will, collectively, tell. As St. Louis expressed, “The bigger, more exciting part is yet to come and that’s gonna be the installation and getting feedback from the community.” Stay tuned into NWSP news for more, up-coming information on the ribbon cutting ceremony and installation of each unique NWS marker this spring.
Stay tuned for the installation date and forth-coming details.