Organizers in Milwaukee wanted to prepare a strong campaign to show the grassroots support for public education as the budget cycle approached. Joe Brusky, an educator on release to help the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association organize, decided to incorporate an Art Build into the efforts.
Drawing on his experience documenting the Art Build for the Climate March in New York and from previous efforts in Milwaukee, Joe organized with art educators, artists and community members with amazing results.
“Engaging in this positive, communal and beautiful work was definitely transformative.”– Michelle Wiese, President
Minneapolis Federation of Teachers 59
“In Milwaukee the people who took part in the Art Build were activists who I often saw in our advocacy work, but also a lot of new people that I hadn’t seen before who were just looking for an entry point into the union, something comfortable to get involved in,” said Joe. “Leaving, people were energized.”
The success of the Art Build in Wisconsin inspired the Minneapolis and St. Paul Federations of Teachers to add this to their organizing efforts. The organizers worked with the Wisconsin team to implement their successful model.
“In Milwaukee we saw an incredible coming together of teachers, students and community members to produce something positive. Educators are under attack and have been for decades and to have the opportunity to come together and build something and see it in use and do it in a communal and positive manner was amazing,” said Nate Gunderson, NEA organizer.
Both the Art Build in Milwaukee and in Minneapolis and St. Paul have seen their art put to use in the advocacy efforts. These events have also resulted in higher levels of participation and new faces in the movement.
“We had over 200 people at our Art Build and three quarters of them were new people who had never walked through the door of the union hall before. Our community got to express what was going on and the networking, collaboration, communication and friendship forged that weekend were really powerful. We have seen those same people coming back and taking action,” said Joe.
“I believe there was a clear before and after about how we think of ourselves and how other people think of us after hosting our Art Build. This event helped us redefine our union away from service based unionism and towards organizing-based unionism. Engaging in this positive, communal and beautiful work was definitely transformative. I highly encourage other unions to hold a similar event,” said Michelle Wiese, President, Minneapolis Federation of Teachers 59.