MILWAUKEE – Early last summer a friend of Milwaukee-based artist Rozalia Hernandez-Singh told her about an opportunity to help children paint a mural at the Albert & Ann Deshur JCC Rainbow Day Camp.
Intrigued, Hernandez-Singh was put in touch with Andrea Bernstein, the coordinator of Hours Against Hate, a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation that works to end hate in the greater-Milwaukee area.
The road to the rainbow
“Before I started as coordinator in March there had been an idea to have children paint a mural,” said Bernstein. “One of the first [programs] I worked on was to partner with Rainbow Day Camp through their Road to Rainbow program, which brings groups of children from around the greater-Milwaukee area for a free week of camp.”
Bernstein realized that painting a mural would be a great project because it would require collaboration among the diverse group of campers. She put out feelers to find an artist, and that’s how she found Hernandez-Singh.
After trading emails, the two agreed to meet at Colectivo Coffee in Bay View. During their discussion Hernandez-Singh mentioned that she had painted a mural nearby, so they went to check it out.
“I was amazed by her powerful mural,” said Bernstein.
It was clear that Hernandez-Singh, who has a bachelor’s in fine arts degree in visual communications from the Illinois Institute of Art – Chicago, was the type of artist Bernstein was looking for.
It’s fitting in other ways that Hernandez-Singh was chosen to lead the mural project. That’s because she herself has a diverse ethnic background.
“My mom is Puerto Rican and my dad is African-American and Mexican,” said Hernandez-Singh, adding that her husband was born in India. Her children — a 9-year-old daughter and 12-year-old son — are thus very ethnically diverse indeed!
Inspiration and symbolism
In July Hernandez-Singh began brainstorming with the counselors-in-training at Rainbow Day Camp to come up with a theme for the mural.
“The teens produced a final sketch of their ideas,” said Hernandez-Singh. “The mural is centered on children from [diverse backgrounds]. My inspiration came from watching the joy on the teens’ faces when they sang camp songs together. Inspiration also came from the surroundings of the camp — the trees, the water and creation became very important elements.”
The mural, which is 6-feet high and about 16.5-feet long, brims with symbolism. As Hernandez-Singh explained:
- Water symbolizes and sustains life.
- Trees also symbolize life, as well as a strong foundation and growth.
- Children symbolize future leaders.
- Roots nourish trees with water and nutrients. Keywords like spirit, love, community and family nourish progressive societies. Thus, the keywords were painted over the roots.
- For many Native Americans, eagles symbolize wisdom and freedom. The eagle is also a symbol of America.
- Two types of neighborhoods are represented—the inner city and suburbs. Both are equally important.
How you can see the mural
Bernstein said the mural is mobile.
“We intentionally made it mobile because we want it to be available to different places in the community,” she said. “If somebody has a request to display it, we’re taking them. Schools, museums, community centers—any place where people are gathering.”
For details on hosting the mural, contact Bernstein at AndreaB@MilwaukeeJewish.org or call 414-390- 5775.