As the Bayshore Art Project gets underway, we sat down with Milwaukee muralist & curator Emma Daisy to talk about this unique endeavor, her career, and what the world can expect from Bayshore's new vibrant murals.
Daisy's distinctive work draws from her experiences in fashion design, community arts and cultural development. Currently, she's focusing most of her attention on exploring identity and acceptance: two themes close to her heart as a Korean adoptee.
While working with the youth arts nonprofit Express Yourself Milwaukee, Daisy developed a passion for art for social justice.
"That experience really resonated with my core values," she says, "even more so than my institutional education."
She eventually became the organization's Co-Executive Director, but after 12 years at the nonprofit, she wanted a change. So, Daisy launched a freelance career.
"I trusted that creating with my hands made me the happiest, and I would find a way to make it work," she says.
Her first mural commission was in Black Cat Alley in 2018. Since then, she's kept busy creating murals for schools, businesses, private residences and shopping destinations around the country. Her most recent accomplishment is a 4,000-square foot wall commissioned by Milwaukee Downtown, a business improvement district, as a welcoming gateway to the city.
"My murals are a celebration of life, inspired by the natural world," she says. "I’m still new to this game and I’ll forever be figuring it out, but for now I’m really grateful for the development, and I hope to continue to find new challenges creatively."
Daisy curated the project alongside Merrick Porchéddu of Artist Uprising. From the start, the muralist knew it was a perfect match: Daisy knows the local creatives, and Porchéddu has a keen eye for design. Still, it was a new challenge for the Milwaukee muralist.
"The curation aspect is very different for me," Daisy admits. "I have experience coordinating large complex projects, but never one in which I’ve been given so much freedom to bring together so many different artists at one time. It’s a whole different ball game with a lot of voices involved, and that's been exciting."
The project also gave Daisy a chance to work with artists whose work she has long admired. She and Porchéddu sought a diverse range of personalities who they knew would each bring a unique voice to Bayshore.
"We want the property to feel like an outdoor gallery featuring local artists: illustrators, fine artists, designers, sculptors, street artists and more," she says. "My intent was to share real and authentic artist voices and perspectives."
She believes the final product will reflect Milwaukee's distinctive, disparate voices, and stand on its own merits as a fully realized work of art.
"Each aspect of the property is so interconnected to make this project cohesive," she says. "It’s really exciting to see all these different parts come together."
Daisy also wanted the project to capture the spirit of Milwaukee's vibrant creative community. She wanted the project to feel both global and local, a tough tightrope to walk when curating any large-scale project. Nevertheless, Daisy quickly realized that the Bayshore project has a lot in common with her personal artistic goals.
"My personal efforts in public art have been about creating and sharing work that is true to myself, but appeals to a wide audience culturally, thematically and aesthetically," she says. "I’m all about spreading joy in the world, so that is generally my underlying approach and guiding vision. I think that’s a good place to start in bridging the gaps that divide us as humans, allowing us to find our commonalities among differences."
Daisy and her cadre of artists had to consider the retailers of Bayshore, too. While some art elements are becoming increasingly common in retail spaces, Bayshore elevates the idea of what a retail and community space can look like. By enlisting a group of artists -- each with their own style and voice -- to create within the same area, Bayshore pushes the boundaries of what art and community spaces can and should look like.
"I truly believe that murals and street art shift the view that art must live in a gallery," Daisy says. "Art should be accessible to all, and often gallery work isn’t able to do that on the same level as street art. Public art is created for the viewer, and that connection to a larger whole can really be celebrated here."
By the time Daisy and her crew finalize the project, Bayshore will be a one-of-kind destination steeped in arts and entertainment.
"I have hope that the space will bring lots of joy, smiles and inspiration," the artist says. "I’m just super pumped to get to be a part of it."
Photography by: Sam Li