MILWAUKEE— It is rare indeed to receive a phone call from someone you don’t know, have them tell you they admire your work, and then offer you a job on the spot.
You’d probably think it more likely to run into Bigfoot on a hike.
“I was like, 'Wow, thank you,'’’ said Tia Richardson, a Milwaukee native. “I was very appreciative that they would consider my work, just from what they’ve seen on my website, that they would consider me worthy enough to want to work with me.’’
The “they” she refers to is the Biden-Harris presidential campaign, who through its Get Out The Vote efforts commissioned eight Black artists from eight battleground states to create an inspirational mural in predominantly minority communities. The pieces showcase each artist’s individual interpretation of the importance of exercising the right to vote in this year’s presidential election.
Tia has painted over 50 murals since 2007 in partnership with community-based nonprofits, K-12 and post-secondary schools, private businesses, and local government. She was named artist of the year by the Milwaukee Arts Board in 2018.
It took her no time to accept the offer, even though she didn’t have a lot of time from conceptualization to completion – about three weeks.
“As an artist, I jumped at the opportunity because I wanted to do something to help, to inspire voters, especially voters of color, to vote,’’ she said.
“Mostly the murals I’ve done around the city are in excess of 20 or 50 feet long and up to a story high. I was confident this was something I could do. It’s only 10- feet-by-10 feet and it’s actually a very simple design with three figures in it, Biden, (vice presidential nominee) Kamala (Harris) and the late (Georgia congressman) John Lewis.’’
She named her work “Pursuing the Vision,” and it shows Harris, Biden, and Lewis, arms interlocked, looking toward the future with the sun shining down upon them. Tia said she admired Biden’s willingness to work with the opposition party and Lewis’ capacity for compassion.
“So that willingness to work together for the common good is something we need right now, and striving for unity,’’ she said. “So even as John fought for racial equality, he had a lot of compassion. I wanted something to show what we’re striving toward.
“We’re in that moment today of standing up for better race relations and equality, and that’s something that Biden is striving to pursue. So showing that we’re all connected, through the sun shining down, and we’re looking toward the vision because we’re all parts that make up a bigger whole.
“So this idea of unity, that we’re all part of something bigger, in order for the system to truly serve and reflect the parts that make it up; everyone’s got to be able to participate equally. So equity to me is not picking and choosing the parts we like and then disrespecting the parts we don’t like; we each have equal value for the light moving through us as human beings. So that’s what this piece is for me; that’s the vision I’m trying to show. The vision of unity.”
Chris Walton, chairman of the Democratic Party in Milwaukee, is a big fan of the painting, which can be seen at 5231 N. 35th St. in Milwaukee.
“I think it is very nice and the fact that it stands out shows people we’re very interested,’’ he said of the Get Out The Vote objective. “It also shows what an amazing local artist is able to do. It showcases the homegrown talent here and I think it’s wonderful.”
Tia, whose parents passed down their love of art to her, says she has received positive feedback from her posts of the mural on Facebook and Instagram.
“And of course the biggest feedback would be the client, the campaign that I did it for, and the feedback there was really positive, too,’’ she said.
“Being part of a national campaign, this is a first for me. I think that’s really great but what I want is this piece to inspire people, hopefully. But also with my work, I like it when people look at it and then decide for themselves what it might mean. Anyone can look at this and it can mean lots of different things to lots of different people.”