Public art project challenges Trumps narrative

Walls of Strength. Photo by Allison Steines of Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.

During his campaign, Donald Trump made several references to building a wall between the United States and Mexican border. Milwaukeean Lori Gramling, was so disturbed by his comments, she set out to build a different type of wall – not to keep people out, but to bring people in.

“I was so bothered by the negativity. I heard a voice nagging me, ‘Ya know what, let’s build a wall. A different kind of wall,'” Gramling told Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service.  

Gramling is a psychologist. For the project, she enlisted the help of Sisters Central City Circle of Change, a group of women dedicated to creating change.

Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service reports

The Sisters Circle mulled over the idea and helped Gramling bring the project, called Walls of Strength, to fruition.

Walls of Strength aims to combat fear, contempt, cynicism and despair by allowing Milwaukee residents to inscribe positive messages into clay stones. The stones are then assembled and mortared together to create a wall with three segments: hope, love and courage.

The word courage comes from the Latin word “cor,” which means heart. Gramling explained that this word is the centerpiece of the project.

“Courage, love and hope are natural, innate and powerful energies around us, and it’s important that those energies are accessible to people in community,” said Shalina Ali, a member of the Sisters Circle.

People living in the inner city are so busy: working, supporting themselves and their families, driving kids to school and activities, trying to make healthy choices, Ali said. “We get caught up in survival. This project is about taking back the narrative… and remembering to pause. It’s about remembering resilience and human nature,” she added.

“There isn’t a lot of exchange between communities in Milwaukee. This project is a way of telling stories to make people just people again,” said Gramling.

The Tree of Life Earthworks studio opened its doors to the public and kicked off the Walls of Strength project in September during Doors Open Milwaukee. More than 400 visitors walked through the studio in two days and 263 of them wrote on clay stones for the wall.

For more on this inspiring project, visit Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service

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