South side residents using art to spark economic development

MILWAUKEE, WI - Residents working to spur economic development in their south side Milwaukee neighborhood have come up with an interesting strategy: art.

Residents are hopeful the Clarke Square area and Cesar Chavez Drive will be a destination for artists and other cultural endeavors.

"Si se puede, yes we can," said Erick Ledesma. "We are here."

Ledesma is an artist in residence for the Cesar E. Chavez Business Improvement District and the Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative. The residency program is a part of the FARM Project, an initiative that takes public art and couples it with cultural events to drive economic development.

"It's kind of me giving back to a community that really shaped me as a kid and as an individual especially as an artist," Ledesma said.

Ledesma has roots in Clarke Square. He lived on 21st and Scott Streets as a child before moving back to Puerto Rico where he was born. His connection to the area is the reason Ian Bautista, Clarke Square Neighborhood Initiative Executive Director, considers him the perfect candidate to jump start the artist residency campaign.

"We're trying to increase the impression of identity," Bautista said. "His work is around identity both individual and collective so we felt like that was a really good connection.”

Ledesma's residency ends in November. During his time as an artist in residency he is required to produce five to seven original pieces of artwork and a permanent piece along Cesar Chavez Drive.

His goal is to collaborate with the community on project and encourages all those interested to stop by his studio at 1308 S. Cesar Chavez Drive.

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