The Art Build Workers (ABW) are a group of six artists, designers, photographers and educators who are based in Milwaukee, WI. We work locally and travel around the country organizing multi-day art builds that help unions, organizations and movements amplify their messages through visual art, media, and archiving. Our motto is that before the march and before the strike there is the art build. We primarily collaborate with the National Education Association (NEA) that is the largest union in the country with an estimated membership of over 2.7 million members. ABW designs graphics for the movement and also coordinates designs from a vast network of activist artists and designers from around the country that we know. We screenprint picket signs, paint parachutes and banners, and produce offset posters that change the way demonstrations look visually, while amplifying a movements social media presence, and helping create a space for movements to build community and to become stronger.
Who we are:
Joe Brusky. Joe Brusky is a public school teacher, activist, and award- winning photographer from Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He works as Social Media Membership Organizer for the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA), the union representing education workers in the city’s public schools. His position, which provides full-time release from the classroom, enables Brusky to organize his fellow workers using his camera and social media – documenting their workdays and sharing their stories. He also uses his creative skills to fight for justice and equality in other ways. He is a core member of the Overpass Light Brigade, a collaborative public art project in which illuminated messages are held aloft in public spaces to raise the profile of important issues. Brusky serves as the organization’s primary photographer, and he has supported the development of an international network of light-brigade groups. Brusky has documented movements in Wisconsin and beyond. These include not only various aspects of the labor movement, but also struggles for racial, social, economic, and environmental justice. However, some of his most iconic work focuses on the immigrant rights’ movement in Wisconsin, where he has captured numerous marches, rallies, public hearings, and other events. Throughout this work he has collaborated closely with the Milwaukee-based Voces de la Frontera, an organization which has consistently played a leading role in the fight for immigrants’ rights in the state.
Jeanette Arellano. Jeanette Arellano is a proud public school art teacher ,cultural worker and artist who identifies as a Latinx cisgender mujerx, at la Escuela Elemental Hayes Bilingüe/Hayes Bilingual Elementary School.She dedicates her efforts with Milwaukee’s Latino community by advocating and creating works on issues in cultural social change and immigration. Through her artwork Jeanette has continued to collaborate with artist activist groups such as Voces De Los Artistas, Artbuild Workers, and Raices Revolucionarias and co-founded AyudaMutua MKE, an all volunteer collective that was formed to address food justice for residents on the city’s South Side, for all families without a need for documentation status. Jeanette also teaches citizenship classes to adults through Voces de la Frontera. Jeanette is currently Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association (MTEA) Along with a group of similarly dedicated art teachers, she formed an art education advocacy committee through MTEA, which successfully lobbied the school board to commit to better supporting students and art teachers in the district. In the Art Build Workers, Jeanette creates designs, organizes volunteers, and works on the banner painting crew.
Kim Cosier. Kim Cosier is active in the art build movement in Milwaukee and serves as Director of Community Engagement and an art education professor at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. She is also a founding faculty member in the Art and Design Education Graduate Program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. She has been deeply engaged in teacher activism through the Educators’ Network for Social Justice, a Milwaukee-based teacher activist group. She is founder and director of the Milwaukee Visionaries Project, an award winning media literacy and production program for middle and high school youth in Milwaukee. As an anti-racist, gender queer researcher and teacher, her work focuses on art and education for social justice, particularly related to intersecting cultural and social factors including race, gender, sexuality, ability, and class. She has published books and articles on these subjects including Rethinking Sexism, Gender and Sexuality, which won an American Library Association Stonewall Award. She believes in the power of art to create change in community and sees works of the imagination as essential to building a better, more just world.
Paul Kjelland. Paul Kjelland is an interdisciplinary artist based in Milwaukee, WI. He works collectively with many groups, including: the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative – a worker- owned printmaking cooperative of thirty artists in North America that formed in 2007; Voces de los Artistas, an art- affinity group established in 2016 that works in collaboration with Voces de la Frontera – an immigrant rights organization based in Wisconsin; and the Riverwest24 – a 24-hour bicycle based community collaboration event and holiday based in his neighborhood in Milwaukee.
Nicolas Lampert: Nicolas Lampert is a Milwaukee-based interdisciplinary artist and author whose work focuses on themes of social justice and ecology. His artwork is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, the Milwaukee Art Museum, the Library of Congress, and over fifty-five archives and special collections across the US and Canada. Collectively, he works with four groups: the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative – a worker-owned printmaking cooperative of thirty artists in North America that formed in 2007; ReciproCity – a Milwaukee-based collective established in 2012 that works at the intersection of art, architecture, urban sustainability, and a socially-just version of community re-development; Climate Prints – a website/ activist infrastructure project that shares downloadable graphics on Climate Justice and puts this work directly into movements; and Voces de los Artistas, an art-affinity group established in 2016 that works in collaboration with Voces de la Frontera – an immigrant rights organization based in Wisconsin. His first book A People’s Art History of the United States: 250 Years of Activist Art and Artists Working in Social Justice Movements was published by The New Press in 2013 and is part of the People’s History Series edited by Howard Zinn. Lampert is a full-time faculty member (academic staff appointment) in the Department of Art and Design at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee with a joint appointment in Printmaking and Writing and Critical Thinking.
Claudio Martinez. Claudio Martinez is a full-time graphic designer in Milwaukee, WI. Immediately after graduating from UW- Milwaukee with a degree in Visual Communication, he started working full time at a local firm. Over the years of working with corporate clients he’s learned that being in the trenches with fellow artists working on political artwork and meeting like-minded misfits fulfills his soul immensely. He dedicates much of his free-time creating artwork for Voces de los Artistas – the art affinity group for Voces de la Frontera – the leading immigrant rights organization in Wisconsin.
Josie Osborne is an interdisciplinary artist, educator, curator and activist living and working in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. She has been a long-time advocate of art education and the connections/intersections between contemporary art, art history, political/social movements and social justice issues. As Senior Lecturer and Director of the Art and Design Department’s First Year Program in the Peck School of the Arts Osborne helps to connect new and continuing students, faculty and staff with issues and opportunities that engage them with community. For ten years prior she served as Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design’s Director of Community Outreach, creating programs that encouraged and prepared MPS students to pursue higher education in art and design and that built diverse coalitions supporting art and design education in Milwaukee area K12 schools. At UW Milwaukee she was co-creator of (and continuing co-PI for) ArtsECO, a program that works to recruit, develop and support strong art teachers in public schools. Non-profit Board, advisory board and committee service and volunteerism for local non-profits has been important to Osborne over the past 22 years. Since 2011 Osborne’s more contemplative and quieter studio practice has taken a back seat to activism, community building and more recently Art Build involvement.