Local artist Jennie Milner has been aiming big since the start of her career. Shortly after graduating from CSU, she made her way to upstate New York where she ran an art camp for youth under 12 and was presented with an opportunity to paint a mural at the local zoo. Ambitious and enthusiastic, she took on the project and with the help of her budding artists they spent 80 hours creating the piece.
Milner admits it was one of the most ambitious projects she has undertaken but it instilled a love of collaboration and public art she continues to foster. Milner work has beautified schools, offices and a highlight was participating in a Denver Art Museum fundraiser as they prepared to renovate. Although she does many murals on her own, finding solutions to work with others is one of her specialties. In her work with the museum, she created a solution where patrons were given the opportunity to fill in the color of her work, and that interaction is often at the core at what she does, bringing the “public” into public art.
This focus is not without its challenges. Being flexible and problem-solving are central to creating works with youth and public events, and Jennie rises to the challenge. Even when it comes to funding, Milner has found that many of the individuals that have been patrons in the past find themselves not wanting “things” any more yet they still want to support artistic creation. These individuals have begun to fund her work in the community and sponsored her recent trip to participate in the bi-annual Ajo Street Art Happening. Ajo, Arizona is a small town of just over 3,000 individuals. An unlikely space for street art on a large-scale, Ajo, was founded as a copper mining town. Located just 40 miles from the Mexican border, surrounded by the Sonoran Desert, Ajo has become a frequent crossing for migrants. Due to its isolation and the challenges associated with crossing here, Ajo is also witness to countless tragedy. Although exact numbers are unavailable, it is estimated that over 12,000 people have died in the desert attempting to cross here since 2001 following Border Control efforts that in the mid-90s changed to step up enforcement in easy crossing areas, funneling migrants to the harsh deserts. Local residents often leave water and supplies for migrants but recently have been targeted criminally.
Many of these issues are addressed in the Street Art festival that serves to bring artists from three bordering nations together. Sponsored by the International Sonoran Desert Alliance, muralists from Mexico, America and the Tohono O’odham Indian Reservation come together for a week of community and creativity. Jennie’s own piece included a jackrabbit with a backpack, allowing her to create a character that could represent any skin color. Using the symbolism of an animal that doesn’t stray more than 500 yards from its home unless forced, has a short life span and that is often overlooked offers a perspective that personifies some of the victims of the tragedies that are very real in this tiny desert town. Milner’s passion for the issue is palatable, and her experiences in just five days in Arizona made a big impact.
Currently, Milner has a mural showing at the Lincoln Center in Fort Collins as part of the Base Layer exhibition on view Apr 2 – May 18, 2019. In addition, she’s part of a team planning a mural festival in Loveland as a companion to Sculpture in the Park August 10 – 11th.
For more information, check out these links.