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New “Milkscapes” Public Art Project Invites Conversation Around Invisible Labor, Reproductive Healthcare, And Choice

August 11, 2022

Photos by Steve Weinik

So thrilled to announce Milkscapes this week, a new public art project from artist Aimee Gilmore created in collaboration with Maternity Care Coalition, Mural Arts Philadelphia, and Streets Dept Walls!

A series of flags that line the exterior of Maternity Care Coalition’s Early Head Start building at 20th and Mifflin Streets in South Philadelphia, Milkscapes is part of an ongoing series that Aimee started in 2016 after the birth of her first child. Made by pouring a small amount of her breast milk onto a sheet of glass (the first instance of this stemming from an accidental spill after laborious pumping), these Milkscapes are created when the milk dries in abstract shapes, highlighting an otherwise invisible labor.

Not so incidentally, we decided to install this project in August, which is National Breastfeeding Month. And the flags will stay up for a least one year through August 2023.

These flags provide an opportunity to reflect on the power of the human body from a unique perspective, scale, and presentation. This is the first time Aimee’s Milkscapes are being presented as flags in this public installation, providing a timely and urgent starting point for conversations adjacent to mothering including the necessity of the care economy, the right of choice, paid family leave, and parent-student rights.

“As an artist, my work is a constant meditation on love, memory, and transitions of time,” Aimee wrote in a blog post for Mural Arts’ website. “Channeled through the lens of motherhood, my primary artistic concerns are with the personal and collective stories that shape our everyday lives and often go overlooked. Working across mediums, my practice questions how the images, issues, and objects closely associated with motherhood inform the social-political structure of the care economy.” I encourage you to read that full blog post here.

This project ultimately became the public art project you see now after a fateful artist visit I made to Aimee’s studio about nine months ago. We talked about her work, her goals, and while we went through a lot of her incredible artistic portfolio together, we both kept coming back to the idea of bringing her Milkscapes to the streets of Philadelphia. Then I pitched the idea to Mural Arts to work with us as a funder, and Aimee reached out to Maternity Care Coalition to gauge their interest in collaborating with us as well. Both organizations enthusiastically said yes, and after many months of Zoom calls and location meetings, what we all originally thought would be a mural project transformed into this dynamic flag Milkscapes installation.

We dedicated the project this week, with Gabriella Nelson from Maternity Care Coalition, who consulted with Aimee and I throughout the project, along with Maternity Care Coalition’s CEO, Marianne Fray and Mural Arts’ Executive Director, Jane Golden.

About our partners: Since 1980, Maternity Care Coalition has partnered with more than 145,000 families throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania, focusing particularly on neighborhoods with high rates of poverty, infant mortality, health disparities, and changing immigration patterns. The mission of Maternity Care Coalition is to improve the health and well-being of pregnant women and parenting families, and enhance school readiness for children 0-3. And for over 35 years, Mural Arts has united artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives.

These flags are provocative. They are meant to grab your attention and inspire conversation. And we invite you to join that conversation on August 31st (12:30 PM EST) at our Milkscapes Zoom town hall titled, The Great American Let Down Town Hall for which you can register here!

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