New coalition tackles inequality with creativity

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A new coalition is leveraging creativity and collaboration to work to overcome the segregation, racial inequality and economic disparity plaguing Milwaukee.

With fundamental support from the American Institute of Graphic Arts Wisconsin board and Ken Hanson, chief executive officer of Milwaukee-based Hanson Dodge Creative, the Greater Together Coalition introduced itself to the community at a July 15 kickoff event and unveiled the Greater Together Challenge.

The coalition, comprised of area designers, advocacy organizations, businesses, artists and others, is grounded in a mission to push Milwaukee past its rut of racial and income inequality. The initiative cites research conducted by Marc Levine, a professor at University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s Center for Economic Development who specializes in urban issues affecting Milwaukee.

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The coalition’s Greater Together Challenge encourages individuals and groups to think creatively about solutions for segregation and inequality specific to Milwaukee.

“The Greater Together Challenge is a competition to create awareness, hope and ideas to dismantle segregation and to promote racial and economic equality,” Hanson, chair of Greater Together, said during the kickoff.

Challenge organizers are accepting submissions for solutions, such as ideas for documentaries, now through Sept. 7 and aim to generate at least 100 proposals.

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Following the submission deadline, a panel of coalition representatives will select 10 finalists, who will work with design teams to flesh out presentations on their concepts. They will then pitch their creative ideas to the panel at an Oct. 7 event and one winner, to be announced on Oct. 8, will be awarded a $5,000 grant in support of implementation efforts.

Leading up to the final stages of the competition, the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion will host small-group dialogues across the region to discuss segregation and ways to counter it through design.

Those dialogues will be open to the public and will not require attendees to submit proposals to the competition.

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In response to the Community Dialogues, the Zeidler Center for Public Discussion will produce a report encapsulating ideas shared and feedback expressed by participants.

As the coalition builds buzz for its challenge, it is looking for additional support from Milwaukee’s business and faith communities, as well as brainstorming ways to include suburban communities.

“We can’t really think of this as an inner city problem,” Hanson said. “We have to think of this as a greater Milwaukee problem.”

From Hanson’s experience, the perception that people deeply understand Milwaukee’s racial and economic disparity is “overstated.”

“I think that there’s a tremendous portion of this city that is in a bubble and is not really confronting this and is able to go to work and go home and have no thoughts of this,” he said.

For more information on the Greater Together movement, visit

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