Each year, our arts educators lead students in creating an ofrenda to honor someone who has had an impact in the arts and art education. This year, Arts Education Coordinator MaiKue Vang and the students are honoring Milwaukee artist and philanthropist Mary Nohl.
Eddee Daniel – two d’s, double e’s, a common first name for a last name; it seems like there’s a lot of duality in his life, past and present. He’s a photographer and writer. He has two blogs — Urban Wilderness, where he writes and shares photographs about the Menomonee Valley and the Menomonee River watershed, and Arts Without Borders, a blog he started to share his experiences from art and cultural excursions. But actually, when you go through his extensive work in photography, publication, writing, education, activism and anything else, you might run out of fingers trying to keep track of the vast roles and identities of Eddee Daniel. You might run out of toes, too.
Eddee was an art educator for over three decades, and taught at Marquette High School and various local colleges. He received a master’s degree in art education from UWM. As an art educator, he was capable and knowledgeable in various art mediums and disciplines, and not until later in his life that he took up photography as his art expression. He has published many books, including his first, Urban Wilderness: Exploring a Metropolitan Watershed, a collection of his photographs and essays about the scenery, transformation and the urban/natural dichotomy and harmony along the Menomonee River watershed.
Eddee was named the Artist in Residence of the Menomonee Valley Partners (MV AiR) earlier this year.
His studio is housed at Zimmerman Architectural Studios, in the City Lights complex at 25th and St. Paul. In this year-long residency, he’s been documenting the Valley and its people, places, landscape, development, events, businesses and communities. His winter photographs of the Valley shows a lot of snowy, “starch” landscape with old industrial structures in the background. He also photographs people and writes brief profiles of them.
Eddee’s gotten to meet a lot of people who works in the Valley. He met a couple at a community meeting who owns a collection agency and invited him to visit their office and do a story about them. So he did. He’s taken photographs of much of the landscape. You could perhaps experience the changing of the seasons (winter, spring and summer, so far) and various weather conditions in the Valley through his photographs. There has also been a lot of development and growth, and he’s there to document them.
One of Eddee’s favorite newer developments in the Valley is the Three Bridges Park, which officially opened in July of last year. The park, once a rail yard and brownfield, cuddles the south bank of the Menomonee River and covers 24 acres. He pointed out that the vegetation in the park is still young and eventually will develop into what’s intended. He enjoys being able to see and capture images of the park in different seasons. But his documentation and observation of the Menomonee River watershed and the Valley started long before the artist residency.
Eddee will be opening up his studio and unveiling a new series of work during Gallery Night, Friday, July 25.
“Sunrise in 3 Bridges Park” by Eddee Daniel
Menomonee Valley Connection
Eddee’s book, Urban Wilderness: Exploring a Metropolitan Watershed (2008), is a collection of his essays and photographs of the Menomonee River watershed that he compiled throughout six years. He became involved with the watershed when he joined an organization called the Friends of the Menomonee River, now the Milwaukee Riverkeepers. The big issue at the time was saving the Country Grounds, which runs alongside the watershed. Tom Ament, then county executive, wanted to sell the land to be developed into condos and big-box stores. The community came together and eventually blocked the sale. Eddee helped by photographing and writing about what was going on. (Read Eddee’s article on the County Grounds).
“It motivated me to use my artwork to tell these stories,” he said. For him, this journey from the County Grounds, which the watershed is a part of, to now being in the Valley is somewhat dialectic and dualistic — like Urban Wilderness, an yin-yang. “The Menomonee River watershed extends up to Germantown, Menomonee Falls, where there’s still farm and large parks. You see this transformation – this physical feature of the landscape connected along the river that goes from the agricultural and natural features down to the most heavily industrialized part of the city. It’s a great metaphor.” Eddee explained how the once tarnished river valley is now slowly transforming and adopting the natural habitat which it once was.
Advice to Artists Who Wants to Become Professionals
Do your work — Just keep on doing your art.
Network — Go out and make connections, with other artists and galleries.
Put your art out there — Submit to galleries and enter contests. Write, and connect with media and publications.
Learn the business — With the Internet, there are more resources on how to conduct yourself as a professional artist now more than ever.
You can see some of Eddee’s work and connect to his blogs at this website: www.eddeedaniel.com