Amos Paul Kennedy sits in Coffee Makes You Black, 2803 N. Teutonia Ave., in Milwaukee’s North Division neighborhood. Kennedy, a printer who has a work of the same name (“Coffee Makes You Black”), is visiting the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) as part of the school’s Creativity Series. But this isn’t his first time in the city. Kennedy’s family moved to Milwaukee — technically, Bayside — in 1995, his sons both attended Nicolet and he earned an MFA (Master of Fine Arts) from UW-Madison in 1997. For Amos, it was the beginning of a still-blossoming career in printing and a different way of living. But, it was also the beginning of the end of Kennedy’s family, as it had been. “Our values changed. I no longer needed to buy a new car every three years for a degree of satisfaction or as a status symbol,” he says. “I kind of gave up the middle class life.”
Joe Guentner leans against what might as well be a white picket fence in front of his home on South 21st Street. The 64-year-old Guentner, who was the oldest of eight, spent the majority of his childhood in Racine, where his mother was from. “I lived on Lake Michigan … literally on the beach,” says Guentner of the place they lived in Racine. “We lived at that place for a number of years before we had to vacate and they tore it down.”
Calip Stephens sits on small pier in a hidden boat landing in Harbor View just off Lake Michigan on an early Friday morning. Stephens is up before the sunrise and, it seems, before the fish, as well; his two poles, two lines cast, heed no bites. Stephens was born in 1950 in East Chicago, Indiana, about 15 miles outside Gary. Back then, he says, the fishing was a little easier. “Oh, it was boomin’, the livin’ was nice,” he says.
Daniel Gabrielsen sits on a bench at the southwest end of Mitchell Park watching the children swing and play. The 65-year-old Gabrielsen, a veteran of the Vietnam War, grew up near 28th and National and says, when he was a child, you could almost always find him and his friends at the park near Layton and Pierce Streets. “We spent most of our time, here.”