ReciproCity is a mobile cultural center that focuses on community activism, social justice, and urban agricultural issues in Milwaukee and beyond. It is collectively run by Mike Carriere (author, history professor, Milwaukee School of Engineering), Fidel Verdin (artist and educator, hip-hop artist, co-founder of Summer of Peace, and the developer of Peace Park, a community garden located at 5th Street and Locust Street), Nicolas Lampert (Peck School of the Arts, Dept. of Art and Design, University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Climate Prints, and the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative), and Paul Kjelland (artist, 371 Productions community engagement, Riverwest 24, Climate Prints, and Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative).
ReciproCity was first launched in early 2012 as an experimental cultural space located inside the Sweet Water urban aquaponic farm in Milwaukee as a means of fostering collaboration between urban farmers, artists, activists, and the greater community. After Sweet Water closed in June of 2013, ReciproCity went mobile and now works on various projects and partnerships with community groups and organizations, in Milwaukee. Central to ReciproCity is collaboration and community engagement. The process of ReciproCity to date has been to work on local issues in Milwaukee (food justice issues, sustainable agriculture, foreclosures, police brutality, and segregation issues.) We team up with community activists and community groups that we admire and work as artists, historians, and engineers on specific projects where art, creative resistance and problem solving will aid a community movement already in process.
In 2015 – after three years of meetings with the community and city officials – ReciproCity helped turn three vacant lots into a new community park on N. Martin Luther King Dr. in the Harambee neighborhood of Milwaukee. This park- now named Peace Place – and on the corner of N. MLK Dr and Ring St. – is in direct collaboration with the HeartLove Place that is a bedrock institution for the neighborhood providing family resources, a child development center, and a culinary training program, among other services. Phase one of the park included landscaping by Blue Skies Landscaping (Walnut Way Conservation Corp), the planting of twenty fruit trees, and two large-scale murals painted by Lampert and Kjelland that honors the history of the Commandos (the NAACP Youth Council) who during the Civil Rights Movement in Milwaukee helped lead two hundred consecutive nights of marching for local and national fair housing legislation. Plans for phase two of Peace Place in 2016 envisions installing garden beds, benches, bike racks, and a community stage. Future wish list includes creating mobile class rooms, farm stands, solar panel charging stations, and more.