With a mission of cultivating community and activating imaginations through creativity, Artists Working in Education, Inc. sponsors professional artists to nurture the imaginations of Milwaukee youth by bringing creative visual arts experiences directly to schools, community centers and informal settings such as parks, playgrounds, libraries, and community events. Creating pop-up studios in the community, AWE’s arts enrichment programs activate underutilized public spaces in traditionally underserved neighborhoods, promoting safety while simultaneously attracting youth to pursue an artistic passion. AWE is well known in the community for their Truck Studio program. In this program, a team of lead artists, college level intern artists, and high school interns take four vibrantly decorated vans to parks, libraries, and other public spaces and engage youth by offering hands-on art experiences. AWE also features the Artist-In-Residence (AIR) program, which provides youth with opportunities to engage in decision-making processes about land use, public space, and neighborhood revitalization through the design and creation of public art within their neighborhoods.
AWE Executive Director LaShawndra Vernon also serves as the arts consultant for the Milwaukee Bronzeville Histories project. With a BS in Criminal Justice and Human Services from Springfield College and an MA in Public Service and Dispute Resolution from Marquette University, she has a decorated history in the arts, business, and cultural environments of the city. Vernon is a mediator with practical experience translating United Nations treaties and sustainability goals to local policy. As a collective impact practitioner, she credits her community building work to studying asset-based community development early in her career. She has an extensive background in public health research, and community engagement. Vernon is a 2001 Public Allies Milwaukee Alum. She is also a performing artist, practicing under the name Firey Phoenix. Vernon is appointed to the Cultural Artistic & Musical Programming Advisory Council (CAMPAC) of Milwaukee County and serves on the Bronzeville Advisory Committee (BAC) of the city of Milwaukee.