Marquita F. Edwards was presented an award of recognition along with red roses on Friday, Feb. 14. The award was signed by the Milwaukee County Supervisors for her work over the last 12 years in the areas of Arts, Culture and Wellness in the Harambee Community on King Drive. Often referred to as Lady Renaissance of King Drive Arts and Culture, Ms. Edwards introduced her program and business called “The Art of Health”, when she co-founded the King Drive Commons Gallery and Studio with the assistance of the Late Executive Director of Martin Luther King Development Inc., Mr. Welford Sanders.
With the support of the Martin Luther King board members, Ms. Edwards set about her work to build and establish the gallery and studio. During the first eight years, there was not a lot of money available and she volunteered many, many hours to make this work. Being determined to make it happen, even sometimes with no pay, she sustained the gallery. At a point even when there was no money available, she continued with the assistance of Marcellius Brown, a longtime resident and board member, who helped solicit donations while the late Ms. Mary Davis, a well-known keyboardist, volunteered her musical talents at gallery events. Ms. Edwards then wrote a proposal to the Bader Philanthropies and was awarded a three-year grant to run her program, “The Art of Health”. Her motivation often came from the many people who pleaded for her to not stop her work in the gallery. They felt the gallery was the only place left in the community that reflected their culture and uplifted their spirits.
Twelve years ago, while visiting Dr. Martin Luther King Drive, Ms. Edwards envisioned the community having access to various opportunities, where people could appreciate and exhibit artistic expression and the fitness/wellness areas. She has promoted wellness practices through offering yoga classes and health related seminars. Ms. Edwards uses her educational background and experience as a university instructor to develop educational programming for youth and adults. She curates exhibits to promote artists and creates an inviting atmosphere for those from and visiting Milwaukee.
When people visited the gallery from New Berlin, Whitefish Bay and the Racine areas she was delighted. As well as when she and another artist were invited to North Carolina University to bring a quilt show she curated.
Having worked with many artists locally and nationwide, another one of Ms. Edwards important accomplishments, two years ago, was helping to find a sculptor to erect a bronze statue of Mr. Welford Sanders. She spent four months searching and interviewing various artists throughout Milwaukee and the nation before finding and recommending Ms. Vinnie Bagwell to the board. She was accepted. Ms. Edwards said there was something about Ms. Bagwell that had impressed her and was delighted at hearing that just recently; Ms. Bagwell won a million-dollar commission to erect a statue in NY City’s Grand Central Park. Ms. Edwards feels someone of this status and national reputation to erect a statue of Welford Sanders in the community is special and beyond her wildest dreams.
Ms. Edwards gives appreciation to the Martin Luther King Board and to the several volunteers who have been with her over the years. Just like clockwork, these professional women and men leave work and come to the gallery and volunteer their time and services. Volunteers including Dr. Cecil Austin, Monique Jones, Alfonso Watkins, Kathy Harmon, Theresa Miles, Cassandra Lanier, Helen King and Yvette Towers, have played an integral role in supporting the gallery in a variety of ways. This is what she views as community engagement and people sacrificing their time for the good of the community.