Our Black Women Firsts series has been highlighting black women in Wisconsin who are the first to hold their titles in their industries. We close our series with Rosy Petri, the first black woman to be the artist in residence at the Pfister Hotel. Petri says she didn't know beforehand that she would be the first woman of color to fill the position.
The year-long residency is an opportunity for an artist to be at the forefront of Milwaukee in an artist studio/gallery on the first floor of the hotel. The program began in 2009, and Petri is the 11th recipient. She says the program started thanks to Reggie Baylor, another black artist who was the Pfister's first artist in residence.
"Having his work there for me to see and to know that he had done it, maybe that was something really helpful to me. But also, I had a lot of support from the artistic community here. So I think it was a little less daunting than it maybe could have been," she says.
But, Petri says she feels like she had a responsibility in this role.
"I had to make sure I did a good job, I had to mind my P's and Q's. But I also wanted to take the opportunity that was in front of me to do what I thought was important work," Petri says.
In her role, Petri works on-site, at least four days a week, on projects from design to finish. She even gives tours of the hotel’s Victorian art collection.
Petri describes her artwork as a style of quilting, called raw edge appliqué, and her art focuses primarily on textile portraiture. Her inspiration comes from having grandmothers who quilted, being creative, and just making things work.
The legacy she hopes to leave behind?
"I know for sure that my legacy after I leave this position means that the Pfister's art collection will have increased by three black women in that hallway that live there as long as they can," she says.
Petri's sure that her presence there will also stick with kids that have come through the hotel and seen her there.
"To see somebody that looks like them, or like their cousin, or like their friend ... to be able to be in a position like that, meant a lot to them. I saw it. I remember that feeling myself," Petri says.