When he was a youth, Reginald Baylor earned the distinction of being ‘the artist in the family,’ and lent his talents to help promote the family’s produce business by painting signage and other items related to the business.
Growing up in Milwaukee on 41st and Hampton, Reginald attended Lutheran parochial schools, where teachers encouraged him in his artwork. He also credits his parents for recognizing and supporting his talent and passion.
When Reginald was in seventh grade, his family moved to Mequon, where he attended public schools and graduated from Homestead High School. After graduation he attended UW-Oshkosh, majoring in fine arts, with an emphasis on sculpture. As a backup plan to ensure he would not become a starving artist, Reginald switched his major to art education with the intent of becoming an art teacher. Three credits shy of earning a degree, he left college in 1988. He remained in Oshkosh for a few years before moving to California. There he met his wife, Jill, and worked at the Laguna Beach Art Museum and Newport Art Museum, helping to install exhibits. The experience was critical to his own artistry, and he moved from sculpture to painting in acrylics.
In 1995, he connected with Suzanne Zada, a Beverly Hills, California art dealer, who continues to represent him today. In 1995, Reginald moved his family to Chicago, where he was employed as an owner-operator for Mason Dixon Trucking.
“It was my own truck and obviously was a secure job so I could provide for my family. Since I was my own businessman, I could continue working part-time on my art. By the time I quit driving the truck, I had about 20 paintings in my inventory. With Suzanne selling my paintings back in California, I started believing that my art could sustain my family, but since the cost of living was so high in California, I returned to Milwaukee,” he said.
After relocating to Milwaukee in 1998, Reginald began his full time career creating and exhibiting his artwork from his studio in Milwaukee’s Third Ward. In 2009 he even served as artist-in-residence at the Pfister Hotel. The residency afforded Reginald an opportunity to learn more about the business aspects of being an artist, such as marketing and planning.
“My mom, Helen Baylor, was always one of my biggest fans. She was also part of the African American Art Alliance (AAAA). She introduced me to Sande Robinson, an avid art collector, member of the board of trustees of the Milwaukee Art Museum (MAM) and president of the AAAA. Sande, in turn, introduced me to Curtis L. Carter, professor of aesthetics at Marquette and chief curator of the Haggerty Museum of Art. That was my biggest break into the Milwaukee art community,” he said.
Today, Reginald Baylor Studio is located in Walker’s Point. The studio’s tagline is ”Manufacturing Creativity,” which concisely describes the business’ mission.
“We’re a design firm that provides creative services to any individual, group or business, whether it’s a product, experience or marketing concept. If clients need help finding ways to be more creative, that’s what we do,” he said.
Reginald hasn’t forgotten his stint as a student art teacher, so he is committed to giving several presentations a year to students about art and art history—mostly at the elementary school level.
“The studio has always had some arm in education. The studio is a big fan of True School and Artworks, which is a mentor organization for me. We are also in the process of establishing some programs specifically offering services to underrepresented populations in Milwaukee; it’s an unrepresented movement,” he said.
One of the challenges Reginald sees is helping people understand the value of creativity. The studio focuses on commissioned work, 2D prints, but also sells smaller accessible works like t-shirts, shower curtains, and jewelry.
“Creativity economically isn’t measured properly; it isn’t valued properly. Many think art is about possessing million dollar paintings. I’m more on the accessible side of the art world than the extravagant, high-end side. I want people to value, understand and appreciate creativity,” he said.
Reginald said that all he wants people to remember about him is that he tried to provide opportunities.
“That’s all—I provided opportunities,” he said.