Story by Bridget Bishop
In the deep melodic glow of St. Kate’s lobby bar, Tiffany Miller Blooms is channelling. A midnight Billie Holliday, her trademark oversized blossom commands the eye. Her interaction with the live band sparks a connection between the audiences ears and minds, as she evokes the synergy of Erykah Badu’s first live album. The articulate artistry of her commentaries on the beauty of uncertainty indicate none other than the spiritual presence of grand griot Gil Scott-Heron.
When streets were lined with the most Black owned businesses per capita—
It is the 16th day of December. Her brother is performing along with the spoken word artist. At least a few of those joining them onstage recognize the significance of the date to the siblings. Having held court earlier at Mitchell Street Arts, where Miller not only rocked another of a marathon of holiday markets, but also was the multimedia star of its Stitch and Solder exhibition, which runs through February 8th, she reigns again in the torch light.
At Mitchell Street, mastery of the multimedia genre is manifest in Miller’s piece ‘Wonderin/Angelin,’ from her Signs, Symbols, & Synchronicities collection. Taken in within the context of its companion audio Wondering About Y’all (Angelin’)-Live, it can telepathically transport the viewer/listener to a night like this at St. Kate’s. Like flowers in bloom, magical nights like these have not been a singular occurrence, as a series of Live at St. Kate’s evidences, available from Jamie Breiwick’s B-Side Recordings. Jordan Lee, of Radio Milwaukee 88.9FM, along with John Christensen on upright bass, join Brewick on trumpet to form the jazz collective Kase, which has been performing and recording live with Miller in recent years. On this evening, Miller’s younger brother Tyrone—the inimitable DJ Bizzon, joins Lee on the turntables and electronics.
The ancestral intersection of past and future—in her own words, “the Now and the To-be-Continued–for Miller blooms in every aspect of her creative ouevre. The bittersweetness of the joy of mourning is experienced in both pieces at Stitch and Solder, which aims to “embrace the complexities of the conversation” between handcraft and high art. ’Wonderin/Angelin,’ which along with the spoken-word audio features her printed poetry upon denim and African wax print, invokes archangels Marvin, Sydney, Marvin and Prince as well as Miller’s personal angel team. The female subjects of ‘The Love Legacy’ depict some of this royal lineage with the declaration “I am HER”:
I am HER
All the best parts
She carved these dimples
Baked me in the sun
Amplified my shade of beautiful
Dressed me in the brightest of clothes
On this night, it is the anniversary of Her transition. Four years prior Wanda Richards-Miller, aka Honey Mama, left this plane.
Lucky for us, there are recurring characters in the stories Miller shares. A visit to FlyBlo
ms.com takes me To Paris With Joy, which offers Parisian souvenirs as pieces of a poignant story. Vintage buttons combined with her trademark hand crafted hair blooms like madelines evoke the narrative of Wanda’s bucket-list trip to Paris, which Miller recreated in June of 2019.
The shared dream list included a visit to Josephine Baker’s castle and a hot air balloon ride along with the more pedestrian to-do’s—a walk along the Seine, breakfast at a sidewalk cafe. Miller chose to stay in the same room that her mother and aunt stayed in at the Hotel Aida in Le Marais. Known for its bohemian, romantic feel, Miller was inspired by the neighborhood and envisioned a life with a walking commute to an artist studio, along the way passing trendy cafes, yoga studios and natural pharmacies. Whether this life list is played out in her hometown, or if it evolves into another kind of itinerary after a return trip to Paris next year remains to be seen.
The healing that colors the artist’s vision and creation culminates in Live In Bloom LLC, a self-described creative healing arts company. Beyond life coaching, Miller offers a gamut of creative business consultation services, including publishing. Building on her own professional successes with product development, branding and strategic communications, as a consultant Miller “empowers the actualization of goals.” Previously Miller honed her skills as a Program Manager for WWBIC’s Black Business Boost, and had also spent over a decade as an educator.
The aforementioned ancestors also persist as dramatic personae, Miller describes the Paris trip was part romantic comedy, part angel ancestor play. Her imprint recently published her latest collection of “persistent poems”, To Be Seen. To be clear, the collection is credited as Transcribed by Tiffany Blooms, Written by The Universe & These Wild Ancestors of Mine.
The conversation travels to The Bronzeville Collective. At the heart of the rejuvenation of the commercial corridor of Milwaukee’s near-North Avenue, nestled next to America’s Black Holocaust Museum, the marketplace is a bright bouquet of over 30 budding creators, black, brown, queer and allies.
[For those who have fallen asleep, a reverse bedtime story, that will ever evoke the chanteuse Billy Holliday as one passes by the ABHM; hopefully, once jolted awake, a rainbow of white gardenias in the window of Bronzeville Collective will assuage and offer inspiration:
The connection of Milwaukee son Dr. James Cameron to the song Strange Fruit, while a story of the haunting spectre of lynching in our country, offers an underlying message that there is power in sharing your story, no matter how painful. The only known survivor of a lynching, Cameron went on to become a civil rights activist and to found the holocaust museum, after receiving inspiration on a visit to Israel (Obituary of James Cameron, WashingtonPost.com). A photograph of that 1930 lynching, which occurred in Marion, Indiana became the iconic image that inspired a Jewish poet to write Strange Fruit.]
It’s been said Billie Holliday would stand with eyes closed during the musical introduction to the song with eyes closed. As one listens to the build-up to one of Miller’s tracks with Kase, the image of a chanteuse silently connecting with her spirit guides as they let her know the key of the love language about to emanate.
Miller has described performing with the group as “magical,” and taking in the mighty landscape that surrounds her these days, the incantations have manifested something fierce. Or else—miracles from on high?
In 2023 alone, she became a fellow with Los Angeles-based Anaphora Poetry and in Washington DC spoke on a panel of ‘kitchen table’ entrepreneurs at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History. Locally she was honored with not only a Black Excellence Award but also the Milwaukee Business Journal’s Diversity in Business award for FlyBlooms.
Adding a second brick and mortar location to her portfolio, Miller will be opening Fruition MKE in early 2024 with Rachaad Howard of Cream City Print Lounge. A co-working and maker space on 27th and Wells Street, the project has been fostered by the Near West Side Partners and funded with assistance from Brew City Match. The LISC Milwaukee program awards start-up funds granted by JP Morgan; Miller is a returning recipient, having been in its first cohort in 2018. That year, she and fellow creator Lilo Allen also each won the Rise MKE Pitch Competition as well as back to back months of PopUp MKE, synchrony which directed their decision to join forces opening the Bronzeville Collective.
Allen’s Papyrus and Charms was similarly inspired by her relationship with an artistic parent. The connection to her father’s craftsmanship as a tailor and furniture maker is evident in her finely crafted jewelry pieces, which sometime incorporate seeds and wood native to his Jamaica. His line of hand made bags of beautifully stitched African materials is also sold in the shop.
Allen describes the supportive nature not only of the artists in the store but also of their local neighbors as “cooperative economics.” She may refer special occasion customers to 414loral; foot traffic from local restaurants PepperPot, HoneyBee, and Mi Casa Su Cafe fuels steady sales throughout the week.
The payoff of investment into the neighborhood and collaborations like these is indeed precious. Since Bronzeville Collective opened in 2018, the neighborhood has received an intense wave of attention and investment, especially in the arts. The Bronzeville Center for the Arts promises a “destination art museum”; hopefully its and ABHM’s visitors will exit through this gem of a gift shop, and recognize its significance as catalyst for this Black renaissance.
Decades of seeds are blooming
Through blank spaces and shuttered doors
Reclaiming what once was before eminent domain
Black and Blooming