THIS ISN’T JUST WHAT WE DO, IT’S WHO WE ARE
BlackPaint is a woman-owned creative advocacy agency that designs unconventional campaigns for causes and organizations we believe in.
It started like this. A couple of art activists met working at an ad agency where the combination of their skills and styles created some of the freshest, most meaningful work they’d ever done. Besides their creative chemistry, they’d had it with the ad world. They were tired of the lack of representation in creative leadership and the condoned culture of misogyny, and realized that if they wanted better for the industry and other people coming into it, it was on them to do something about it. So they quit and started BlackPaint Studios.
That was 2015. Today, BlackPaint’s team blends traditional advertising with grassroots art activism to design awareness campaigns that open eyes, touch hearts and inspire action. Sometimes that means billboards and buttons. Other times, it means projection bombing and pop-up art installations. Whether the project is self-directed or on behalf of an organization we believe in, everything we do is grounded in cultural intelligence and our belief that art has a way of reaching people in a way that no other form of communication can.
Along with producing standout creative work, we’re on a relentless mission to make our field safer and more equitable by: using art to make noise about it in public spaces; working to increase the number of women and BIPOC in leadership roles through our Creative Leaders Fellowship program; and by educating art and design students about their power as change makers.
Our dedication to that mission has earned BlackPaint a national reputation as advocates for industry reform and opportunities to spread our message of radical change from platforms like the TED stage, Creative Mornings and Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference.
We work best with organizations that stand for something and aren’t afraid to be loud about it, and limit the number of projects we take on to those we can put our whole heart and soul into. Learn more about BlackPaint’s services here.
BlackPaint is among just 0.1% of women-owned agencies in the United States. (Yes, that’s not even a full percent.) Owner and Creative Director, Katie Mullen, is an artist, writer and teacher. Before starting BlackPaint, she spent more than a decade working on both the agency and brand sides of advertising in Milwaukee and New York. As a longtime art activist, she leads BlackPaint’s mission to challenge the creative industry’s archaic power structure by organizing with other advocates, leading art actions and mentoring and developing young leaders. Katie is also the founder of FROM HERE TO HER, a collective of community artists best known for their 2011-2016 public art projects that explored social norms impacting women and girls. And she serves on the Board of Directors for one of Milwaukee’s oldest and most beloved community arts spaces, Walker’s Point Center for the Arts. Her Meyers Briggs personality type is INFJ. Exactly.
EYES-OPEN WINDOW PROJECT
Before we moved into our visible new location, we were on the fourth floor of a warehouse building. When we felt compelled to ask our community to think more deeply about a social issue that was close to our hearts, we’d hang hand-painted banners out of our windows. But there wasn’t much traffic in that area and not many people saw them. Now that we’ve got billboard-sized windows facing one of the busiest streets in Milwaukee, we’re taking that concept to a new level (and making our dreams come true) with rotating advocacy installations. See the latest installation HERE.
THE GODDESS OF FIERCE PROTECTION
In 2016, Planned Parenthood of Wisconsin commissioned us to paint a mural on their headquarters building to celebrate the organization’s 80th anniversary. The image we created for it, known as The Goddess of Fierce Protection, was shunned by a male-dominated review board. The mural never went up. The story of the Goddess’ rejection and resurrection was made into a documentary short and is now showing at select film festivals. See the trailer HERE.
INFORMED ADVOCACY RESOURCE GUIDE
Because we make a lot of noise about the sexism and racism that pervade the ad industry, we get asked what people can do to help fix it. The answer is: Lots of stuff. But also: There are no quick fixes. Our mentors and heroes taught us how important it is to come at these issues from an informed place. That means taking a step back and doing some serious self education and self reflection. To honor their wisdom and to help each of us better understand the depth of the problem and find our place in change-making efforts, we partnered with other industry advocates to create this Resource Guide.
Launched in 2015, Unspoken Truths is a multimedia campaign aimed at challenging the creative industry’s old school power structure and inspiring a more a new, more representative generation of leaders. One of the most notorious parts of the project is our TRUTH speaking series, a radical talk we give to both students and professionals addressing power disparities, racism, sexual harassment and how we can change the culture. We also conspire with other creatives to make noise about these issues in public spaces using design, humor, music and other artistic expressions.