Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Sculpture Milwaukee Opens to Public

City now has a world-class sculpture exhibition on its main street.

By - Jun 1st, 2017 09:59 am
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The Sculpture Milwaukee ribbon is cut as Jenny Thiel performs. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

The Sculpture Milwaukee ribbon is cut as Jenny Thiel performs. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Sculpture Milwaukee is open to the public. The curated collection of 22 monumental sculptures adorns Wisconsin Ave. from O’Donnell Park on the east to N. 6th St. on the west. A non-traditional ribbon cutting ceremony that was itself artistic was held Wednesday afternoon to mark the project’s opening.

The idea for the massive exhibit came from Marcus Corp. chairman Stephen Marcus. Marcus, who celebrated his 82nd birthday on Wednesday, declared “this is the largest exhibit of museum quality monumental sculpture in the world.”

The downtown businessman has been pushing the idea for years. During his remarks at the ribbon cutting Mayor Tom Barrett praised Marcus’ vision and tenacity in pursuing this project. Praising the work of Marcus, Milwaukee Downtown and two of his commissioners, Barrett said “I am fortunate to be part of this parade, but I know who is doing the work.”

Event emcee Beth Weirick, executive director of Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21, praised Marcus saying “our city and our region are better places for his vision.”

But speeches weren’t the memorable part of the ribbon cutting. Instead a litany of performances defined the event held in the plaza in front of the Chase Tower.

Opening the ceremony was a series of dance routines by dancers from Fred Astaire Dance Studios. The ribbon cutting itself occurred during a song performed by jazz vocalist Jenny Thiel. Then middle school choir members from the Milwaukee Public Schools Lincoln Center of the Arts marched across the Wisconsin Ave. bridge — a move  that dramatized how the exhibit is helping tie the city together, as Weirick put it. The choir performed six songs, opening by singing Happy Birthday to Marcus.

The ceremony was closed by artist Lex Allen who received backing from members of New Age Narcissism. Allen, always a flamboyant dresser, said “I feel like an art piece” and thanked Marcus’ daughter-in-law Linda Marcus for his getup. The singer then launched into his new song promoting Milwaukee, a modified version of 2015’s “This Is Our Year” that features the catchy chorus “this is our year, this is our year hey. And no one can take that away.”

Seeing the Art

Google Maps estimates it will take you 21 minutes to walk the approximately one mile stretch, but I suggest budgeting a full hour to stop and enjoy each art work.

A modified route for the Milwaukee Trolley Loop will also take riders past many of the sculptures starting tomorrow. The trolley costs $1 to ride and runs Thursday through Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m. The service ends on August 27th.

The artwork will be on display until October 22nd.

Should you find yourself desiring to take an art work home with you, you can — for a considerable price. The sculptures on loan from galleries and artists around the world are all for sale. A portion of the proceeds from any sales will go to support future installments of the program.

Project Support

The project has been curated by former Milwaukee Art Museum director Russell Bowman.

Beth Weirick praised the many firms and individuals that made the project possible, ticking off a long list that included accounting firm Baker Tilly, Bud and Sue Selig, Donald Baumgartner and Donna Baumgartner, Barry and Eileen Mandel, real estate firm Irgens Development Parnters, law firm Foley & Lardner, Froedert and the Medical College of Wisconsin, the Herzfeld Foundation, Herb Kohl Philanthropies, the Mellowes family and their company Charter Wire, National Association of Theatre Owners of Wisconsin, Northwestern Mutual Foundation, Pepsi, Wisconsin Department of Tourism, Greater Milwaukee Foundation, Sysco, Wisconsin Center District and Tri-North Builders. Weirick’s organization also provided considerable staff time to make the project possible.

Off-the-record a number of people involved in the project detailed the challenges in organizing the project for the first time. Challenges ranged from ensuring the sculptures, some of which weigh upwards of 10,000 pounds, weren’t placed on sidewalks that are hollow underneath, and further ensuring their safety by coordinating a number of different security methods with nearby property owners. And consideration had to be given to signs in the background as well as approval from adjacent building owners.

It’s an impressive effort that really does liven up E. Wisconsin Ave.

One Yet to Come

Astute observers will note that one sculpture is currently missing from the outdoor exhibition. The “Pink Lady (for Asha)” sculpture by Lynda Benglis should arrive in two weeks according to Weirick. The sculpture, a pink fountain, is awaiting a custom made basin to rest upon at 312 E. Wisconsin Ave.

Ceremony Photos

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Sculpture Milwaukee Opens to Public”

  1. I am enjoying this art in public spaces!

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