Milwaukee’s Philosopher Magician

By - Oct 1st, 2003 02:52 pm
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By John Hughes

Meet ‘Professor Oops’

On the Sunday afternoon of the Harley-Davidson centenary, with motorcycles thundering all over town, I found a quiet spot in the side yard of Sky Schultz, known to audiences as Professor Oops. At his Riverwest home tucked into an out-of-the-way cranny, the yard is a thing of wonder — enchanted by the presence of well over 100 potted plants, a dozen birdhouses, a small statue and a tree swing. With trees draping their green canopy over us, and Sky speaking in a hushed, thoughtful tone, peace and quiet made their shy return.

Sky Schultz, 62, has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology. He says of his training, “They never told us we’re all insane. They never taught us to sit down and watch how our own minds work. Mark Twain said, ‘When you realize we’re all mad, then everything stands explained.’ This was not acknowledged in school.”

He continues to speak in a voice guided by humor and kindness. His presence is an oasis to me of civility and sweetness. He peppers his conversation with quotes from Goethe, Nietzsche, Emily Dickinson and John Ruskin. I ask him about the genesis of his performance art alter ego, Professor Oops.

“In 1986 I said to my self, ‘Self, you have made more mistakes than any other living organism.'” He laughs at himself. “And I thought that I ought to make something useful out of those mistakes. A mistake is an experience from which you can learn, and a failure is a success you don’t like very much. So I brought Professor Oops into being. George Bernard Shaw said, and this is my motto, ‘Try to find the most important thing to say, and then say it with the utmost levity.’ That’s what Professor Oops is all about.”

According to Schultz, Oops “teaches creativity, science and ecology, in schools and nursing homes and other places. My audience age range is kindergarten through death.”

AN Explorer of the Mind.

He continues. “I am an explorer who stayed at home. I stayed here to discover amazing things about us. I study the mind, and it puts me in a constant state of awe. So I try to translate that into magic in my Professor Oops shows. The magic shows us that we’re always being fooled; that’s what I love about all magic.

“I try to be the world’s greatest appreciator in my personal life, and I try to bring that awareness into my shows. But, of course, like everyone, I am an unfinished animal.” He smiles.

Sky has a loving relationship with Lily, a child approaching her sixth birthday. Lily is “a wonderful radiant being.” She was born in the US of Mexican descent, and is, according to Sky, “the adopted daughter of my ex. Barbara adopted Lily, and Lily adopted me. Lily adopted me.” He spends time with Lily nearly every day. Just that week he had driven her to the Circus World Museum in Baraboo and to a gathering of magicians in Appleton.

He has been a human rights activist focused on Iraq “since before the first Iraq War, all during the sanctions, and up until now. I attend protest rallies, engage in guerilla theater, create posters, and so on.” I have known Sky since before Iraq became part of Milwaukee’s daily conversation, and remember him railing against the sanctions and meeting with others to plan advocacy against them, long ago.

He quotes the poet Rumi, who said, “Everyone who is calm and sensible is insane.” I mention to Sky that he quotes people a lot.

“Yes, I have a philosophy factory. I collect quotes by humorists and philosophers. I love the higher wisdom of Bach, Einstein, Rumi, Jesus — even though he’s been so corrupted — Twain, and so on. My friends know they can call me for a quote, even at three in the morning, if they’re having a philosophical emergency.”

Sky has a dream for the future: the establishment of a museum/learning center/workshop, where anyone could come for classes and where people could share their passions. “It’s not exactly a school,” he says, “but a learning place.”

You may meet this unique soul. He and some of his friends are putting on an Odd Ducks Art Fair on Sunday, October 12 from noon until 6, at his home at 3343 N. Gordon Place. Take Humboldt north past Locust about one mile, and turn east, right, on Concordia, to Gordon.

“My friends and I like to produce odd and beautiful things. I specialize in mirrors and jewelry and photos. Everyone is invited.”

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