Valerie J. Christell

SITE – Art in/for/by the community

By - Oct 1st, 2010 04:00 am


If you think of temporary public art, or any public sculpture for that matter, as something that has dropped in from another planet and has nothing to do with you or the space where it landed, then hold onto your viewpoint. IN:SITE’s newest temporary installation is in lock step with the community on Capitol Drive and 30th St. in a way, perhaps, like no other.

This particular area of Capitol is in the process of being developed into the future site of Century City.  The 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation and Business Improvement District #37, realizing the valuable role the arts can play in articulating the essence of a place and its community, contacted IN:SITE, a local non-profit that has been bringing together artists and environments in Milwaukee since 2005.  The group was asked to present site-specific art throughout the area while it’s being developed.

Sarah Luther’s yard signs will dot Capitol Drive

In true fashion of walking one’s talk, IN:SITE has involved community, politicians, and local and national businesses with the end game  to raise awareness of this neighborhood so busy minds won’t forget its roots.

Have you ever experienced that unsettling memory lapse after a building has been torn down when you peruse the gaping hole and can’t, for your life, recollect what stood there for the five, eight, or more years you spent blindly passing by it?  At that instant did you imagine it might be an indicator of how many experiences you’ve been missing in this fast-food life?

Well, the artists involved in the “On and Off Capitol” project know your pain and are offering a solution. They have decided to shout out to those of us in the 40,000 cars hurling back and forth down Capitol Drive each day to stop and smell the roses — or more appropriately, to slow down, take a look, and give our brains an opportunity to generate those valuable neural nets.

IN:SITE co-founders Pegi Christiansen and Amy Mangrich have brought together Milwaukee area artists who have fully engaged in collaboration with the community.  Those involved include Marly Gisser, Sarah Luther, Colin Matthes, Marla Sanvick and Paula Schulze.

The result: this weekend, the work on this project (which began in 2009) is bearing the fruit of its labors.

On Saturday, October 2, the installation will be complete and all of us can begin seeing particular part of Milwaukee with new insight before it’s permanently transformed in 2013, providing  an invaluable opportunity to contemplate how art can bring together and support people, raise awareness, and enable viewers to think differently about environments and people.

IN:SITE’s project demonstrates that artists can do more than create pretty pictures, politicians and police can do more than disappoint, businesses can care about people, the incarcerated can make a positive difference, and individuals can have a voice.  It almost sounds like Utopia, and it’s right here in River City!

I guarantee you’ll be encouraged to re-think the concepts of place and support when you observe Colin Matthes’ rowboat hanging high above the concrete version of a dry water bed — a reminder that Milwaukee truly does depend on its water.  And you’ll surely find out about the individuals who make up the community through Sara Luther’s hundreds of yard signs sprinkled throughout the neighborhood.  Born out of interviews with residents, they deliver “real” quotes and present images of inhabitants of all ages who invite us all to discover their unique part of town.

Don’t blink: a rowboat in the sky

But like the banana I bought yesterday, this temporary art won’t last long—up to six months (a blink of an eye in “art years”), so there’s no time to delay this experience — in fact, there’s no time like the present to take a look. If you don’t want to find yourself wondering what actually happened to the areas both on and off Capitol Drive between now and when Century City is completed, consider heading down to The Corridor with no further destination in mind other than the neighborhood itself.

Afterwards, you’ll never see this site the same way again. True to Milwaukee in terms of its ongoing development and temporary art, you can never step in the same river twice.

An opening reception takes place on Saturday, October 2, 2010 at Vanguard Sculpture Services (3374 W. Hopkins) from 2:00 – 4:30 p.m. and includes a tour with the artists.

Categories: Art

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