IN

SITE Artists in the Community

By - Jun 24th, 2011 08:47 am
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Dominican Center

Public Art Installation at the Dominican Center

Over the past couple of years, there have been a number of public art crises in Milwaukee. This has included the city removing a TRUE Skool mural, the arts community coming forward to save the Janet Zweig project for Wisconsin Avenue, and County Executive Chris Abele recently pulling the funding for a Milwaukee County Public Art Committee percent for art sculpture.

This weekend, IN:SITE’s 2011 IN:SITE “ART ON and OFF CAPITOL” will open:
Saturday, June 25th
Vanguard Sculpture Services, 3374 W. Hopkins Street
4:00-5:30 Tours with the artists
5:30-7:00 Reception featuring exhibit with artists’ sketches and models

This opening will mark the fifth anniversary of IN:SITE installing temporary public art in Milwaukee County. Dozens of local artists have been involved, and support for IN:SITE (money and otherwise) has steadily increased. For the first project in 2006, near 35th and North, the artists received stipends of $100. Thanks to the 30th Street Industrial Corridor Corporation (The Corridor), this year the nine lead artists are receiving stipends greater than $1000 and IN:SITE additionally pays for their cost of materials.

Christopher Willey describes his “People Trees” billboards at Capitol Drive just east of the railroad tracks at 33rd Street: For this piece I worked with fifteen different individuals from the community. I scanned and photographed each hand as well as had each person complete the sentence, “These are the hands that…” I used software to translate the wrinkles of their hands into something that resembles branches of a tree. The tree is a symbol of growth and strength and this is a group of trees that form and shaper their community.

Common Council President Willie Hines says of this year’s project, “Our city definitely benefits from artists working with the community to make a positive impact on our neighborhoods.” From other aldermen to the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation to the Department of Public Works, the city has helped with funding, hosting sites, and other assistance this year. Safe & Sound, plus a number of neighborhood organizations have provided services.

Christopher Willey describes his “People Trees” billboards at Capitol Drive just east of the railroad tracks at 33rd Street: For this piece I worked with fifteen different individuals from the community. I scanned and photographed each hand as well as had each person complete the sentence, “These are the hands that…” I used software to translate the wrinkles of their hands into something that resembles branches of a tree. The tree is a symbol of growth and strength and this is a group of trees that form and shaper their community.

Why is this happening? I believe there are three reasons.

Working with the community

Working with the community

The first is that IN:SITE uses a “no surprises” rule. IN:SITE makes sure everyone knows about the art. IN:SITE contacts graffiti abatement, traffic engineering, alderpersons, police, property owners, nearby community organizations, and distributes newsletters door-to-door in the neighborhoods.

In addition, IN:SITE spends a lot of time in the community before, during, and after a project is installed. For the 2011 project, IN:SITE has been attending monthly meetings for The Corridor Safety and Security Committee, Hadley Residents Council, the Coalition for Hope, the Century City Tri-Angle Neighborhood Association, and at the Dominican Center for Women.

IN:SITE believes place-responsive public art that is also time-responsive needs to be rooted in more than a cursory understanding of a neighborhood. Getting this sort of grounding also leads to opportunities as IN:SITE becomes aware of resources and needs.

Finally, temporary public art is less threatening than permanent public art. With permanent public art, people have a legitimate reason to get agitated if they don’t like it. It will be there for a long time. With temporary public art, the installations can have content and generate discussion, both positive and negative, and the artists will remove the art (generally within six months). This allows for an exchange of ideas where people don’t feel they have a huge amount to lose. In this exchange, everybody can learn.

To find out more about IN:SITE’s 2011 project, go to http://insitemilwaukee.org/current

Guest Post by Pegi Christiansen:

Pegi Christiansen is a freelance organizer, writer, educator, and performance artist. She is the chair and site manager for IN:SITE, fostering temporary public art.  She is a consultant for public art policy.

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