IN:SITE – Transforming the Capitol Drive CorridorJune 25th, 2011 |
“It’s all about being there.”
– Woody Allen
Abandoned Buildings. Dumping. Flooding. How does a community combat the issues that negatively impact its viability?
Through art, of course.
Cultivating positive change is IN:SITE’s 2011 project along the Corridor on Capitol Drive between 27th and 35th Streets. Linking temporary public art with the needs of community is nothing new to this organization, which has been successfully engaging in this form of outreach since 2006.
Art On and Off Capitol takes the essence of last year’s project and propels it forward by tackling current environmental issues. For Chair and Site Manager Pegi Christiansen and her project planners, Amy Mangrich and Sarah Luther, the key has been participation in discussions with community members throughout the project planning and art creation.
This year Christiansen seized that aforementioned Woody Allen’s quote as her mantra. To her, this means talking with individuals and attending meetings to learn about the neighborhood’s needs, placing artists from the community and beyond in conversation with residents about their concerns, and discovering creative solutions together.
In testament to the value of this course of action, one of the projects (“Double Arrows”) was serendipitously born out of Christiansen’s attendance at a Coalition for Hope Block Watch meeting, and continued with the artist’s attendance as he shared his working concepts with neighborhood members.
The nine lead artists immersed in this project are from Milwaukee and beyond. Ted Brusubardis, Colin Dickson, Mary Gisser, Jesse Graves, Allison Westbrook and Christopher Willey are all local; Faith Purvey is from Minneapolis/San Francisco; and Chris Silva and Lauren Feece are from Chicago. Their visual, aural, performance and interactive art installations both reflect and support this community. They resourcefully worked with donated, recycled materials; collaboratively engaged with people in the area; uniquely transformed the urban landscape in their efforts to raise awareness about solutions to environmental issues, and encouraged future, constructive actions. The artists walked their talk, so to speak.
The spirit of this year’s project is celebrated in a collaborative mural placed at 34th and Capitol. It applies well-known tennis champion-turned-philanthropist Arthur Ashe’s words: “Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.”
For their Plant Seeds mural, Chris Silva and Lauren Feece drew on Ashe’s words as a cornerstone for the expression of their belief that positive change can grow through the collaboration of individual efforts. Through bright colors and bold text, their piece proclaims the environmental direction of this project to passersby, whether they are walking, biking, or burning oil down Capitol. It is an uplifting alternative to the typical billboards that accost our senses.
This issue-oriented mural is a prelude to Ted Brusubardis’ and Colin Dickson’s multi-disciplinary pieces reflecting community efforts to revitalize titled Radio Transmission and Double Arrows, respectively. Brusubardis asks us to tune into a different sort of music as he sends out radio waves to car radios and stereos set to 93.9 FM. Listeners are introduced to the heart and soul of the community through sounds reflective of the locale, intertwined with individual stories gathered through interviewing the residents.
One listening area focuses on the industrial landscape and its particular inhabitants while the other places audiences near the site of the community’s efforts at water conservation. Dickson’s Double Arrows sculptures have been strategically placed in bioretention planters. These atypical pointers, also reflective of the area’s architectural landscape, direct attention to the process of these planters, which are designed to filter and direct storm water.
These planters, filled with native flowers, are echoed in former Century City resident Allison Westbrook’s over-sized flower sculptures that unexpectedly sprout in parking lots and whimsically twist around light posts. “Growing” out of and around concrete and metal, they are a metaphor for the community’s power of determination in its efforts at rebirth.
Foreclosed houses, sitting disappointingly vacant, can quickly squash a community’s spirit in that they attract vandals, squatters, dumping and fires. Christopher Willey has taken aim at these concerns by bringing a new concept to Milwaukee that has been developing in other cities over the past 25 years. Willey’s IN:terruptions consists of a variety of photographs and drawings of the local animals and plants that then enliven the doors and windows of 12 of the area’s boarded-up houses. Willey also integrated similarly themed artwork by resident Ben Payne, whose personal connection to the community broadens the project. Altogether, they cover emptiness with images that build hope for better times.
IN:terruptions also addresses the issue of illegal dumping through the creation of signs reprimanding potential offenders and offering tips on how to report illegal trash dumping. “Only a chump would come here to dump!” is one that tells it like it is.
With involvement of so many individuals in this project, an apt synopsis of IN:SITE’s project is visualized in Willey’s mural People Trees. Willey scanned the palms of neighborhood residents and created trees out of those lines. He then stood those trees in the palms of the hands. His imagery combines the concepts of strength, hard work (by getting one’s hands dirty) and transformation, reflecting the individuals that work together to form, and transform, a community.
IN:SITE’s opening celebration for its 2011 Century City Project is Saturday, June 25 at Vanguard Sculpture Services, 3374 W. Hopkins Street, Milwaukee. Tours with artists take place 4 – 5:30 p.m., with an opening reception from 5:30 – 7 p.m. The works will remain up for two – six months, depending on the project. For more information, click here.
Photos courtesy Erin Petersen, Valerie Christell, and Dylan Huebner.