Monday, July 28, 2014

A reflection

Love people, not things
Seek beauty, not fame
Express your beliefs and values, not your ego
Breathe deeply
Create art

photo: the White Place, Abiquiu, NM

Friday, July 11, 2014

Zimmerman is open for gallery night

You're invited!

Menomonee Valley Artist Residency
Open House

Along with my hosts at Zimmerman Architectural Studios I invite you to visit with me on gallery night. Come see my latest artworks.

Zimmerman Architectural Studios
2122 W. Mount Vernon St.

Friday, July 25
5:00 - 8:00 p.m.

New work and works in progress will be on display.
If you have never been to the historic gas building that Zimmerman remodeled for their offices, it's worth a visit in itself!

Refreshments will be served.

Zimmerman is easy to see but hard to find. It is the large brick structure behind the tall octagonal tower near 25th Street between St. Paul and Canal Streets. Access is from 25th Street.

If you can't make it on gallery night, feel free to contact me to make an appointment:

To learn more about the Menomonee Valley Artist in Residency and for links to blog posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Listening to Mitchell: a sneak preview


A seven-block long stretch of Mitchell Street from the Modjeska theater to St. Stanislaus is the setting for an interactive, multidisciplinary art and sound project by Sonja Thomsen and Adam Carr. The same duo brought “Here, Mothers, Are” to a north side neighborhood in 2012. This project promises to build on their earlier success. Listening to Mitchell officially opens Friday, July 11 with a ceremonial unveiling of the audio installation. However the visual components have been appearing along the street since June.

Sadly, I will be unable to attend the opening ceremony. But I’ve enjoyed seeing the work go up and I’ve taken a few photos to provide a sneak preview. I must admit that on my first pass along the street I missed many of the installed pieces because they blend in so completely with the milieu of advertising and commercial graphics that occur as a matter of course.

Here is what the artists have to say about the work:

“Photographs of souvenirs uncovered during the research process become artifacts of place, reflect experience of time, and represent the street’s tangled cultural identity.
The installed images, ranging in scale from twenty foot murals on building exteriors to five-inch photographs on checkout counters, foreground the commercial corridor’s
ever-present personal narratives.”

Once I got the hang of the nature of the installations and the graphic aesthetic it was like a scavenger hunt to wander down the street and pick them out.

This is another excerpt from the artists’ press release:

“There is no other place in Milwaukee like Mitchell Street. In the most densely populated area of the city, the street has remained one of Milwaukee’s most animated and diverse corridors. From its commercial heyday in the 1950s to its eclectic present, this mainstreet has been home to countless stories of grand commercial success and decline as successive waves of immigrants made their way on the street.”

Listening to Mitchell runs through September. For much more information check the website. Art City also ran a preview in May. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

You can help plan the future of the Menomonee Valley

Milwaukee has much to celebrate. Milwaukee has chronic problems that must be addressed if we are to become a truly great city. These twin themes seem to dominate public discourse in our community and for good reason. They are both true.

3 Bridges Park in spring
Likewise, the City of Milwaukee, Menomonee Valley businesses and other stakeholders are celebrating the successful completion of the 1998 Menomonee Valley Land Use Plan by initiating a new plan, which is called Menomonee Valley 2.0. The new plan is intended to address on-going redevelopment challenges.

You can help draw new maps and create the new plan. First a very brief overview.

6th St. Bridge from Harley-Davidson Museum
The city, Valley stakeholders and the general public can all take genuine pride in the success of earlier efforts. These include the creation of Menomonee Valley Partners to spearhead redevelopment, replacing the 6th St viaduct with dramatic and inviting new bridges that lead into the Valley, extending Canal St. through the Valley, the redevelopment of the former Milwaukee Road Shops into the Menomonee Valley Industrial Center, rehabilitation of the Menomonee River, and the creation of new parklands. Among the many positive consequences of these successes have been increases in employment and recreational opportunities in the Valley. The Urban Ecology Center, Harley-Davidson Museum, and Global Water Center, among others, have all located in the Valley. Potawatomi Bingo & Casino and The Hank Aaron State Trail both have experienced major expansions.

Topping off the new hotel, July 1, 2014
Menomonee Valley 2.0 is intended to build on this momentum and provide a new vision for the future of the Menomonee Valley. To date the process has involved compiling information from stakeholders, focus groups, and neighborhood groups, as well as a public workshop that allowed participants to pore over maps and make specific suggestions.

Here’s how you can help:

Menomonee Valley Partners has created an interactive mapping page on its website. You can go online (click here) and add your ideas to the Valley map. It’s easy! I did one. It looks like this:

You can see my map in its online version by clicking here.

However, before you go ahead and join in the fun of mapping, you may want to read on so that you will have a better grasp of some of the specific issues the planners want to address.

Five key Valley redevelopment areas have been identified. These areas are either vacant or likely to change in the next 10 to 15 years. They are also areas where it is hoped that solutions and ideas can be extrapolated to other areas of the Valley. Here is a map of the five sites:

Below are descriptions of the five sites. There also are links to my photo albums of each site so that you can see the issues more clearly. (Of course I have photographs! Too many to post with this story.)

1) I-94 Reconstruction area:  Yes, I-94 is going to be reconstructed. It is planned for 2019. Challenges and opportunities involve making connections from the freeway to the Valley and across the freeway between the neighborhoods to the north and south. Can these connections be made more pedestrian and bicycle friendly? Link to photo album.

2) St. Paul Avenue:  St. Paul serves as a gateway to the Valley from both I-94 and the Third Ward. The avenue currently includes light industrial and retail outlets as well as some vacant properties. St. Paul Avenue between the Milwaukee Intermodal Station and 25th Street is being re-envisioned to build on these assets. Link to photo album.

3) Mount Vernon Waterfront Sites:  More than 10 acres of waterfront property is tucked between Mount Vernon Ave. and the Menomonee River. This site is challenged by lack of access and infrastructure. The Marquette Interchange also separates it into two parcels. Link to photo album.

4) East Gateway:  Canal Street immediately east of the 6th Street bridge is a major gateway to the Menomonee Valley. There are two large, vacant properties on either side of Canal St. in the shadow of the High Rise Bridge. (Currently they accommodate hundreds of nesting herring gulls!) Link to photo album.

5) Pierce and Bruce district:  This district, defined by Pierce and Bruce Streets between the I-43 High Rise Bridge and 16th Street, has challenges involving land use conflicts and inadequate access between the Valley and surrounding neighborhood. It also includes the Burnham Canal, which is slated for rehabilitation as a wetland. Link to photo album.

To create your own Valley map click here.

This post is one in a series that relates to my Menomonee Valley Artist in Residency. For more information about the residency and links to previous posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Artery was hot today!

The Artery in Riverwest is part of Milwaukee's Creational Trails project. Today there were events taking place on three performance spaces set up along the trail between Keefe and Capitol. I got there just as a thunderstorm interrupted the beginning of the festivities. The storm passed quickly, however, and the sun returned to dry everything off.

The Saehee Chang & Garam Drum Group gave a short performance and then invited audience members to join in, which I did. Although I am rhythmically challenged I love drum circles. No one seemed to notice!

Monday, June 23, 2014

Meter Hero wants to help you conserve water & energy

The first thing I notice upon entering the Meter Hero office is the bulletin board next to the door. Pinned to it are T-shirts, photos, newspaper clippings and a large poster of Milwaukee’s North Point water tower with the text, “Conserve Differently.” At a glance it looks like a display of memorabilia and success stories typical of a business or environmental organization proud of its accomplishments. McGee Young, the founder of Meter Hero, quickly corrects my false impression.

“We call this our ‘learning wall’ because it documents our failures.” He says this with as much pride as I would expect if it had in fact commemorated successes.

Meter Hero is Young’s latest attempt to create a tool that will enable people to better understand their own water and energy consumption. An online application allows users to track their own water, electric and gas usage and also to compare it with similar users. The goal is to stimulate conservation.

As the “learning wall” testifies, that goal can be elusive.

Overlooking the Menomonee Valley
In the fall of 2013 Young became one of the first entrepreneurs to be given a Global Freshwater Seed Accelerator Grant from Milwaukee’s Water Council. He moved into the newly renovated Global Water Center building and created H2Oscore, his first effort to motivate water conservation. A precursor to Meter Hero, H2Oscore used a water utility’s own data, which was translated into an accessible format so that homeowners, businesses and schools could track water usage.

Grafton Middle School T-shirt
H2Oscore was deployed successfully in four cities around Wisconsin and experienced good community engagement and encouraging conservation progress. Young discovered a weak link, however, in the water utility. With a wry smile he recalls the realization that utility companies don’t share his conservation values. “The more water we use the more money they make,” he maintains. Waste, not conservation, benefits their bottom line.

This energized Young to go back to his team of entrepreneurs and challenge them to design “a product that puts H2Oscore out of business.” The result, launched in beta form in January 2014, was Meter Hero. The new application not only bypasses the utility but also adds energy usage to the water data.

Global Water Center office
Young, who teaches environmental policy at Marquette University, sees these as moral as well as economic issues. “We will face no bigger challenge in our lifetimes than how to manage our water and energy,” he asserts. To illustrate the moral dimension, he returns to the ‘learning wall’ and points out one of the news clippings. “The highest water use in the city of Milwaukee is in the poorest neighborhoods,” he observes. “From a social justice perspective we must do better.”

I inquire about the value of being in the Global Water Center. Initially he was skeptical, he tells me. However, over time he has come to appreciate and value the opportunities it affords him to connect with people “who share an interest in water issues but who are not exactly your type.” As an academic he is not used to rubbing shoulders with engineers. He explains, “We tend to surround ourselves with those who are most like us. When we get out of that comfort zone we find our creativity improves and the ways that we look at the world expand.”

When I ask if it matters that the Global Water Center is located where it is, next to the canal in the Menomonee Valley, he pauses in reflection. Then he says, “Not yet.” But, he goes on, the impending development of the adjacent Reed Street Yards, which is intended to attract additional water related business and industry, will help. Furthermore, what really matters about the Menomonee Valley is the ongoing revitalization. “There is energy in the neighborhood that is palpable. Something important is clearly happening here and people gravitate to places like this.”

Promotion event at Outpost Natural Foods
He then suggests a challenge that faces Menomonee Valley planners is the perception that the Valley currently exists as two different and disconnected segments. “The great thing about the Valley is the fact that you have such a rich history juxtaposed with modern, ecologically sensitive new construction. On top of this there is an effort to bring natural elements into the management of the lived infrastructure—bio-swales and other stormwater retention efforts.” While similar systems are being installed in the Reed Street Yards most of the attention is focused to the west of Falk Corporation, with the new parks, industries and Urban Ecology Center.

He acknowledges that Canal Street and the Hank Aaron State Trail offer a degree of connection but he envisions some kind of transit or a trolley perhaps that will bind the two halves more deliberately.

He muses further, suggesting, “The story of the redevelopment of the Valley is such a compelling one.” Instead of bringing in big warehouses to fill vacant lots the policy has been to attract industries that will employ real people, create decent jobs, while at the same time keeping an eye on environmental sustainability. “We are investing in the community, recognizing the history but also projecting the Valley as one of the most forward-looking parts of Milwaukee,” he says. “It’s a one-of-a-kind place.”

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I've just recorded my first meter reading on Meter Hero. You can try it, too: click here.

This post is one in a series that relates to my Menomonee Valley Artist in Residency. For more information about the residency and links to previous posts and photographs, go to MV AiR.

Monday, June 9, 2014

FL Wright's Dana-Thomas House does not disappoint!

I don't actually keep a bucket list, but if I'd had one the Dana-Thomas House in Springfield, Illinois, would have been on it. Having been to Wingspread, Taliesin, the Robie House and Fallingwater (among sundry other examples of his oeuvre) one might think I'd seen enough Wright houses. And since I quit teaching architecture three years ago there was no pressing need.

But after so many years I finally did go to see it. This house rivals any of the others. It's definitely worth the three-hour drive from Milwaukee.

Except for the prominent front entrance, the exterior is typical enough of his early Prairie Style, if larger than most. The interior is what sets this house apart from its peers. (They don't allow photography inside. I had to borrow the one I'm including here, of the living room, one of two grand barrel-vaulted rooms in the house.)

Mrs. Dana, who commissioned Wright to design the house, was wealthy enough to let him have a free rein. Furthermore, and most importantly, the art glass windows and lamps, the furniture, art works, and other furnishings are almost entirely intact. The tour we took was also masterfully theatrical, threading its way throughout the labyrinthine floor plan, up and down a reputed 17 changes of level. (I didn't keep track, but I believe it.)

Wright's famous use of compressed spaces that open into large, airy ones was well represented in this house.

If you're curious, I recommend the official website. It has a great photo gallery with lots of interior shots. If you're ever in the Springfield vicinity and have any affinity for Wright take the time to visit. You won't be disappointed either.