A new public sculpture graces one of the quiet sections of the Hank Aaron State Trail. From 76th Street west the trail cuts a long, straight, level—and largely uneventful—path through West Allis. The busy eastern sections of the trail near downtown and in the Menomonee Valley provide constant reminders of their urban setting. While West Allis is far from rural, the trail has a much calmer feel to it, especially now when its buffer of trees have leafed out to hide the adjacent homes and businesses.
There has been another difference between the eastern and western sections of the trail until now. The Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail has a public arts committee that is responsible for planning, siting and placing public art along the trail. Earlier efforts—such as Katie Martin’s sculpture, “A Place to Sit,” and Chad Brady’s Valley Passage mural, among others—have gone to the eastern portions.
The newly placed sculpture near 89th Street is a modest start at correcting the imbalance. Five poles carry laser-cut symbols designed by students at Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts. Each pole presents a series of symbols with themes that relate to the trail and the community through which it runs, such as veterans (the Trail runs right through the VA hospital grounds) and West Allis industries.
This detail shows a pole with symbols representing midway rides at the nearby State Fair grounds. After consultation with the West Allis Historical Society, the designs were created as a class project under the direction of MHSA art teacher Carrie Hoelzer. Mentors at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design and a Milwaukee company called Design Fugitives assisted with the fabrication.
The western end of the trail is designed to connect with the Oak Leaf Trail. However, the Zoo Interchange reconstruction project has necessitated a detour at 94th Street. When I went there to reconnoiter the current status of the work I discovered that spring rains had created their own impediment at a recently constructed tunnel under the freeway. (I hope the drainage issue is resolved before this section of the trail is reopened!)
Full disclosure: I serve on the Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail public arts committee.