An e-zine for happenings of local culture in Milwaukee and elsewhere

Archive for August, 2011

Connecting Under, Brighten the Passage, Third Ward Association

Equipped with a colorfully signs and an engaging dispositions, an enclave of public planning stakeholders took over the corner of Wisconsin and Water Street, generating a little commotion to attract public participation. The Historic Third Ward Association is planning what to do about that dark nebula under the I-794 overpass that connects Downtown to the Third Ward. Accepting in-person comments from citizens allows the neighborhood associations in the downtown area to take the most accurate temperature of public opinions on increasing people friendly public spaces.

Talk Planning

On a quest to bring the country’s infrastructure out of the industrialized age and into the modern, the American Society of Landscape Architects’ (ASLA) push for participation in other communities nationally puts Milwaukee in a peer group with other cities from Juneau, Alaska to Charleston, West Virginia, activating forward thinking land use planning professionals.

The Society’s national urban design campaign Your Environment Designed kicked-off August 17th and invited members of the landscape architecture industry to publicize their local efforts to gather feedback on projects they have in the hopper. Milwaukee’s project pulls the Historic Third Ward and Downtown Association in a huddle with land use planners from the various intersecting circles of commercial development, consulting, academia and local government, on a project rightfully named Brighten the Passage.

Light Minds

Brighten the Passage deals with an overpass. That means some convincing of the Federal Highway Administration may have to take place for the City of Milwaukee and the Third Ward Association to make the pass under more pleasant. Undaunted, one of the project’s participants, Gloria Stearns, expressed the primary planning focus for now hones in on drumming up public interest, design ideas and project funding. This purpose explains the enthusiasm with which Stearns and her compatriots juggled clipboards, pens and aerial photographs of the “passage” to share with those providing feedback.

During the Brighten the Passage kick-off, braving the wind on the Chase Building Plaza, interested citizens sketched crude overviews of their ideas, giving the organizers some direction of what people are thinking about the Downtown – Third Ward corridor. The Brighten the Passage project planners also draw inspiration from other countries and US states that view “remnant parcels” as opportunities for public art and gathering space.

Remnants Elsewhere

Canada comes to the top of the list of countries, with cities like Toronto, that do more than beautify remnant parcels. With a structure dedicated to skateboarding underneath the freeway, one overpass in Toronto intentionally invites people activity. On the Puget Sound, Seattle receives accolades for projects like the I-5 Collonnade and Freeway Park that reduce undesirable people activity, such as vagrancy, and adds to the marketability and access to the surrounding land uses.

The Brighten the Passage campaign will lead to a design contest scheduled for the on-coming Fall season. The contest will likely provide guidance for the actual project. The Third Ward Association has yet to release the details and parameters of the 2011 Brighten the Passage Design Competition.

See what other communities around the country are doing through the Your Environment Designed Facebook page.

Related Articles
Brighten the Passage by David Reid of Urban Milwaukee
Third Ward Vision, I-794 Underpass Design Competition by L.S. Trolley, of Local Trolley

Vision Noir, Ryan Laessig, Milwaukee Alt

At The Hide House, the Milwaukee Art Beat street fair played silence between sets anticipating Fever Marlene . An old warehouse towered over everyone. Deep in the background next to the parking lot where mini-festivities took place, a few canopies stood on the lawn. The clothes rack I spotted could have been holding old towels, but my funky t-shirt intuition honed in without fail.

Whipping through the garments, I notice the iconic Wisconsin map outlined and, spelled with various syllable combinations, a cursive script printing the letters M-i-l / w-a-u / k-e-e / A-l-t. One item keeps my eye but I leave it on the hanger.

Other merch sits on the table, buttons, stickers if I recall. Noticeable photo prints come into view, I inquire and Suzy perks nonchalantly. A full-time free-lance photographer, Suzy’s Milwaukee Alt puts a brand on his work, however at its core Milwaukee Alt provides a concept for his image compositions.

Elegantly Anarchistic

Photographically capturing scenery of Milwaukee and adorning it with models of less mainstream urban style tribes, Milwaukee Alt brings social fringes into the fashion foreground. Ryan “Suzy” Laessig founded Milwaukee Alt to create a port-hole for vicariously experiencing deviant sub-popular culture. Recently, publishing his first book of photography entitled Milwaukee Alt to hardcover, Suzy crusades brandishing images that counter stayed culture.

Milwaukee Alt incarnates his artistic style, self-defined as Elegantly Anarchistic. Shades of glamour, vintage pin-up, fetish and erotica bleed through Suzy’s pieces in a tasteful way. Suzy achieves balance with his ability to even make statements with mundane moments framed in still.

Thoughtfully, Suzy adds to the growing fashion tradition that interprets beauty as something imperfect, forbidden and taboo. Over the past decade this aesthetic crept into high-end fashion, part of the spectrum of “edgy”.

Admittedly Suzy Laessig’s work tends a little towards risqué, so consider fair forewarning given before clicking to Milwaukee Alt.

Passer’s Remorse

After checking out Fever Marlene for a bit, I see the last of the artists breaking down their displays and that damn clothing rack still stands there. Fumbling through the last of my paper pocket change, I make a snap decision to go check on the t-shirt I was eying earlier. It’s still there. The Art Beat marked Suzy’s first public display and publishing of the Milwaukee Alt photo book, and he’s at least one re-purposed clothing piece lighter.

Laessig’s is currently working on deals to make the published version of Milwaukee Alt available at Sky High and Hot Pop. The Milwaukee Alt book is current available through it’s Facebook page.

–Related Post–
Local Trolley 2011 Honors!,

A Message from the Author, L.S. Trolley

Local Trolley’s first six months has gone really fast, almost faster than this summer. It’s an unbelievable experience to get to know new people and share my secret passion of writing with you, and I’m just getting started!!!

The response to Local Trolley has far exceeded my expectations, and You, the readers, have witting or unwittingly fed my desire to indulge in written gallivanting and debauchery. So to commemorate, I want to share some of my favorite pieces thus far at this semi-annual milestone.

Mostly Mammals and Minds, J.M. Kohler Art Center
Although not in Milwaukee, I had a phenomenal time at the J.M. Kohler Art Center and their current exhibit Hiding Places: Memory in the Arts looks at the transformation of memories into art. Of interest to me is that an art center the caliber of the J.M. Kohler space would feature works that were not designed for exhibition, but rather were just commandeered visual creations of savants. Hiding Places: Memory in the Arts is on display until December.

Use out of the useless at MAM After Dark, feats by Chakaia Booker
While MAM AfterDark welcomed the opening of the Frank Lloyd Wright exhibition, another was closing in the adjacent Baumgartner Galleria. Chakaia Booker’s works of industrial art posed in the galleria as an interesting juxtaposition of artist philosophies: the moving away and building out mind set of Wright, versus her conservationist urban rejuvenation mind set. Booker nearly tends towards artisan craft-person, and certainly is a industrial artist. Her works in my opinion would make good extended art excursion to chase down.

The End, Arthur Miller: Death of a Salesman and
August in the Powerhouse Theater, Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom
The Milwaukee Repertory Theater had an outstanding season in 2010-11, delivering musicals in their production line for the first time with Cabaret and to a lesser extent Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Under Mark Clements, The Rep takes chances now that it hadn’t in the past, and it literally is paying off. Local Trolley didn’t write about all the productions but 39 Steps and The Rep’s intern ensemble shorts were also very good.

Retrospective: Sleeping in the Aviary
Covering the Sleeping in the Aviary show at the Borg Ward, served as one of my transitional efforts from Local Trolley’s old block Sane Artworks Blog. I’ve allowed my writing to grow-up a little bit since then but I really had fun covering this very talented act’s performance. They also happen to have a show coming up in Milwaukee (September 10th at the Power Plant) and are dropping an new album You and Me, Ghost September 6th (you can pre-order it here).

Retrospective: Levine and Heimerl, Handmade Nation
Originally appearing on the Sane Artworks Blog, my review of the world premiere of the craft culture documentary Handmade Nation really sparked my flame for wanting to found an e-zine. Covering this event also re-kindled my love affair with Milwaukee, as I had only moved back about 6 months or so prior when the premiere happened. Levine and Heimerl’s work went on to travel around the world, and it’s home base was here in little Ole Milwaukee. The creative world tends to focus on the big markets, but everything is possible anywhere.

Big Thank-ee!
Thanks for reading, to everybody who even accidentally clicked the link to the Local Trolley publication! Feel free to check out the Archives Volume 1 and Volume 2 to peruse for more interesting who, whats, and wheres.

If by any chance you are interested in submitting content (not just from Milwaukee), feel free to contact Local Trolley via twitter or email!

Pens and Keys,

L.S. Trolley

Gallery Night, Summer 2011, Bryan Cera

Expanding like a sponge with access to water, Milwaukee can’t help but ingest all the art it can get its dilated eyes upon. Gallery Night in Milwaukee is truly reaching major event status, even without complete buy-in from all of Milwaukee’s artistic strong holds.

Some of the Light, Blue Ant Gallery, Third Ward

Through the window of the beautiful Shade Shop Building on Milwaukee and St. Paul, black and white projections of President’s faces shine through a black drape. As a passer by you must go in.

Bryan Cera pulled all kind of crap, from all over the place for Some of the Lights, jury rigging an utter bastardization of multi-media consumer electronics, in the devastating can be used to describe a gorgeous person kind of way.

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Some of the Light, Bryan Cera

Voice Pong

Some computer device sits on a table with a two posable antenna protruding. It has a lime green screen with two half-inch vertical lines at the bottom left and right corners. A section at the top looks like it is ready to keep score. Could this be PONG! No, even better voice controlled PONG!

Those to antenna were actually microphones, calibrated to move the PONG paddles up the side of the screen in proportion the decibel level and length the note held in your voice. The object of the game is to return the ball to your opponent by positioning the paddle with sound. The microphones amplified grunts, hums, and ahhhs used to steady the paddle, absurdly audible.

Time Bandit

A face sticks to the wall via illusion. A video projection of Cera is throw on a mold of a face from behind, a video recorded Cera talks in monotone non-sequiturs to whoever stands and stares.

Sound Ripples

You notice some one on the way to the exit, heading past two square plastic dishes holding water. Inverted cones rise above the dishes, a cord hangs back into each dish. A digitized wail blares out, a you look for a robotic recreation of WALL-E. The person heading for the exit back tracks in front of the dish apparatus, cueing the sound effects.

A motion sensor translates physical activity from objects in its range into audio frequencies. The sound bothers the water in the square dishes enough for a light to reflect shadows of concentric circles on the wall, commonly attributed to droplets returning to their source.


Turning 1 of 4 knobs, sections of face from various Presidents rotate in view. Video projected on black cloth, crown, nose and chin are mixed and matched from assorted portraits of our nation’s past and present Executives.

Dazed and Computed

Bryan Cera, artist and wizkid, may be cast in the real life documentary of TRON, completely accidentally, any day now. Some of the Light was one of Milwaukee’s best done freelance exhibits to date. Wanna see more from Bryan Cera look! O_O

Seize the Moment, The Brass Rooster

Milwaukee has a knack for growing inspired efforts. The Brass Rooster leaped out of no where this past Spring, to become a prime example of resurgent artisan crafts fusing with entrepreneurial pursuits. At The Brass Rooster hats are not just sold, but blocked, shaped, and re-banded. Crafting dreams happens the same way, if you want them to come true.

Milliners by trade, wait… that’s right milliners. Most occupations have an obscure species name and milliner fills that vocabulary niche for the venerable hat-maker. The Brass Rooster’s proprietors team-up as two of Milwaukee’s most stylish artisans. Their vision of a vintage accessory shop geared toward men, defies fashion limitations set by uni-fit retail brands and the pervasive Euro-aesthetic seeping back into American menswear clothing pallets. Even so, The Brass Rooster still seduces pop-styles readily.

We Did it Anyway, Karen Erbach

Chances Down

The good folks at The Brass Rooster must have known something everyone else didn’t, or just relied on a personal philosophy allowing for passion’s precedence over fear of failure. Journeywoman writer and filmmaker Karen Erbach recently captured a snapshot of The Brass Rooster’s story for a video competition, sponsored by Chevrolet, that lead up to the New Horizons International Film Festival. Aptly named We Did it Anyway, Erbach succinctly profiles the shop from firmament to foundation.

On August 3, The Brass Rooster announced a new selection of hats. To take a look at the latest visit 2479 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue.

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Eerie Americana, John McLaughlin and The Rogues
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