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

Archive for September, 2011

Mind Scale, Doors Open, Grohmann Museum

Advancing greatly in the 21st Century, Milwaukee School of Engineering has the monuments to prove it. Prominent businessman and regent Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, once headed Milwaukee based Aluminum Casting and Engineering Company and Central Control Arm before selling them. An ode to industry, Dr. Grohmann readily shares his passion for the machinery of civil progress through his collection of art gathered from the around the world.

The Gallery

Many of the works displayed throughout the four levels and rooftop sculpture garden capture early German and East European folk traditions dating back as far as the late 17th century. Many of the works depict “man” crudely developing expertise in an number of fields such as engineering, manufacturing, and medicine.

The Garden

The Grohmann Museum’s rooftop sculpture garden transforms six-inch high figurines into colossal bronze statues exerting perpetual effort on fundamental tasks of early industry. Dr. Grohmann’s office sits in a turret atop the Grohmann Museum overlooking the sculpture garden. Peering in Dr. Grohmann’s office at the right angle, one can see the original works that inspired the sculpted forms and also very intense stain glass window panes with murals of early civilizations toiling.

Several stops on Doors Open Milwaukee highlighted the growing MSOE campus. The institution’s latest academic development brings a Master’s Degree Civil Engineering program to the timetable.

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A Falcon’s View, Doors Open, US Bank

Doors Open Milwaukee brought back one of Milwaukee’s prized attractions, the observation deck on floor 41 of the US Bank building. Not open to the public since 1992, US Bank hosted a winding line of people waiting for their chance to see what the famed peregrine falcon’s sees when they perch in their nests.

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Indy 100, Borg Ward, Gozortenplat

A man on guitar plays solo, accompanying his reckless guitar strums with cackles of sung melody without tune. Live muzac really gets the adrenaline for the next act in a show going. The Borg Ward, unique for attracting antics of this sort, rightfully and righteously encourages spectacles, thriving in its new interior design and performance layout.

Teaming with other classic local underpop groups Terminal Orchestra, Ahab’s Ghost and the Busybodies at the Borg Ward, Gozortenplat divvied up some live tunes that featured a kicking drummer in an executioners mask, guitarist, and a thoughtful psycho-babbling vocalist scatting non-stop for thirty minutes. Exceedingly notable in live music entourages, lesser known instruments sneak-in. Gozortenplat made exceptional use of a dude in a lucha libre sequined mask on Theremin and Jenny Schrank on the Saw.

Never seen a Theremin? Well look at the original footage of Theremin in use, and you though people of today were weird.


Leon Theremin, on the Theremin he invented

Might be kind of hard to believe such a creation could add to an otherwise rock stomping band. The drummer/executioner playing upbeat heavy patter toms behind the rest of the ensemble amassed a sound quite capable of enabling dark forces to be unleashed from a netherworld of anguish and fun-bringing pain.

The Borg Ward kicked off Milwaukee Noise Festival yesterday, which continues tonight, and tomorrow.


Pt. 2, ExFabula, John Gurda on Capital Court’s History

Looking Back

Historian John Gurda guided the evening’s story tellers by explaining signposts of historical significance to the Capitol Heights neighborhood and Milwaukee’s Black community. In 1956, a mall that came to be known as Capitol Court made Capitol Heights its home. It was Milwaukee’s third major shopping center, after Southgate, on South 27th, and Bayshore. At Capitol Court’s founding the neighborhood was barely 10% percent African-American. Today at least 75% of Capitol Heights is African-American, with a growing population of Hmong-Americans.

A few blocks away, on Fon du Lac Avenue, sits Satin Wave Barbershop. Gurda relays that Fon du Lac Avenue, once an old plank road, epitomized the folk saying describing Milwaukee “Look to the East the Lake, and to the West the Land”. Back then, farm goods carted into downtown from as far as the name sake of the street, true also of Appleton Avenue and, at one time, Windlake and Muskego Avenues to the South.

As diagonal roads, they represent seminal thoroughfares that pre-date Milwaukee’s grid system of streets. Around the same time, in the 1850’s, Sully Watson became one of Milwaukee first Black land owners, after migrating with his manumission papers gained from Virginia. He and his wife Susanna lived successful lives in ante-bellum Milwaukee, supported by his work as a tradesman.

Overcoming, Making a Life

Although under the constant looming menace of the Fugitive Slave Act, which gave any white person claiming ownership over a black person force of law to take them into their possession immediately, the Watson family carried on raising a family. The Watson offspring found little success extending their family tradition of gainful trade under the repressive, reactionary and often violent post-Reconstruction American social caste system. The Milwaukee Public Museum recently added a tribute to the Watson family to the Streets of Old Milwaukee.

Contents
Pt. 1 Shaping Influence, ExFabula, Barbershop
Pt. 2 ExFabula, John Gurda on Capital Court History
Pt. 3 ExFabula, The Sherrill’s, A Black Business Legacy
Pt. 4 ExFabula, Sunshine and Rain&lt
Pt. 5 ExFabula, Tom Crawford, a Thankful Trim
Pt. 6 ExFabula, Monumental Integrity and Murals


Pt. 3, ExFabula, The Sherrill’s, A Black Business Legacy

Still a Tale of Two Towns

Ronnie Sherrill saunters up to the microphone. He’s Satin Wave’s proprietor, style deacon and local icon. In good spirits, he’s set the tone all night. To introduce his delivery of Satin Wave’s roots, soul music beat moderate ambiance from a classic juke box. You can ask just about anyone from the baby boomer generation and older from the Black community about Satin Wave and they will tell you that hands down Satin Wave was the place to get your do done right.

Satin Wave’s lineage began in the 1950’s with Colonial Barbershop on 6th and Walnut. These days it may be referred to as Hillside, but then it was Bronzeville. Barbershops, taverns, chicken shacks and a hotel were thriving businesses and gathering spots for culturally proclivities. A thriving area, to set a gauge for the importance of Walnut Street to the cultural landscape in Milwaukee, the doo-wop quartet The Esquires formed in and frequented Bronzeville. By 1967, they gained enough notoriety to release the song Get on Up nationally. The record went Gold and nearly cracked the Billboard top ten. As local lore recounts the band never received any royalties for the song.

Ending Bronzeville’s heyday, beginning in the late 1962, the Department of Transportation claimed much of the neighborhood as right of way for Interstate 43. Today on the corner of Sixth and Walnut, the complex that once held a Black owned hotel and shopping area now houses the Salvation Army Emergency Shelter and a Department of Corrections Probation and Parole office, respectively.

Contents
Pt. 1 Shaping Influence, ExFabula, Barbershop
Pt. 2 ExFabula, John Gurda on Capital Court History
Pt. 3 ExFabula, The Sherrill’s, A Black Business Legacy
Pt. 4 ExFabula, Sunshine and Rain&lt
Pt. 5 ExFabula, Tom Crawford, a Thankful Trim
Pt. 6 ExFabula, Monumental Integrity and Murals