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

Archive for December, 2011

Art Closing New Year, Taryn Simon

At the Milwaukee Art Museum, an intense collection of photographs that bring to life still images contained in Taryn Simon’s three major book releases hangs quietly. An absolute gem and highly recommended to photographers Taryn Simon: Photographs and Texts closes tomorrow on New Year’s Day, luckily the Milwaukee Art Museum is open all weekend.

In her first work The Innocents (2002) Simon takes acquitted defendants back to key places cited during their trials, all of whom spent significant time in jail until DNA or other evidence uncovered their innocence. The portraits displayed from this project are as big as life and the moments they represent in the lives of the accused and the victims, both of who ironically were victims to the American justice system.

An American Index of the Hidden and Unfamiliar (2007) and Contraband (2010) are two series of photographs that mostly speak for themselves. Contraband is particularly mind boggling in the post 9-11 world as Taryn Simon craftily convinced some U.S. Customs officials to let her photograph confiscated items that were on there way into the US, before being nabbed. The range of items makes you wonder why everyone does not get a psychological exam before getting their boarding pass. This installation also gives you another way to gauge just how big the world we live in is.

The display of scale-models for all-the-Calatrava’s-that-weren’t entitled Building a Masterpiece: Santiago Calatrava and the Milwaukee Art Museum also closes in the Galleria New Year’s Day. January 1st an all day event will honor the exhibit.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is open New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day for regular hours 10:00a to 5:00p, with drop-in guided tours today (New Year’s Eve) at 11:00a and 2:00p.

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Cheap Pre-Xmas Eve Activities, Downtown Milwaukee

So friends, family and the in-laws may be in town for the holidays, and with Christmas just two days a way, low cost activities might be in order. Here are a few options if you are up for a little jaunt about town.

Historic Milwaukee Skywalks Tour

Meeting at 1pm in the Shops of Grand Avenue Mall, Historic Milwaukee is holding guided tours of the skywalks connecting downtown Milwaukee’s buildings. The tours are scheduled to take place today, tomorrow and Christmas Eve. Historic Milwaukee docents do a great job with providing interesting tidbits that are wrapped in their own personal experiences. The tours are $10 for non-members and $2 for ages 17 and under.

Historic Milwaukee is also the sponsor of Doors Open Milwaukee, an event that had marvelous success bringing people to experience downtown on self-guided tours of Milwaukee’s buildings that places that aren’t often completely open to the public such as the observation deck of the US Bank Building, Jones Island waste treatment facility, the Central Library, and Milwaukee School of Engineering’s Grohmann Museum. During the summer months, Historic Milwaukee offers guided walking tours of the Third Ward and Boat Tours of the Milwaukee, Menomonee and Kinnickinnic Rivers as well.

Christmas Lights Drive and Red Arrow Park Ice Skating

After checking out the skywalk tour, Downtown Milwaukee has a number of street scaped Christmas light displays. Local Trolley suggests taking Wisconsin Avenue east starting at Water Street, following the bend at Prospect Avenue and turning west on Mason Street to see the Northwestern Mutual tree lights, continuing west to Water Street then heading north past City Hall and the Performing Arts Center to State Street, turning west (left) on to State Street heading to Old World 3rd Street past Pere Marquette Park and turning south on 3rd Street then east on to Kilbourn Street driving to Jackson Street turning south on Jackson Street past Cathedral Square, then west on to Wells to Water Street where you head north on Water to Red Arrow Park for Ice Skating or at least watching people ice skate. Skating is free if you bring your own skates!

Christmas Tree and Lights Tour Driving Route

City Hall, Catalano Square, and Cathedral Square Christmas Trees

If you don’t feel like driving around you can also pick one of several places in downtown Milwaukee with Christmas Tree displays that you can admire with a mug of coffee or cocoa. Two of those places City Hall and Cathedral Square were already mentioned. What I didn’t mention is that Catherdral Square’s Christmas Tree display features trees decorated by local schools and non-profit groups, and has Christmas Music playing from stereo speakers. Across from City Hall, if you prefer indoor settings, a very nice tree, reaches up the foyer atrium of the Intercontinental Hotel.

Another option is Catalano Square at the south end of Broadway Street in the Third Ward. The nearest coffee shop is a two block walk to Bella Cafe on the corner of Milwaukee and Chicago Streets, or Veduras Tea Room on Broadway just north of Catalano Square.

Do you have any Christmasy activities to suggest! Feel Free to add them in the comments! MERRY CHRISTMAS!!


Brighten the Passage, Design Competition

If you live or hang-out downtown and wanted to get from happening Eastown areas like Jefferson or Milwaukee Street to the Third Ward, you’ve probably considered what a pain finding parking in the Third Ward makes your drive and how you didn’t really want to spend $10 bucks on a cab to just go four or five blocks, you’re just not that high-end.

For regular old downtown folk, walking or biking secures the first option but are you ever all that thrilled about going through the narrow Jefferson Street pedestrian tunnel or crossing the expanse of mostly dark empty parking lots? Now you can have your say. A major opportunity to influence how Downtown looks got under way this fall, and what better time to start a new project than the respite the Holiday Season brings most busy worker bees.

Build an Idea

The Historic Third Ward Association opened a public design competition, titled Brighten the Passage, to solicit ideas on how the pedestrian facilities connecting the Downtown to the Third Ward could be improved. On windy day in late August, Brighten the Passage kicked-off with a design charette. The fun of accepting complete proposals is now underway.

The window for Brighten the Passage submissions closes February 29, 2011 and the guidelines get straight to the point: develop a practical and cost-effective way to make the underpass more hospitable to pedestrians in a way that will support business activity and vibrant Nightlife entertainment.

Additional considerations for the project include the Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s plans for considerable maintenance of the overpass in 2013 and that overhead space on Broadway Street may be used for the proposed Downtown Street Car.

Conspicuously Cosmopolitan

Luckily for Milwaukeeans, decision-makers are paying attention to the need for a City be a place of human experiences and not just a track for cars to race people to work. Fortunately the Mayor’s office is tuning-in to the growing awareness that cities are integral part of local and regional economies and that they are no longer are competing locally for business but internationally. Documentarian Gary Hustwit recently released a film Urbanized that gives an excellent overview of the historical and current international discourse on urban design.

The City’s Downtown Plan considers doing something about the underpass a catalytic project, which makes Connecting the Passage a very big opportunity for an ambitious architect or engineer and especially for urban planners. Here’s more about Connecting the Passage Design Competition’s full guidelines and submission instructions.

–Related Post–
Connecting Under, Brighten the Passage, Third Ward Association


Two-wheeled Sleigh, Santa Rampage

‘Tis the season again, and why not be merry. No snow yet, a nice extended fall. There’s egg nog to choke down and hot cider brandy’s to warm the belly… and beer does’t really need an occasion.

For hardcore urbanites, a breed multiplying in all walks of life, Christmas season also brings another opportunity to meld all of these activities together while visiting the best hangouts in the City and traveling by the healthiest and most-preferred mode of transport: the bicycle!

Pretty simple, this Saturday dress-up like Santa, or something Santa-related (beard and Santa hat at least) grab some friends, jump on your bikes and head to one of the meeting points: Cafe Hollander (Downer or Tosa), Fuel Cafe, or Cafe Centraal. The main rendezvous points are Lakefront Brewery and Great Lakes Distillery where the pandemonium of hoards of Santas taking over streets by bike really ensues.

Kochanski’s provides a pit-stop with free food and as much Zywiec as your bladder can hold (sorry the shotski won’t be available though, gotta make sure Santa(s) can deliver presents in time). The final destination is back to Bay View at Cafe Centraal where none other than the Wild Birds will help Santas get more crazy.

If you think this sounds crazy, it is. If you think this sounds fun, your right. If it’s not your thing, well lets just say I rode last year and it was the most ridiculous spectacle that I’ve ever been a part of, and you have to love Milwaukee for it.


Frankie Latina, Modus Operandi

Not many Milwaukee-based film efforts have maneuvered to that corner seat at the bar ready to be dubbed instant cult-classic, the way Frankie Latina slid his production Modus Operandi on to the screen in 2009. Although for many different reasons, pretty much the only other film (documentary) of like birthplace I can think of doing this was American Movie (1999 according to IMBD, but I’m certain it was out before that locally). Just so happened that Frankie actually cast Riverwest’s Emperor Mark Borchardt in Modus Operandi and landed perpetual film villain Danny Trejo as well.

This past weekend, Frankie Latina hosted a one night only gallery showing of Modus Operandi inspired art including the master painting of the movie poster and portions of his photo journal from travels in South America. Intentionally a crude mock up of the simplistic grind-house action genre invented by Russ Meyers in the 1960’s perfected in the 1970’s, until Motus Operandi the genre in it’s purest form had been mostly lost to the world.

Dare I say some self-indulgently nibbled on it, namely and most infamously a winy movie-store clerk turned cult-puba named Quentin Tarantino with Pulp Fiction and more explicitly in Jackie Brown. On the other side of the hive-five, when Frankie went back in time to revive his version, he skipped the nylon era of the 1980’s, and dressed his piece in torn fishnets, trashy and hot, unapologetically and exceedingly melodramatic.

Rumor had it that Frankie nearly scored Pam Grier to co-star another flick called Skinny Dip that was in the works this past summer. Hopefully, Frankie will muster another effort on par with Modus Operandi in the future, even if not, if nothing else it was surely a wonder.