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

Archive for January, 2012

Intersections, Sherman Perk, ExFabula

They used to fix cars in there. Today the bay doors decorate the sitting area of Sherman Perk , still functional, a prime example of urban adaptive reuse of real estate. Sitting on the base of the triangle formed by Roosevelt, Keefe Avenue, and 51st Street if there was a Gold Coast within any neighborhood, you might not expect it to be in Sherman Park.

 

From Sections to Intersections

The Western end of Sherman Park much like Washington Heights, historically provided a destination for economically mobile immigrant and emigrant classes, first Europeans and later African-Americans, a neighborhood providing an intersection for both racial and economic class experiences in Milwaukee like none other in the city. Fittingly, Sherman Perk played host to ExFabula‘s most recent installment of the Terminal Milwaukee series confronting the theme Intersections.

Setting the stage for stories told by Milwaukeeans with a connection to the neighborhood, John Gurda painted a rhetorical backdrop with historical vignettes. Of several told, Gurda recounted the story of East European Jews and other European immigrants settling during the 1920’s and 30’s in what was known as Haymarket Square, the area just west of the 6th and Walnut street locus of old Bronzeville, before gradually moving to Sherman Park.

Migrating further into the city, the entrepreneurial spirit of Jewish immigrant settlers left Jake’s Kosher Delicatessen on 17th and North Avenue. Jake’s, famous for its corned beef, still stands today (although under new management). Mid 20th century Milwaukeeans also left the Settler’s Cookbook. Interestingly enough, the compilation of homemaker secrets found in the Settler’s Cookbook, not limited to just food recipes, but also medical remedies and home troubleshooting tips, made it a national best seller more popular than early Betty Crocker and Good Housekeeping publications.

Haymarket Square, during the close of the first quarter of the 20th century was also know as Rabbi Row on account of having more Synagogs than any other area in the city. The pillars of immigrant Jewish communities’ migration to Sherman Park still stand as well kept bungalows and revival architecture properties, uniformly lining the streets between Roosevelt and Keefe at 51 street, giving foundation to the oldest Orthodox Jewish community in Milwaukee.

Legacy of Public Education

Washington High School sits on a tough corner of Wright Street and Sherman Boulevard. Up to the rise of the suburbs in the 1960’s and reactionary de facto segregation that ushered gradual divestment in the Milwaukee Public School system, after Brown versus the Board of Education and the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Washington High School anchored Milwaukee Public Schools as the premier secondary school in the City. MPS also received nationally recognition. During ExFabula’s event John Gurda revealed some of the MPS’ famous graduates including Sen. Herb Kohl, Major League Baseball Commissioner and Former Brewer’s owner Bud Selig, Gene Wilder, and Wisconsin Governor Lee Dreyfus.

Although not shared at the Terminal Milwaukee event, the last known, famous graduate of Washington High is former National Basketball Association (NBA) great Latrell Sprewell, who helped the New York Knicks to get the NBA finals in 1999, among other dubious distinctions chronicled on wiki-whatever. Urban legend also has it that over-sized chrome spinning automobile rims, know as “Sprewells” were also invented in Milwaukee after being commissioned by their namesake [Latrell Sprewell].

Duh, Don’t Forget the Stories

The Terminal Milwaukee crowd enjoyed a bunch of great stories about people and places fondly occupying memories of Sherman Park. A man named Russ grew up in the neighborhood and worked for a laundry mat in the area as a kid. The story became interesting as he recounted how he learned not to test blind people.

Well, the owner of the laundry mat was blind and as the story goes, Russ could never figure out how the guy was getting around cleaning up, folding clothes and generally keeping up the shop. On one particular shift it was just he, and the owner. Tending to his laundry Russ accidentally knocked over a cap full of detergent. Russ took the moment to test whether the owner was really blind.

Instead of wiping up the spill, Russ decided to just stand there quiet. The owner didn’t say anything, and by the moment the store got quieter and quieter. The owner stood even more still yet. Finally, Russ ended the stalemate and began cleaning up his mess. From across the room the owner speaks loudly saying “Hello, who is there?” Russ replied that it was just him. Hearing the owner vaguely proclaim his knowledge of Russ’ presence disaffirmed Russ’ intuition. He decided never to test the blind owner again.

What Bus do you Ride?

At Terminal Milwaukee’s Sherman Perk edition, there were just too many great stories to recount. From central character Tom Crawford reconciling his demonic childhood tendencies to Rabbi Borsuk’s, a longtime journalist for the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinal, description of nearly missing a news story but for overcoming his dislike of coffee, ExFabula amplified the pulse of Milwaukee. The video above produced by ExFabula recounts portions of many of the stories but I will add the preface to one of my favorite stories told that night to enhance the clip.

The father of kindergartner Joe Lang was responsible for dropping Joe off at school in the morning before heading to work at A.O. Smith. As a factory worker, he would be docked pay for arriving even a minute after starting time. On this morning he was running late. To make up time, he decides to take Joe through a short cut that required  jaunting up a hill and few non-routine twists and turns.

Mid-route Joe stops his dad and asks him, “Dad do you know why were are not Chinese?” Dad says no, pauses and figures Joe has something to share and inquires “Do you?” Dad calmly recalls Joe explaining that God puts everyone on a bus before they are born and allows them to choose where they want to get off. So Dad says to his son, so you wanted to be born Joe Lang in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The son replies yes, but next time I’m not making the same mistake.

ExFabula‘s next stop is Kochanski’s Concertina Bar in Burnham Park, this Saturday, January 28th at 8pm with stories around the topic of “Generation Gap”.

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Bronze Age 2.0, Vanguard Sculpture Services, Gallery Night Winter 2012

Glancing out the window while commuting down 35th Street, in the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, you might imagine yourself a red blood cell floating through plaque crusted arteries. The decay of weathered brick one-story machine shops, once churning with activity, appear largely abandoned and vacant. Some shops are now schools or churches, some shops maintained their industrial roots and continue machining, building and manufacturing. One shop in particular, Vanguard Sculpture Services, consummates ingenuity found in the neighborhood’s traditions and the creativity of craft and art culture smelting in Milwaukee’s niche scenes.

In the Guild

Since 1996 in the Vanguard space and for many years before that, Vanguard’s proprietor Mike Nolte has cast bronze sculptures ranging in size from house cat to adult human and beyond. His recent winter Gallery Night exhibit opening entitled Founders highlights his artisan craft, forging sculpture artists’ work into permanent fixtures of life expression. Inaugurating the new Vanguard Gallery space extraordinary bronze cast pieces, formed by nearly 20 different artists, pose virtually immortal on pedestals and rappel from Vanguard Gallery‘s walls. Among them a large spider gently claws the wall, and a cubist inspired cat prowls.

A Few Among the Sculptors

Bernard Roberts, Bountifully Shaped
Cindy Rust Saiia, Coded Panes
Don Rambadt, Flying Fairly
Care Ekpo, Of Topics Less Known
William Zweifel, Woven Glass
Laura Priebe, Fossils of the Present
David Aschenbrener, Fire and Ice
Charlotte Darling Diehl, A Mother’s Love

Art as Labor

Nolte offered tours of his bronze casting shop in conjunction with Vanguard Gallery’s recent installation opening. Explaining his modern application of the ancient lost-wax technique that brings bronze sculptures into being, Nolte’s overview revealed the tremendously time intensive process lending to the relatively high value bronze sculptures have given the relatively low value of the metal itself. Essentially, the bronze-smith replicates stone or clay reference sculptures, provided by the artist, using several successive molds made from plastic, plaster and wax before reaching the final stage of pouring liquid bronze into the ceramic cast.

“Freezing” at 1700 degrees Fahrenheit, the bronze form eventually cools to room temperature and can be handled. Larger sculptures are cast in pieces and must be welded together strategically like a 3-D puzzle. Nolte, in this final stage, may spend thousands of hours grinding and filing the sculpture’s welds and rough spots until every surface lays immaculately smooth. Color can be added to the bronze using the Patina process. The finished bronze is fired again to remove any moisture from the metal. Applying an extremely thin wax coating, adds a refined finish to the final product.

Bronze about Town

Vanguard’s work stands tall all over Milwaukee and the Country. Some of Nolte’s more famous works include the Mary Tyler Moore statue in downtown Minneapolis and the George Stephen (founder of Weber Grills) statue. His works can also be seen about town, notably casts of Gwendolyn Gillen’s ducks on the Milwaukee River bridge on Wisconsin Avenue, and less notably, the placards on the Walnut Street Bridge noting Halyard Park’s namesakes Wilbur and Ardie Halyard.

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Milwaukee goes to DC

If you missed the State of the Union address last night the 30th Street Corridor, maybe one of Milwaukee’s most promising areas for development, made our fair city proud. The train manufacturer Talgo would have solidly anchored the Corridor with a long term commitment to occupy the Century City development  (the former A.O. Smith site) until Wisconsin’s current Governor, in one of his first ill-advised acts, nixed State support of a Talgo‘s relocation to Milwaukee.

Despite this set back, President Obama pointed out in the SOTU (minute 11:30 if you search the video) that another of the Corridor’s residents, Masterlock, recently returned to full production capacity. Masterlock makes quality U-Locks for all you bikers out there, and they are made in Milwaukee. The good press is certainly welcome news for the 30th Street Corridor BID Executive Director Gloria Stearns, who has noted that in addition to manufacturing, her interests include attracting talent from the creative arts sector to the Corridor to compliment businesses like Vanguard and efforts such as IN:SITE.

Vanguard Gallery’s current installation Founders runs until February 17th. The closing reception will feature a live bronze pouring demonstration.

Related Article
Vanguard casting extends services to HAAT project, Taki S. Raton, Milwaukee Courier


Bernard Roberts, Founders, Vanguard Gallery Night

Undulating in a permanent resting positions, Bernard Roberts‘ globular forms spread out then consolidate, wagering sharp edges against the pedestals supporting them. The metallic surfaces blend shades of earth metals with molecular tones of cobalt and hints of ferrous. Evidently abstract, the personalities of Roberts’ sculpture works fluctuate dynamically, and constantly while viewing them.

Back to Main Post, Bronze Age 2.0, Vanguard Sculpture Services, Gallery Night Winter 2012
Bernard Roberts, Bountifully Shaped
Cindy Rust Saiia, Coded Panes
Don Rambadt, Flying Fairly
Care Ekpo, Of Topics Less Known
William Zweifel, Vanguard Gallery
Laura Priebe, Fossils of the Present
David Aschenbrener, Fire and Ice
Charlotte Darling Diehl, A Mother’s Love


Cindy Rust Saiia, Founders, Vanguard Gallery Night

Framing themselves, steel panels accept Cindy Rust Saiia‘s decorative torch cuts that evacuate wanted areas of space, carving porous designs. Rectangular and thin, Saiia’s work hangs as elegantly countenanced industrial wall art, patterns giving food for mental conversation.

Back to Main Post, Bronze Age 2.0, Vanguard Sculpture Services, Gallery Night Winter 2012
Bernard Roberts, Bountifully Shaped
Cindy Rust Saiia, Coded Panes
Don Rambadt, Flying Fairly
Care Ekpo, Of Topics Less Known
William Zweifel, Vanguard Gallery
Laura Priebe, Fossils of the Present
David Aschenbrener, Fire and Ice
Charlotte Darling Diehl, A Mother’s Love


Don Rambadt, Founders, Vanguard Gallery Night

Don Rambadt carefully petrifies daily habits of choice avian species and compliments them with dramatic accent structures that add dimension to the their sculpted perches, transposing the natural surroundings of the birds depicted. Highly angular surfaces on his pieces reminisce on the aesthetics of Soviet era propaganda posters from Eastern block European countries, working well to accent the qualities of industrial art crafted from bronze.

Back to Main Post, Bronze Age 2.0, Vanguard Sculpture Services, Gallery Night Winter 2012
Bernard Roberts, Bountifully Shaped
Cindy Rust Saiia, Coded Panes
Don Rambadt, Flying Fairly
Care Ekpo, Of Topics Less Known
William Zweifel, Vanguard Gallery
Laura Priebe, Fossils of the Present
David Aschenbrener, Fire and Ice
Charlotte Darling Diehl, A Mother’s Love