Milwaukee blew living colors all year in 2013, with our fine city earning a couple of major national honors including a somewhat dubious “Brainiest City” from The Atlantic, and most notably a spot on ArtPlace America’s top art places 2013 list. On this list, Milwaukee bumped elbows with Brooklyn and Manhattan, NY, Seattle, Portland, Dallas, LA, Philadelphia, and San Francisco and few other name brand cities. The recognition specifically gold-starred the Third Ward for its civic centrality, a harbor of the fine arts.
While most Milwaukeeans appreciate the Third Ward for what it represents, it only gives a taste of Milwaukee’s arts culture. The Milwaukee art-scape evolved pockets, hideouts, scenes, lone rangers, academies and even congregations as the twentieth century turned. In 2013, Milwaukee lost the matriarch of them all, Art vs. Craft.
Though preceded by several notable others including Morning Glory Art Festival and Community Arts Festival (both held annually at the Marcus Center), and Lake Front Festival of the Arts, Art vs. Craft changed everything.
Art vs. Craft took the mainstream fine art culture, spritzed afternoons with your parents sharing blush wine and munching pretzels, and distilled it into an around the clock ordeal of melding kinesthetics and aesthetics during everyday life; a way of life. For those pumping their time, energy and life force into mastering age old craft skills into making things, Art vs. Craft became the annual venue to unveil them to peers and Milwaukee’s neat-thing enthusiasts.
Art vs. Craft founder Faythe Levine must be credited as one of the foremost creative minds Milwaukee has every seen, welding her creativity, ethics, and force of will together to essentially found a niche industry, still maintaining her integrity at all turns. In 2008, collaborating with Courtney Heimerl, Levine released the documentary Hand Made Nation, giving a more global view of the phenomenon taking place in Milwaukee. It was screened around the world, to international acclaim.
Veering to a more specific path of craft professions, Levine and Sam Macon released Sign Painters in early 2013, currently winding down a world tour, capping another immense undertaking.
Leaving the Nest
Art vs. Craft’s final event was hosted by the Harley-Davidson Museum on November 30, 2013. Although a juried craft fair, Art vs. Craft 2013 took up two full exhibition spaces at the HD Museum. Patrons gathered with Printmakers, collage artists, jewelry makers, toy makers, book binders, ceramic dish makers and many others with obscure craft proficiencies, to toast the closing of Levine’s seminal project.
As I browsed that day, obliviously staring over at one of the booths while walking, I almost ran full into someone. Sort of giving way noticing at the last second, I realized in an awe-struck moment that it was Faythe. We ended up just brushing arms. Dammit should have been paying attention, we could’ve met!
Art vs. Craft is survived by venues WMSE’s Buy Local Bazaar, Hovercraft, and Made in Milwaukee, and likely has many budding offspring.
A smorgasbord of makers will fill Zen Dragonfly’s 3rd Annual Last Ditch Effort. Created by local fashion designer Angela Smith, Zen Dragonfly carries a suite of skirt and dress designs derived from re-purposed fabrics, along with hats, knit tams and beanies and other hand sewn accessories.
Every year she teams up with other local artists and crafts people to have a year-end vendor market. This year the Last Ditch effort will convene at the Body and Soul Healing and Arts Center in Sherman Park’s Good Shepard Lutheran Church on 48th and Roosevelt Boulevard.
Past vendors at the Last Ditch Effort included bookbinders, visual artists, screen printers, jewelery artists, natural soaps and beauty products. In a stroke of luck for sweet teeth, several local bakers will also be in residence to help you spoil your appetite a little early, with a variety of tantalizing goodies.
The Last Ditch Effort will go down on Saturday December 21, 2013 from 12:00p to 6:00p at Good Shepard Lutheran Church, 3617 N. 48th Street. Like the Zen Dragonfly page for the latest updates on this event.
Many clothing items leave a first impression that they probably came straight from a major retailer, or worse yet a department store. I actually have a phobia of being seen in an item of clothing that has an immediately recognizable origin. Local maker Vanessa Andrew’s alter-ego Madam Chino will cure that ailment when you stop by the Look Nook on 100A E. Pleasant Street.
A treasure trove of handmade accessories and clothing, the Look Nook also has an extremely forward and very gently worn vintage clothing and shoe selection. Madam Chino is one of the contributors of Hovercraft, adding to her resume of impeccable taste for quality hand tailored and curated found items.
The Look Nook will have an exclusive pop-up shop open Saturday, December 21, 2013 from 12:00p – 6:00p. Take a gaze at the Madam Chino Look Nook page for details on how to attend the shop opening.
The weather will break just in time for the dedication of Three Bridges Park tomorrow, an endeavor that culminates a 15-year rebirth of the Menomonee Valley. In the not so distant past of the previous decade the Valley was in pretty rough shape, with brownfields, under utilization, and livestock busting out of slaughterhouse pens stopping traffic in the stretch of industrial corridor between 6th and 35th Streets.
Coming a long way in land use terms, currently 4 Seasons Skate Park, Zimmerman Architectural Studios (a tremendous rehabilitation of the old gas streetlight fueling plant), Marquette Sports Fields, a newer riverfront cantina called the Twisted Fisherman, a host of traditional industrial businesses like the City Fleet and high tech ones like Helios call the Valley home. The Valley will even have its first high-rise courtesy of Potawatomi Casino, a miraculous 15-story hotel built atop marshlands; And now move over Bioswale, there’s a 24-acre park.
More Ways to Go
Three Bridges Park connects the lower parts of Clark Square and Silver City to the eastern end of Hank Aaron Trail, and adds several miles of trail through the park that spans from 27th Street to 35th Street. Three Bridges will have several notable passages, one of which connects Three Bridges to the Mitchell Park, an excellent siting choice to bring access to the Domes from the Hank Aaron. With an emphasis on multi-modal transportation, the park will also feature canoe portages.
The original passage to the Valley from Silver City sits in the shadows of Miller Park, a narrow tunnel (with a checkered past) connecting Canal Street to Pierce Street. Today, murals coat the Valley Passage’s once forlorn and neglected concrete surface, opening to a winding path leading to the Menomonee Valley branch of the Urban Ecology Center.
Doesn’t look like much now, but these will soon be rolling hills lined with trees.
Building a New Past
July 20th marks the opening of Three Bridges Park, a crowning achievement among many to spring from the From the Ground Up initiative. Menomonee Valley Partners and the Urban Ecology Center have teamed up to weave collaborative projects that support access to jobs, environmental education and outdoor recreation. Some have heralded the opening of Three Bridges Park as Milwaukee’s Central Park moment, a point in time that marks when generations to come will no longer know that blight gripped the land there.
Milwaukee clearly hasn’t come close to setting the upper limit on its seasonal festival flux capacitor gauge. Summerfest and Cathedral Square’s Jazz in the Park will welcome Catalano Square’s new outdoor music series Arye in the Square to the turn of the Solstice revelry.
Tomorrow Matt Davies and the Thriftones light up the evening at Ayre in the Square. They’re a local outfit channelling calloused hand musical sense of classic blues-rock heroes and the feel good punch of a light-hearted touring jam band. I saw Thriftones a little while back at Frank’s and they’re sure to be just as good in fresh air.
Meanwhile at Jazz in the Park, Hey Ocean, a funky trio in town from Vancouver and fresh off a gig at Summerfest, will make their big giant yodel-y pop ballads that make most people happy, live on stage. According to their FB page, Hey Ocean has also made their obligatory hipster pilgrimage to Best Place, making them honorary MKEans.
…And meanwhile on the Henry Maier Festival Grounds, FUN will be at Marcus with Walk on the Moon and Family of the Year, oh and on the park general admission stages Billy Idol, Talib Kweli, REO Speedwagon, Amadou and Merriam, and Blues Traveler basically all at the same time. I foresee Milwaukee’s population increasing tomorrow night, in all age strata.
Increasingly common, summer alignment of outdoor music venues signifies just how appropriate Milwaukee’s national praise as a prime spot for urban enjoyment was heaped over the past year. Arye in the Park and Jazz in the Park are weekly afterwork outdoor music events starting at 6:30p, and Summerfest is going on all day long for the next week and a half.