We Asked Milwaukeeans: What is Your Dream Street Art Commission?

Public art often gets a bad rap in this town. So we asked local voices in art and architecture to tell us what they would commission if funds and bureaucracy weren’t obstacles. They did not hold back.

Mo Zell, associate dean of the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s school of architecture and urban planning

A Christo and Jeanne-Claude project like “The Gates” in Central Park mapping 23 miles of Milwaukee with fabric starting along the lakefront and connecting to Brady Street, Pleasant Street, to Walnut Street, to Lisbon Avenue, to Washington Park. That’s not the full 23 miles, but it’s a start.

John Sobczak, co-director, Dean Jensen Gallery

I would commission Richard Serra to drop some sort of giant cockeyed steel cylinder over that atrocious Bay View Art Stop bus shelter debacle. If the goal is to piss off the neighborhood and discourage the use of public transport, you might as well do it with serious aplomb.

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan.
Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan.

Khine Cho Hline, COMB Gallery owner and artist

A blue-collar/white-collar footbridge on Wisconsin Avenue and Mason Street between Mark di Suvero’s “The Calling” and the Cudahy Tower. It would be designed by Steen Ostergaard and myself.

Ray Chi, artist and designer

An urban playscape for children and adults. A place to meet, play, relax, recharge, do something, do nothing, escape, engage. It would be located at the confluence of the Milwaukee and Menomonee rivers, in the heart of Downtown Milwaukee. There is a lot that is used as storage for shipping containers, by the Pritzlaff building on Plankinton Avenue. Seems like a potent site, with Downtown, MIAD, Harley, Hank Aaron State Trail, MMSD, Fifth Ward developments, and the Third Ward all nearby.

Photo by Jakob Boserup.
Photo by Jakob Boserup.

Krisann Rehbein, art and architecture writer and designer

Hire Bjarke Ingels Group, or BIG, to build a structure like their Mountain Dwellings in Copenhagen that can be used as a parkour course.

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan.
Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan.

John Shannon, arts patron and onetime owner of ThirdCoast Digest

I propose a gondola, designed by Jim Shields or La Dallman, that would rise from Wisconsin Avenue at 16th Street, up and over the interstate, transporting people to and from the Menomonee Valley. This would connect Downtown to the Valley, the Harley-Davidson Museum, the casino, and all of the other great things happening there. It would be dramatic, bold, functional, breathtaking, and unique in the Upper Midwest. You would see the lake, Miller Park, the Domes, Allen-Bradley, the new Bucks arena, the art museum. You would see Milwaukee. And it would connect Milwaukee.

Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan.
Illustration by Vidhya Nagarajan.

Ney Collier, artist and environmental activist

My idea for a public sculpture would be native plant gardens on the new billion-dollar complex planned for Milwaukee near the existing Downtown sports complex. Ecotourism is becoming an important source of revenue worldwide. The new complex could pay for itself and become a destination for ecotourism. It could really put Milwaukee on the map. Just imagine the benefits of walls of native Wisconsin host plants for butterflies along the lines of Patrick Blanc’s Vertical Gardens. Groups of Chinkapin Oak trees, which live for more than six hundred years, could be included.

Tom Bamberger, photographer and architectural critic

You could have a lava sculpture that is heated to 2,000 degrees in the dead of winter. People could throw things in it, like a fountain.

‘Dream Works’ appears in the June 2015 issue of Milwaukee Magazine.
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Debra Brehmer, an arts writer and curator, owns and operates Portrait Society Gallery, a contemporary art space in Milwaukee. She was also the former editor and publisher of Art Muscle Magazine and teaches part-time at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.