A downtown business improvement district (BID) declared 2017 the “Year of Wisconsin Avenue”—and we agree. Not only is visual artist Mauricio Ramirez painting colorful historical scenes on utility boxes, but now 22 sculptures are being installed down the bustling thoroughfare, sculptures that will be on display June 1 through Oct. 22.
The project, called Sculpture Milwaukee, is spearheaded by Steve Marcus, chairman of the board of The Marcus Corporation. Over the course of two years, the project was realized with the help of Russell Bowman, former director of the Milwaukee Art Museum, who is Sculpture Milwaukee’s art advisor, taking on the responsibility of finding artists and getting their sculptures on loan from national and international galleries.
Positioned on Wisconsin Avenue from 6th Street to O’Donnell Park, the sculptures were made by 21 artists, notably including Santiago Calatrava, designer of the Milwaukee Art Museum, Sir Anthony Cragg, a knighted (!) British sculptor, and Alison Saar, a celebrated sculptor whose work focuses on the African cultural diaspora and spirituality. Milwaukee-based artists are featured too, like Michelle Grabner, who is known for curating the most recent Whitney Biennial, a world-renowned showcase of contemporary art in New York city, and Paul Druecke, an influential “conceptual” artist.
— Milwaukee Downtown (@MilwDowntown) May 22, 2017
The sculptures range wildly in material, size and style, including everything from a 40 ft.-tall stainless steel piece by Brazilian postmodernist Saint Clair Cemin to one made of rubber tires and stainless steel by Chakaia Booker, an artist known for her wearable sculptures. Some are already being installed, such as “Immigrant Family” by Tom Otterness, a massive sculpture attempting to encapsulate the experiences of immigrants coming to the United States.
Sculpture Milwaukee hopes to attract worldwide attention for both the quality of the sculptures and the rich cultural history in the art world that the sculptures represent. The project is also unique in its scope and public engagement.
“Milwaukee is one of only a handful of cities to host a free, urban installation of this magnitude,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of the Downtown BID #21. “We look forward to engaging the community with programs and events around this new public art.”
Sculpture Milwaukee is to be an annual exhibition, bringing in sculptures from new artists each year. The project will continue with the money made from the previous years’ sculptures, which will be available for purchase.