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Eyes Wide Open

It wasn’t easy including local arts writer Tom Bamberger’s tough love critique on the Gordon Park sculpture in this issue. Some argued that it is an insult to the many residents of Riverwest who worked long and hard to bring sculptor David Middlebrook’s work to town. But writer Bamberger has great credentials, and that counts for much in a town where most of the so-called art criticism is mere reporting. Not only is Bamberger an award winning arts writer, this former Riverwest resident has for many years worked long and hard as a photographer. Is he a disser of most of our public art? Yes, and much of it deserves to be dissed. And to all you readers, since when is no discussion better than an open discussion? Bamberger gets my vote because he was a staunch supporter of the doomed Blue Shirt project, and he loathes, as this writer does, the “loitering Beasties.” He also dislikes (to put it mildly) the Gordon Park installation. But hey, I can’t stomach the Cork Marchesi Riverwalk sculpture, a piece Bamberger admires. To my eyes it resembles a 60’s shower curtain. Perhaps the real problem with public art is that most of the public doesn’t give a damn. They don’t understand what art can be, so they settle for what it isn’t. In an effort to enlighten, Jill Sebastian, professor of sculpture at MIAD, is directing a project (The Open Art Project) which could open our eyes to the possibilities of public art in Milwaukee. There are several examples of her work about our town, the most notable of which is sited on the north side of the Lake Bluff apartments on Prospect Avenue. The Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary Nohl Fund and the Milwaukee Arts Board (with funds from the State of Wisconsin), are assisting in the three part lecture series coming this fall. It’s all part of an effort by MIAD to “bring a new work by one of the nation’s leading public artists to the Third Ward in 2005.” That’s a loaded statement, “elitist” if you will. But it may be a start in the right direction. It should also be noted that the Milwaukee Arts Board helped fund the Gordon Park installation. The September lectures will be held at MIAD, 273 E. Erie St. Be there at 5:30 p.m. for the artist’s reception, followed by a presentation and questions from 6-7:30 p.m. This is your chance to pick some brains. If you’re in a snit about this thing called “public art” and wondering why Milwaukee gets stuck with what some deem as pretty lousy art, perhaps this event will raise the bar a bit. September 9 Artist: Kinji Akagawa Toyko born and educated in American, he currently lives in Minneapolis and is on the faculty of the Minneapolis College of Art and Design. September 23 Artist: Luis Jimenez One of his pieces stands on the steps of the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C.; another on The Point in Boston. Lives and works in New Mexico. September 30 Artist: Jin Soo Kim She has installations in the Brooklyn Museum of Art and the Walker Art Center. A faculty member at the School of the Art I Institute of Chicago. Free and open to the public. That’s you folks.