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Circus Maximus

The rumbles began after the September 9 presentation by Tokyo born Kinji Akagawa, the first in a trio of public sculpture seminars titled “Open Art” and hosted by MIAD. In 2005, one of three presenters will see their work installed in the Third Ward. MIAD’s communications director, Frank Miller, estimated the Akagawa seminar was attended by approximately 250 persons, with about half being students from MIAD and other local educational venues. Sculptor Richard Taylor, who has numerous works throughout the area, spoke to us from his Riverwest studio about Akagawa. “His budgets are often on the small side and he extends them by using available materials near the site.” It makes no sense to drag tons of rock from distant shores, as has been the case with several local public art projects. September 23. Luis Jimenez. Son of an El Paso, Texas, sign painter. Big fiberglass sculptures often celebrate working people, for example, his 16-foot-tall “Vaquero” at the Smithsonian American Art Museum; in Boston, his muscular “Steelworker.” September 30. The metaphorical sculptures of South Korean-born Jim Soo Kim are said to soothe and puzzle. Using recycled objects intermixed with sounds from remembered experiences, will she be chosen? The tab? For starters, more monies are needed. The Mary L. Nohl Fund will cover the $50,000 fee of the chosen artist, and $8,000 has been anted up by the Wisconsin Arts Board for the educational components. Will all of this bring us art worth considering? Why weren’t local and state artists among the three competing for the big prize? MIAD’s aforementioned Mr. Miller thinks “bringing sculptors in from outside the state is good for art.” Another MIAD representative says that originally the list of competitors was a dozen plus, but confirms that none were from Wisconsin. The three left standing were those without prior commitments. That said, local sculptors don’t necessarily agree that excluding state talent is a “good thing.” On the flip side, many resent being labeled “Wisconsin” artists because they compete regularly for commissions in other states. These panelists will make their selection in December: Raoul Deal, artist-in-residence and lecturer, UWM Cultures and Communities Program, and Robert Greenstreet, planning director, City of Milwaukee and dean, UWM School of Urban Planning. Jason Yi, associate professor of art, MIAD. Genyne Edwards, deputy secretary, Wisconsin Department of Tourism. Carmen Haberman of the Richard and Ethel Herzfeld Foundation and Lynde Uihlein, president of the Brico Fund. Public art educator, Diane Buck, and artists Janeen Shavers and MIAD’s Josie Osborne (who will not have a vote) round out the nine. Will they be able to agree on one of the three? Recently the Third Ward mounted an outdoor sculpture exhibition titled “Artscape,” wherein eighteen local sculptors did their thing through October, which isn’t to say it took the sting out of being excluded from the Open Art project. Artscape included a sculpture smacking of a Beastie knock-off. Our town blew it when pols were allowed to shoot down the “Blue Shirt” project scheduled for Mitchell International Airport, so is it any wonder that anxiety over what goes where has trickled into MIAD? Open Art project director, professor of sculpture Jill Sebastian, is perhaps hoping that public input may right past wrongs. In a September 5 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article on the seminars, Sebastian likened public art to a “human circus.” Drum roll please.