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Monday, April 18, 2011

Grohmann Museum's Visual History of 'Milwaukee Mills'

Art Review

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Amid a rainy Gallery Night and Day, the Grohmann Museum at MSOE presented "Milwaukee Mills: A Visual History," an intimate one-room exhibit soaked in the history of the iron and steel mills of southeastern Wisconsin (from Mayville to Milwaukee). This intriguing timeline of black-and-white portraits/photographs, oil paintings and rugged artifacts drew a diverse crowd of people of all ages, but especially men. (Hint: In case one's trying to get their father, son or male significant other to engage in some artistic and historical enlightenment this summer, try this exhibit!)

Starting in 1845, the Mayville stove took center stage with its intricate detailing and iron ore configuration. This artifact gave birth to an extensive history of mining, smelting and iron manufacturing here in Wisconsin. In chronological order, the walls display portraits of the prominent men involved in this industry, along with a visual and textual story line: Mayville beginnings, mill collaborations, the panic of 1873 (Minerva Furnace), corporate expansions and the destruction of the iron industry in the 1930s.

Some of the slag and iron ore (byproducts of smelting) left over from the original stockpiles are situated in a case and were discovered just a few months ago by Bay View resident and iron enthusiast John Ebersol. According to Grohmann Museum Director John Kopmeier, it's typical to still find pieces of slag, iron ore or coke in the areas in which these spectacular structures once stood.

"Milwaukee Mills: A Visual History" continues through Aug. 21.