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Wednesday, June 29, 2011

A Milwaukee Neighborhood's 'Refoundation'

IN:SITE presents artist Faith Purvey

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At North 29th Street, just south of Capitol Drive, is an unnamed city park. This triangle of grass with two trees and a basketball court bounded by Hopkins and Melvina streets is the site of a promising artwork. Faith Purvey, a site-specific performer based in Los Angeles and Minneapolis, together with the citizens of Milwaukee who will visit the site in the coming month, will create a temporary village of tents, sculptures, paintings and performances. MPS will bring activities for children. Three neighborhood church choirs will sing. Corvin Ingram and Tha Force Within will dance. Who knows what else will materialize?

Part of the fun of the project is its mystery. Purvey will make daily choices to guide a monthlong open improvisation by residents, visitors and community workers. The city's new “Pop-Up Gallery,” a vacant lot across from the Dominican Center at 24th and Locust, will serve as a “sister city” to the 29th Street site, with corresponding visual artwork evolving there.

At opening day in the park, children painted fantasies for the vacant lot onto sketchbook-size black-and-white photos of the site. Paint was everywhere—on tables, on trees and on sheets of white vinyl, which will soon become the walls of tents. Shiny lilac-colored streamers fluttered from clothesline stretched between the trees, and colorful cut-out letters fastened high on the fence of the basketball court spelled “WELCOME.” Seen from Hopkins driving north toward Capitol, it was intriguing and inviting.

Forty adults and children cheered a fine performance by dancer/choreographer Ingram. The 24-year-old is a dance artist to take seriously; give him a space and he will do good things in many styles. His music was provided by the CD player of a van owned by Gracelyn Wilson of the Northwest Side Community Development Corp., who is helping to coordinate activities.

Refoundation
is the name of Purvey's city-as-stage performance work. It's part of an exciting place-responsive temporary art exhibit organized by IN:SITE in the developing Century City area around 27th and Capitol during July. It seeks to foster ideas and connections that will help to permanently transform empty lots and buildings into safe, interesting and beneficent places. This art is cutting-edge and prehistoric. With echoes of cave paintings, it raises issues of public space and homelessness. The city of Milwaukee is fully supporting it.
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