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Wednesday, Aug. 31, 2011

Brady Street's Point of Inspiration

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They met in 1998 and wed in 2003. Mary Ellen McCormack and Mike Mervis' shared love of gardening, and faith in the Brady Street area, brought them together. The proof lives in a triangular park embraced by Water, Holton, Van Buren and Brady streets and owned by the city of Milwaukee. The couple, who added sculptures from their private collection, maintains the park. It's more than an artful memorial to their parents; it's a touching memorial to the area itself. I admit, however, that when I first visited in 2008, the sculptures, particularly the largest ones, seemed intrusive. But the park has matured and everything has found its place—beautifully so.

Where once was a wretched patch, filled with whatever blew in, now thrives a perfect punctuation mark defining a busy urban intersection. Almost hidden in the park's tallest tree is a female form (Chi), a sculpture by Mary Ellen. She tells me the Vietnamese word means "tree branch," but it also is about the energy and flow of life. It was fashioned from an oak branch that fell to earth during a violent storm.

I enter on a winding path lined with diverse plantings, including daisies and day lilies trumpeting vibrant hues, though some, like the blush on the last roses of summer, are past their rosy prime. It's shady where I sit on a discreet bench tucked among the flora. A bird flits by. A Sciortino's Bakery truck turns left. On the far side of the Holton Street bridge, a trio of Bill Reid sculptures rises skyward. Urban scents mingle with a whiff of fresh mulch.

Positioned between the Milwaukee River and Lake Michigan, it's a slice of inspiration—one might even say, divine inspiration. In these troubling economic times, isn't it comforting to know there are those who care enough to transform blight into beauty?

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