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Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Art in the Open

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  Public art surprises the senses, exhibiting the unexpected on streets and sidewalks. IN:SITE, an arts organization dedicated to encouraging Milwaukee neighborhoods to create temporary public art, fulfills this mission. Lauren Bandari, Amy Mangrich, and Pegi Taylor founded IN:SITE in 2005, and on May 3 the organization presents its latest round of installations in ShermanPark.

  Working with other community-based organizations, the IN:SITE committee holds forums to plan and determine the logistics and purpose of each public art project in the chosen neighborhood. This spring three installations illustrate three different mediums in Sherman Park and the surrounding streets, all curated by a nationally involved patron of public art, artist John Riepenhoff.In conjunction with Riepenhoff’s own artwork, Melanie Kehos and Cari Hoelzer collaborate with their mentees, Cari Enot and Geoff Strehlow, completing this triple display to the public. The six-month installation of artwork sets out to challenging perceived attitudes of certain communities, enhance the overall environment, and capture wider recognition for rarely acknowledged portions of the city, attempting to unify diverse neighborhoods.

  While temporary public art may stir controversy, the installations under the IN:SITE leadership remains firmly focused. Each site necessitates considerations about the weather, people on the street, the specific requirements of the chosen location, and the desires of the community. The ShermanPark installations honor the original architecture abundant in the historic district, while every project stresses community participation, flexibility and creativity. Passionate about the importance of public art, Lauren Bandari promotes IN:SITE’s continuing commitment to encouraging each individual’s artistic awareness. “The concept is to make art very accessible to pedestrians and the neighborhood,” Bandari says. “By tweaking the esthetic of what you walk by everyday, you can change a person’s viewpoint of their community.”

  Bandari, along with IN:SITE, invites everyone to the official opening reception on Saturday, from 1-4 p.m., which includes free forums explaining the art. From 1-2 p.m. at the Sherman Perk Coffee Shop (4924 W. Roosevelt Drive), Riepenhoff discusses his artistic retrofitting of an old vending machine with fine art photographer’s pictures depicting Milwaukee, available to purchase for a quarter.From 2-3 p.m. at ShermanPark, Kehos explains her architectural stencils and patterns rendered in weatherproof chalk on the park’s pathways. And from 3-4 p.m. at the Sherman Park Community Association (3526 W. Fond du Lac Ave.) celebratory cake is served and Hoelzer helps Strehlow present his stained glass designs mounted outside the community office.

  Historic Downtown Waukesha also unveils the city’s public art at “Art Crawl 51- Mother of All Crawls!” on May 3 from 4-10 p.m. Martha Merrell’s Bookstore, located on Main Street, hosts a personal preview to premiere Waukesha’s self-guided Public Art Walking Tour. A live auction between 5-6 p.m. featuring the sale of children’s art, at 401 West Main Street, benefits the education of underprivileged children, inviting art-lovers to make an impact on everyday life.