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IN:SITE’s Temporary Artwork ‘On and Off Capitol’

Art Review

Nov. 30, 2010
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Capitol Drive, which stretches from Lake Michigan’s shores to the western suburbs of Pewaukee, almost resembles a timeline for Milwaukee history with its variety of architectural styles, cultures and neighborhoods. IN:SITE, an arts organization dedicated to installing temporary public art, chose the Century City neighborhood along 35th and Capitol for its recent project, “On and Off Capitol.”

The project, which opened Oct. 2, features eight installations designed by five artists. Each work of art was intended to last about six months, remaining in good condition through the winter.

Playful, colorful billboards and a mural by Colin Matthes function extremely well in their placement—two to the south of Capitol, along with a wall image to the north. The mural of children dancing or strutting immediately grabs your attention.

Sarah Luther’s significant black-and-white billboard portrays faces in line drawings, with the words “This Is Our Neighborhood” written above.

Other installations were meant for those on foot, including yard signs posted in the grass on either side of Capitol Drive. These are difficult to view when driving by, and it will be interesting to see if winter snow eventually covers these signs.

The temporary neon-green and black patterns surrounding the supports to a railway underpass create interest, but one questions the reason for this placement. Traffic flows under the tracks, often at more than 50 miles per hour, so there is little time in which to appreciate the art.

IN:SITE's billboards and murals create lasting impressions, whereas the other works were difficult to distinguish or find when viewed from a car; several remained unseen. Drivers on Capitol Drive become impatient with those wishing to view the public art.

Matthes’ dinghy/rowboat strung between two high posts and swaying in the wind boasts imagination and originality, yet it appears somewhat obscured from the opposite side of Capitol or from a car window.

Public art projects and IN:SITE make artwork accessible and provide valuable benefits in beautifying neighborhoods. With ever-limited funds, the quest for viable and visible art continues to be relevant. In the future, perhaps sites could be selected for optimum placement and longevity, which would offer even more impact.

(A complete map of “On and Off Capitol” is available at insitemilwaukee.org.)


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