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A Long History in Wisconsin

Off the Cuff with sculptor August Edward Peter

Aug. 8, 2017
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August Edward Peter is a formal sounding moniker with hints of history. It seems about right for a sculptor who is currently a preparator at the Museum of Wisconsin Art, a chap who has recently restored Athena, a sculpture by the late Dean Meeker. A decade ago Peter moved from an English Cotswold home in Bay View to a house near a Newburg, Wis., nature conservancy.

Santiago Calatrava was a big deal when he designed the Quadracci addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum. You designed the “Skylight Lens” in the boardroom located at the south end of the building. Did you meet Calatrava?
He was touring the addition, and he dropped in while I was making the Styrofoam template for the Skylight Lens. Fashioned from stainless steel and glass with its many angles, it was particularly difficult.

Other of your works you left behind in Milwaukee?
A bronze bust of industrialist Henry Harnischfeger that stood outside of their corporate offices.  I don’t have any idea what happened to it. Musician Daryl Stuermer hired me to design and install a 27-foot-high copper and stainless steel sign for a Third Ward building he and his wife owned, and at the Sacred Heart Seminary in Hales Corners, is a life-sized bronze statue of Jesus. Boerner Botanical Gardens has a wall piece, and if you visit the Wisconsin Conservatory of Music, perhaps you’ll see a bronze bust of Duke Ellington. That’s my work too.

Your family has a long history in the Milwaukee area?
My grandfather started out supplying various items to brewing companies, and he owned Northwestern Coffee Mills and Northwestern Extract Company. My father, a former Air Force colonel, carried on the tradition. One of my nephews is the president of Northwestern Extract.

Your art training (BFA Sculpture 1981) took you to the Kansas City Art Institute. Thomas Hart Benton lived in Kansas City, and a big exhibition of his work recently traveled to the Milwaukee Art Museum. Did you ever meet him?
Well, he died in 1975, but I did go with several other students to rake his yard! Kansas City has beautiful sculptures sited all over town. As a student at the institute, I developed a conservation program for the J.C. Nichols Company, a real estate venue responsible for all the works. 

You came out of the heady ’70s, along with other artists who wanted to be big stars. Was that your dream?
What I want now at age 60 isn’t about celebrity. It’s about being able to work on more than one thing. Hunting, gathering and a full day of possibilities are important. This past season I took two deer, a beautiful 14-point buck and a doe. That helps keep my larder stocked.


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