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A Quick Glance at West Bend, the 'City of Sculptures'

Dec. 6, 2016
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In 1992 the West Bend Friends of Sculpture was launched in an effort to make the town a “City of Sculptures.” I was recently introduced to Shawn Graff, the executive director of the non-profit, when I called him to grouse about the missing labels used to identify sculptors and their works. Problem solved. Serigraph, a solid West Bend company, is busy designing replacement labels. As a resident of West Bend, I have a stake in the 36 sculptures the Friends have placed: some donated, others purchased and a few commissioned. Too often public art descends into rack and ruin. Not here though. The Friends of Sculpture really are friends of sculpture.

It’s hard to ignore the gritty rawness of reinforced concrete shaped by UW-Milwaukee emeritus professor of sculpture Narendra Patel. It is perfectly placed in Regner Park near the sinuous and majestic Labyrinth Earth Garden sculpture, where a volunteer gardener cautioned me to never call it a “maze.” Parks and nooks abound around town, and one of the best is Riverside Park. Follow the walkway to Summer Cauldron, a steel structure resembling a catapult for giants. It’s on loan from an Illinois artist and the behemoth certainly calls to mind the industrial base that has been long gone from the area.

And then there’s the Museum of Wisconsin Art, a sculpture unto itself. The Friends of Sculpture, in tandem with the museum, purchased Athena, a major work by longtime UW-Madison art professor, Dean Meeker. She’s quite the lady, sprung from the head of Zeus. The Greek goddess of many things, most notably art, Athena, towering in bronze does not lack for attitude. Artist August E. Peter, MOWA’s preparatory, is freshening her beauty. She’ll be back on display in the future, thanks to her friends.

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