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In Milwaukee Buzz

Some love the contrast; others hate the blocked view

In Milwaukee Buzz

The museum sign doesn't exactly help the view from the street, either.

Ask OMC: Will they move the orange sculpture?


In our continuing series entitled "Ask OMC" we take your questions, big or small, and track down the answers. So ask us anything about Milwaukee, and we'll find out the skinny. That's what we do.

Send your question to AskOMC@staff.onmilwaukee.com. If you include your name and city, we'll consider it for our next installment. Our question this time comes from Dave in Milwaukee, who asks:

Q: Why hasn't the city torn down (or at least moved) the orange sunburst statue that blocks the view of the Art Museum?

A: If you're looking to start a public debate about public art, this one can't miss.

The statue to which Dave refers is entitled "The Calling," by abstract impressionist sculptor Mark di Suvero. But, a lot of folks we know refer it to by other names, such as "The Sunburst," and "That ugly orange thing at the end of Wisconsin Avenue."

Di Suvero, who was born in 1933, often works with industrial I-beams, which he welds and bolts together. "The Calling" was installed in its current location at the east end of Milwaukee's main drag in 1982. The cost at the time was reportedly in the neighborhood of $150,000, which made many frugal residents squawk with anger. Others complained because they simply didn't like the look.

A quarter-century ago, the bright orange sculpture was set against a grassy patch, the blue sky and Lake Michigan. Today, the site has been changed by the addition of O'Donnell Park and Santiago Calatrava's celebrated addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum.

While some viewers like the contrast between di Suvero's angular work and Calatrava's Burke Brise Soleil, others loathe the fact that the view of sunshade is obscured from the street. (Get out of your car and walk a few feet, supporters scream).

When the Calatrava opened in 2001, there was a loud cry for di Suvero's work to be moved. That led to debate about di Suvero's intention. Some said that he sited the piece specifically for its position over the lake. Others claimed that di Suvero's sculpture was completed before a site was chosen and that city officials planned to place it in front of the Reuss Federal Building at 3rd and Wisconsin, where the orange would have played nicely off the blue building.

A lot of people wrote letters to the editor or called their favorite talk-show host and spewed a lot of venom about the issue, but eventually people came to the realization that "The Calling" wasn't going to move any time soon.

It still isn't.

For starters, the statue is owned by the Milwaukee Art Museum. Officials there tried to invite di Suvero to the Lakefront to see the new development and consider a relocation, but he declined their overtures. Calatrava, who knew of "The Calling" before drawing up the plans for his addition, diplomatically deferred to di Suvero.

Five years later, the orange sculpture remains in place. Some are pleased by the location. Others are exasperated. The debate arises periodically and it's always a zesty one.

When you think about it, isn't that what public art is supposed to do?

Talkbacks

OMCreader | Oct. 9, 2006 at 3:39 p.m. (report)

Stella Cretek said: Diane Buck is right...who among us knew the sculpture at Discovery World was "donated" by a private individual with no okay from whoever is supposed to police decisions. there is another example of just such a thing at a little park at Brady & Holton. The donors pay to keep up the park, but they also apparently use it as a "storage" space for their left-over sculptures. Three of them look quite ridiculous in the little space

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OMCreader | Oct. 7, 2006 at 11:59 a.m. (report)

Diane M. Buck said: I am not sure where you are getting your information, but some of it is wrong. The debate about sculpture began because it is abstract and there are many, many people who dislike abstract. Since the work was purchased by a private individual it did not cost the citizens of our fair city a cent. Gerald Nordland was the director of the Milwaukee Art Museum at the time, and he sheparded the sculpture through the County and City public forums. Yes, there was a healthy debate in the 1980's but that is very old news. Now it seems there are still folks that hate the work; however, my understanding is the architect and the sculptor discussed moving the work but both decided no.... Does the public need more debate? I think NOT!!!! I hear NO debate about the sculpture in front of Pier Wisconsin. What about a private individual placing a work of art in a very public place without any public hearing???????

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OMCreader | Oct. 2, 2006 at 1:32 p.m. (report)

Shaun(a) said: Whenever I pass by "The Calling", I never really give it much thought (not that I don't fully appreciate it). The statue has always just been there. I guess if I had to give an opinion, I would say, I like knowing that something familiar to me will always be there. I say keep it where it is, and if you don't like it you don't have to drive, walk, or bike past it!

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OMCreader | Oct. 2, 2006 at 9:41 a.m. (report)

Thomas said: To TJ: People who respect freedom of speech should have an issue with me? At no time did I attempt to deny your right to your opinion. I did, however, point out the fallacy of your opinion: it is an uneducated opinion without context or full understanding of the situation.

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OMCreader | Oct. 2, 2006 at 9:39 a.m. (report)

Thomas said: Hey Annoyed, the di Suvero sculpture may very well have been created for the end of Wisconsin Avenue. It's disputed as to whether it was or wasn't. By the way, the examples I listed were NOT in fact created for their specific location. The French gave us the Statue of Liberty without ever knowing where it was to be placed. The Iwo Jima memorial was not designed for its specific location. And the Leaning Tower of Pisa was not designed to be a leaning tower in the city of Pisa. It was designed without context as to where it would actually be built. That's why I chose those examples. So, perhaps it isn't I who could learn a thing or two about art appreciation.

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