Art Updates

It has been a busy autumn! The new season began with a trip to Dubuque, Iowa to repair Sinking of the S.S. Innocence. One of the red “kill pegs” was broken off. I had a local manufacturer roll 11-gauge steel to replace all of the pegs. I then welded them directly to the base of the sculpture. It was one of the most beautiful drives I have been on in a while. I suggest to everyone to include the “Driftless” Region of Southwestern Wisconsin if you are ever in the area.
I began the semester trying to locate a specific machine gun to create an art piece that has occupied my brain for some time now. After much stress, I secured the weapon, materials, and a place to fire it. The first part of the series was in the show “Exchange” at the Mosse Humanities building in Madison.
At the Children’s Museum in town, we finally finished the Rockit! exhibit. It is awesomely stellar! Kids are loving it. One can climb in the capsule and just play while ambient music is playing. For older kids, there is a learning curve allowing one to control the beats, melodies and sound effects to create their own songs. It was a long hard year that included two back spasms and one trip to the hospital for a butterfly bandage and a tetanus shot. De-constructing an aluminum airplane and retro-fitting it to accept a new array of electronics and wiring is a head bumping, finger- slicing hair full of drill shavings type of event. It is very nice to see it installed. I would also like to thank my team: Dan Ganch (fabrication), Nadia Niggli (Graphics), The crew from Sony Creative Software, and Matt from NuVibrations for pulling all of the systems together.
On another note, I have been feeling like Richard Serra lately. (not in the famous aspect) There is a group of individuals trying to get a sculpture of mine removed from a park adjacent to their property. The sculpture was formerly installed on the campus at Southern Illinois University- Edwardsville. It was originally funded through a grant from the Gateway Foundation in St. Louis. After its time was up, I contacted my hometown to see if they were interested in it. Blue Mound is a village of 1200 polite Midwesterners that live in an agricultural community. They had recently formed a park district to manage the swim club and the towns two parks. One park contains the following items: Outdoor theater and covered stage, children’s playground, water fountain, pavilion, WWI canon, bathrooms, sidewalks, gates and landscaping. The other park contains: a scattering of trees, and a stream. I proposed that it be placed in the park that had nothing so that people would have something to look at. It is my wish that others would embrace the park and ask the district to move forward with making it a real park. The little “Madison-esque” world that I live in envisions park benches, some winding trails, park benches, a small playground, and a couple of bridges spanning the creek. But there are some problems. Step one, getting a piece of art in the park happened. There was some talk of possibly getting benches and one neighbor told me that they should have a block party at the park. That was the end of the rainbows and unicorns. A couple of residents started filing complaints that the sculpture was ugly, it was reducing the value of their home, and reducing their income as they stared out the window for hours on end deciding how to get the art removed from the park.
Here is what I think the truth is: There are three housing additions adjoining this park. One is a middle class tract on one side of the park. The opposite side has a back addition of very nice homes, with a small front tract of lower rent apartments with one building including Government Subsidized Housing. Due to proximity and a shared road, the Social Class A and C have learned to live with each other. The complaints seem to be coming from the Social Class B side of the park. I believe that they do not want the park developed, because people may actually come use it. I believe that they see the stream as a moat protecting them from “poor” kids getting too close to their property. They claim that it is a flood plain. Yes, and so is the rest of the area. Central Illinois farm country is one of the flattest landscapes in the nation. We know how to properly develop watershed areas now. Since the stream is actually a field run-off waterway, maybe it would be a good time to use a section of this park as an educational experiment that provides good in a variety of ways.
Last week, I was contacted by the Park District asking if I wish for the piece to stay or go. I contacted them sharing my reasons on why art is good, why we develop parks, how that helps children, families, home values, and such for their Monday night meeting. There was also a presentation by one of the board members based on Scientific Research in Virginia showing social and economic benefits of public sculpture.
The leader of the “Remove the Sculpture” organization emailed me today. It was a 9 point, two page email telling me all of the reasons that they hated my sculpture. Which by the way is a twelve foot tall thumbtack painted green that uncomfortably imitates the surrounding trees. They compared it to living next to a livestock farm, alluded to the possibility of erecting something on their property to block the view or maybe even suing to have it removed. The homeowner’s girlfriend told me in shocking detail about the fateful morning that they woke up and saw ART lingering in a city park!
The angry lady told me that we should spend less time making art and educating people in the humanities and more time raising children right and going to church!

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