Archive for the ‘Milwaukee’ Category

Non Potable spigot Paulina Station CTA

I wanted to share some sentiments from an unprepared but inspired participant in the Potable gesture in September.  He captures much of what I was trying to communicate and so much more.

Michael Blahy writes:

“Hi Catherine,
You might not remember me from September 28th, but I was the person who came to the Pryor Avenue Iron Well with the big five gallon bottle (and was too camera shy to get photographed!). I am a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee and am currently working on my Master’s thesis. I have been mulling over my essay for some time now, when I realized last night that there’s something particularly significant happening at the well that your Potable Realized project helped me realize (I am so thankful that you extended your experience and thoughts from the well to your blog). The iron well is just as much of a neighborhood gathering place as any of the corner bars in Bayview. For people like me it has become a quotidian experience to fill up and quickly chat with anyone else visiting the watering hole. It is so casually nestled in our neighborhood that it is easy to forget its long history and, more importantly, the connection it provides city residents with local geography and natural resources.
My concerns about the iron well arise out of a narrative I constructed about another vernacular landscape in the area–that of Hubbard Park in Shorewood. I trace its history back to the 1800s when the land hosted a mineral spring resort. Over time the landscape morphed from a rustic park in the country to an amusement park, a train depot, and, finally, what it is now, a residential/park hybrid. However, with the site’s evolution, each layer of history has been slowly erased. The landscape’s rich history is only acknowledged by a few plaques–kind of a let down considering the significance of the geography of the site.
Anyway, it seems to me that the Bayview iron well, in general, and, your artistic project, specifically, have done a better job of inscribing a sense of place that is alive both in its present, day to day form and in its history and geography.
I apologize if I rambled on for too long here, but, if you’re at all interested in discussing your experiences further, I would love to talk more.
And thank you for the wonderful drinking cup! We are enjoying it very much here at home!

Michael and I spent some time on the phone with his prepared questions relating to my project and his thesis “In Small Urban Places.”  From his viewpoint I learned and I will be forever grateful.  An artist and one who responds is a true gift.  There are so many of us that make work day after day, year after year and wonder about making an impact.  I am honored by Michael’s thoughtful sentiments and how they might relate to his own discoveries about community.

From Michael’s thesis draft:

“It is so casually nestled in our neighborhood that it is easy to forget its long history and, more importantly, the connection it provides city residents with local geography and natural resources.  Artistic endeavors such as “Potable” literally help one to realize the significance of the place.  It seems to me that the Bayview Iron well, in general and, Schwalbe-Bouzide’s project, specifically, have dona a better job of inscribing a sense of past that is alive both in its present, day to day form and in its history and geography.”

I have been researching other possible site for Potable events in the future.  You might enjoy following this blog:

Find a Spring.  Michael and I both have!

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This entry is dedicated to the family of Ayrie Mekai Jones Murphy.  A dear little four year old that put up an amazing fight in this world.  Love pours from many to your family like water should for all.

Potable Realized

I visited the site on Monday September 28th and put up two laminated posters about Potable.  When my mother and I arrived at 3:00p on Tuesday two people were waiting for us along with my sister in law Laurie Schwalbe, my niece Sheri Paape and her daughter Addison.

The couple waiting for us said “We want to know what this is about!”  The man said he just wanted a cup but the the woman he was with started in with many questions.  “Where are you from?”  “Why are you doing this?”  “What do you want with this neighborhood?  Is Channel Four coming?”  Before I could answer, properly set up, and get my bearings, she had another question.  Whew!  It really got better from then on.  After the discussion felt a little less heated, and my wonderful and calm mother shared supportive words about the project, I excused myself to unload the 100 cups, table, table cloth, basket of lovely MacIntosh Apples from Witte’s Farm stand (a destination whenever I go home during the growing season) and more with my niece.

It was a beautiful fall day in Wisconsin with the colors just turning, the sun shining, with the air still.  BayView WI, is the near southern neighborhood of Milwaukee.  It is home to a vibrant residential, retail, a stunning temporary public art project, and restaurant community.  It is also home to the last public water well pictured here:

Pryor Avenue Iron Well

I became aware of the well prior to my residency with Colorado Art Ranch via Milwaukee’s venerable paper the Shepherd Express. Their article by Sarah Biondich spawned a curiosity and level of interest I couldn’t shake through the rest of Spring, during the residency, and thereafter into Summer.  Then I heard from Wendy Pabich, PhD and Water Deva.  I met Wendy during the Colorado Art Ranch experience.  She is a well respected hydrologist and artist and is sought after to speak and assist with water solutions around the world.  She said she would be speaking in Milwaukee at the Tapping in to Solutions in September and wondered if we could get together…. then the piece that I had turning in my head had to be realized… during the conference!

Fast forward to Tuesday September 28, after the completion of 100 + terra cotta cups, a bit of glaze testing, (thanks Jiyeon Yim – my personal glaze consultant!), two Cone 04 firings , a special event permit with the city of Milwaukee, coordination with four generations of women, and voila, an art gesture.  Here is the flyer for the event:

Potable Invite/Flyer

Several people came by because they had seen the laminated flyer I posted on Monday on site.  Several others had stopped by because they saw something was happening that was out of the ordinary.  Most, however, came to the well because they always do, with their variety of containers, glass and plastic, recycled and reused, to fill their vessels at the well that they don’t take for granted.

Pictures of family, a dear  friend, and people who have come to fill containers from the well water are pictured below:

Two cars unloading containers to fill up with well water on the day prior to Potable.

Prepared to fill up.

Filling up

Eduardo, a “Holistic Healer” demonstrates how he fills his containers.  Eduardo sends people to this well for their water.  He said those that heed his advice have appreciated the water in their path to health.

Set up and ready to go.

Three generations drinking

A wonderful guy and one of the first Potable participants. We shared an extra cup for a nephew who is hospitalized with depression. He said "I will fill it with this water."

Addison loved the colors and the feel of the cups. So sweet.

Dear friend Bonnie Lowell came too = delightful!

Urban dogs benefit too. "Denali" is pictured here.

Cup holders getting used!

This gentleman expressed thanks when he received his cup when he came by to fill his refillable container.

A fun group of "walkers" were surprised and thankful for the cups. They walk in the neighborhood about 5 X a week.

Eduardo and I toasting. A dear guy that loved the cups and the sentiment.

A fun family that visits a new neighborhood each time they walk. Very excited about receiving their own cups.

Satellite Crepes - a delightful couple coming by for water. Check them out online!

Martin, the last Potable participant of the day.

End of Day - 50+ cups given away for Potable

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Plenty of art for Everyone!

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The art gesture called Potable is taking shape.  Family members with whom I have spoke are excited about the project which I am humbled and excited about.

Participants will include my mother, Helen Schwalbe of Cedarburg, WI 79 yrs.  My brother David’s daughter Sheri Paape and her daughter Addison – 1 year old of Port Washington, Wisconsin.  My other brother Vince’s daughter Cristina and her daughter Lillie 2 yrs. old of Milwaukee.  Possibly my sister Jacquie’s daughter Ruby 9 years old of Chicago, IL.

Pryor Avenue Iron Well Bayview, WI

Here are the specifics:

100 Terra Cotta Cups "Potable"

100 Terra Cotta Cups given to the first 100 in attendance – stamped for the project “Potable.”

4 Generations of Women

Tuesday September 28, 2010

at the Pryor Avenue Iron Well   Milwaukee Wisconsin

(S. Superior and E. Pryor or N 41° 58.218 W 87° 39.582)

Some facts about water and why this well? Why now?


A gesture and celebration of public water in conjunction with
Tapping into Solutions:  The Future of Water Conference  09 . 27-29 . 2010

  • In just one day, more than 200 million hours of women’s time is consumed for the most basic of human needs — collecting water for domestic use. – water.org
  • At any given time, half of the world’s hospital beds are occupied by patients suffering from diseases associated with lack of access to safe drinking water, inadequate sanitation and poor hygiene. -2006 United Nations Human Development Report.
  • “For 127 years, Bay View neighbors, and the occasional visitor, have gathered together, bottles and jugs in hand, at the Pryor Avenue Iron Well for its continuous flow of fresh groundwater. The public well, located in a residential neighborhood just a block away from the lake, is the only one of its kind left in Milwaukee, a lone sentinel standing on Pryor Avenue between South Superior  Street and South Wentworth Avenue.”  Shepherd Express  04.10.2010
  • Milwaukee – 1993  By the numbers  44,000 doctor visits.  4,400 hospitalized.  725,000 lost workor school days.  $96 million lost wages and medical expenses.  $90 million new water purification system.   “It was a real tragedy for the community, bu even more for the individuals affected by it.”  – John O. Norquist, Milwaukee Mayor

And finally, Paul and I visited the well on Saturday nite for the first time.  Here are our own images and a video.  Delightful.

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