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Lynden Blog

February 12, 2015 | Willy

This is the fifth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

The instant I picked up Wendy Hamilton, Healthy Neighborhoods Program Manager for Sherman Park Community Association on Fond du Lac Avenue November 10, I became lost in thought. My father was a mapmaker for General George S. Patton during World War II and I pride myself on using real maps (not GPS) and getting where I need to go without making mistakes. However, I was so caught up in my conversation with Wendy (on a very easy drive straight north on Sherman Boulevard) that I had to backtrack twice.

When I am with visitors at Lynden, along with talking about distance, the one other thing I need to do is make sure to take a picture. I forgot to do this. Instead, Wendy sent me a photo from inside her home in Sherman Park. It gives you a sense of how vibrant she is.

Wendy_dist5_cropped

I have known Wendy since 2007, but have never spent time with her outside of the SPCA office. I knew it would be special to have one-on-one contact with her. Just like with the planners from West Allis a week earlier, we talked about distance nonstop, but in a way I never imagined. Wendy had carefully considered the topic and knew what she wanted to say. I was riveted.

Once at Lynden, Wendy told me, “Distance equals peace.” Wendy grew up in Sherman Park and lives in the neighborhood now. She said, “I am a city girl and love it, but I also care about being close to the earth.” She believes everyone should be able to experience both the urban and the rural. This means taking her two daughters, who want action and excitement, to places where teenager Afrika first says, “This is too quiet.” Afrika soon starts to soak it in and imagines her daily life in these places and spaces. Fourth grader Nadiatier believes they have left the state when they drive to a rural community.

Wendy is searching for ways to bring the untroubled and natural environment of Lynden to Sherman Park. Living in an urban environment can be stressful. Wendy believes bringing tranquility to Sherman Park will “bring peace to the landscape of people’s minds” as well.

We discussed lots of ideas. It would be possible to create prairies in vacant lots. You could plant a dense forest area in Sherman Park. You could create spaces that would attract birds and other wildlife right in people’s backyards.

Lynden could be a part of this process. Lynden's education staff offers field trips for school groups that invite students and teachers to observe and inquire about place, nature, and art. Participants then explore ways to bring the things learned at Lynden back to their own schools and neighborhoods.

February 11, 2015 | Willy

This is the fourth in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

These visits keep surprising me. On November 5, I picked up City of West Allis planners Shaun Mueller and Bart Griepentrog. During our two hours together that morning, I didn’t ask any of the questions from my list. We discussed distance in all sorts of new ways.

WestAllis_dist4
L-R: Bart Griepentrog and Shaun Mueller

I reside 23 miles away from Lynden in Greenfield. Since moving there in 2009, I spend more time in West Allis and find it intriguing. West Allis has more history and breadth than most Milwaukee suburban communities. We stopped in at Executive Director Polly Morris’s office and she agrees. She has a background in history and when she moved to Milwaukee in 1987 one of the first places she visited was the former Allis-Chalmers site in West Allis. One of the reasons I asked Bart and Shaun to come to Lynden with me is because, like Lynden, West Allis is an undiscovered treasure for too many people.

When I summarized the history of Lynden on the drive out, Bart remembered hearing that the sculptures at Lynden almost ended up at the Milwaukee Art Museum. We asked Polly about this. She said after Jane Bradley Pettit died in 2001, her descendants debated donating the sculptures to the MAM. The family decided to open Lynden to the public instead.

We also spoke with Polly about former artist in residence Roy Staab, who lives in West Allis. For the city’s 100th anniversary in 2006, the mayor commissioned Roy to create Fountain in the Sky at the West Allis City Hall. Roy made the temporary sculpture out of weeds bound with jute and plastic cording. As we started our walk, I suggested West Allis could designate a permanent site where Roy could create a series of temporary installations.

I asked Shaun and Bart about ways in which, as planners, they think about distance. It turns out they are thinking about distance all the time.
--How far do people live from shopping, restaurants, and entertainment?
--How much time does it take for people to walk or drive to various locations?
--Potential employers want to know how far away potential employees live and whether it is easy to get to the airport.

Distance can be political as well as geographical. In the four-county Milwaukee area, some people want distance from the city, which increases segregation. West Allis needs to alert citizens about certain land use changes happening in their neighborhood, but only if they live within 200 feet. If you live outside this arbitrary zone, you are not directly notified.

The final stop on our walk was by my favorite cluster of permanent sculptures. In the area just south of the bridge are two Linda Howard sculptures (I enjoy watching the way they interact with the sun), Isaac Witkin’s Kumo (it makes me laugh), and Deborah Butterfield’s Hara (the horse looks like it is made out of wood, but it’s really bronze).

It turns out Shaun and Bart care about clusters, too. People tend to come to West Allis for one thing--perhaps the farmers market or the Wisconsin State Fair. West Allis wants to encourage people to explore a cluster of things. For example, after shopping at the West Allis Farmers Market, open May through November at 65th and National, what would it take to convince a person to check out Oniomania, a funky gift shop a block away at 6430 W. National?

On our way back to the parking lot, Bart challenged all my typical thinking about noise. Although Lynden is pastoral and serene, the sound of cars on Brown Deer Road, a state highway, is audible. Bart said that Cathedral Square, a one-block park in downtown Milwaukee, is actually quieter. “This is because people downtown have alternatives to using cars,” Bart explained. “They can walk or bike, and the cars downtown are driving 25 miles an hour and have to stop about every three blocks for lights.” Bart is frustrated by all the commuters on Brown Deer Road who, in order to escape the city to reach the small communities where they live, in Menomonee Falls or Germantown, destroy the calm for everyone in between.

February 1, 2015 | Joe Acri

Snow at this time of year, especially in healthy quantities and with the prospect of below-freezing weather for the coming week, comes as good news at Lynden.

January 9, 2015 | Willy

This is the third in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

On Wednesday morning, October 22, I visited Lynden with two more members of the Grand Avenue Club. Tuesday had been windy and overcast, but Wednesday was calm and the sun poked out now and then. With no wind, Cathy Litwin, Aaron Leverence and I could see the clouds and trees reflected in the pond.

I explained on the drive out that 4000 trees were planted at Lynden when it was converted from cornfields into a private garden for Harry and Peg Bradley in the 1930s (the sculptures didn't begin to arrive until 1962). Cathy told us she has a friend who plants a tree for every grandchild.

The first question I asked Aaron and Cathy was, “If you could use a Star Trek transporter so you could step in right now and arrive somewhere else immediately, who would you want to see?” I was delighted to hear from Aaron that scientists have teleported atoms. In the Netherlands this year three atoms were teleported about ten feet. Who knows what might be possible ten years from now?

Cathy currently has a niece in Argentina. She would want to go to there to “see what she’s seeing.”

Aaron, thirty years old, lives in Elm Grove and has a nine-year-old brother who lives in Cudahy. He wishes he could see him more often, but acknowledges that “distance makes the heart grow fonder.” As he reminded me, “Sometimes you take people who are close to you for granted.”

Cathy picked up some leaves from the ground. After she moved to Milwaukee, she would press leaves in a book and send them in letters to her godparents in Manitowoc, and they would send leaves back. Cathy and her sister-in-law in Minnesota exchange cards with each other. She likes choosing which card to send. She generally doesn’t keep the letters and cards she has received, instead anticipating new ones in the mailbox. Cathy is an acute observer of people's penmanship: “My godmother wrote large and clear,” she recalls. “My husband had swirly handwriting.”

I mentioned the photographers I know who used to live in Manitowoc, John Shimon and Julie Lindemann. It turns out they photographed a friend of Cathy's, Susan, and Susan’s daughter. “Everyone is connected in a smaller city,” she said. “A smaller city keeps you grounded.”

On our way back to the car we walked by a stunning stand of birches where I took a picture of Aaron and Cathy.

ByBirches_dist3

January 5, 2015 | Willy

This is the second in a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

Colleen Kassner is the type of person you can count on to share enthusiasm for an idea. Colleen is the Gallery Director for Gallery Grand at the Grand Avenue Club in downtown Milwaukee, where she also teaches art. The Grand Avenue Club provides adults with mental illness a place to come and participate in activities 365 days a year. When I emailed her about taking members to Lynden she responded, “A resounding yes!”

On the afternoon of October 21, Colleen and GAC members Deb Olson and Herbert Walker came with me to Lynden. Although chilly and windy, we had a spirited visit. Deb taught me a lot and asked good questions. She loves weeping willows, so I took a picture of her under one by the pond. The willow’s leaves remained green, though birch trees nearby had lost all their leaves. She recalled ironing leaves between pieces of wax paper when she was young. This inspired me to bring home some sunlight yellow gingko leaves to preserve.

DebWillow_dist2

Deb wanted to know what animals we might see. I mentioned coming upon a group of eight wild turkeys by George Sugarman’s yellow-painted aluminum sculpture Trio one morning. Deb told me there are wild turkeys where she lives at 20th and Layton, too. I never would have guessed this was possible near an expressway interchange.

One of the questions I have been asking people focuses on how you can feel more distance with someone in the same room than with someone miles away. “Some people are coldblooded and can’t warm up,” said Deb. “You can know them for years and years and not get close.” Deb can sense right away if she will be able to make a connection with someone she meets.

Herbert had a huge challenge overcoming distance. As a youth, his Aunt Ruby lived in Minneapolis. Her husband drove a bus and Herbert would ride the bus with him when he visited. They got divorced and Aunt Ruby moved to Arkansas. When Herbert was 21 he was visiting her and she had a heart attack right in front of him. No one else was home. He is 55 now and though Aunt Ruby is dead he has been able to sustain his relationship with her by seeing her children. Her son is a professional golfer and Herbert got to play a round with him. Just five years ago, he met her daughter for the first time.

Herbert was using a GAC camera to take pictures. In the second photograph for this post, he is sitting next to Deb, with Colleen standing to the side. They are at one of the highest spots at Lynden, where we went to view the grounds on this gray day.

DebHerbert2_dist2

After our walk, we warmed up in the Lynden gallery. As we looked at a painting, Colleen explained that in the Renaissance it took six months just to prepare a canvas for painting. The rabbit-skin glue and gesso took this long to dry. She is grateful for modern materials that allow her to paint right away.

January 1, 2015 | Joe Acri

Lynden has reopened, fully decked out in a glorious layer of snow--enough for snowshoeing or cross-country skiing.

December 1, 2014 | Joe Acri

My office windows, two facing south and the other two curving around to the west, frame my views of Lynden.

November 6, 2014 | Willy

This is the first of what will be a series of blog posts by Pegi Christiansen, who is a Lynden artist in residence through October 2015. As part of her project, Distance, Pegi will accompany people, in groups of up to three, on their first trip to Lynden. She will pick them up, drive them out, take a walk with them, and bring them back. As part of the excursion, she will ask some questions about distance. If you are interested in participating in this aspect of Pegi's project, please call 414-446-8794 or email info@lyndensculpturegarden.org and mention you are interested in a “distance visit.”

Executive Director Polly Morris mentioned that artist and educator Paul Druecke would be bringing out a class from the Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design and suggested I contact him. This excited me! I used to teach at MIAD and the students tend to be full of ideas. They proved true to form.

I pulled up in front of MIAD at 4:20 on October 16, 2014. The class, titled "Post Studio Practices," has seven students. Paul, who has a temporary installation at Lynden, asked if my walk and talk about distance could include all of them. I had prepared eight questions, so one for each student plus Paul. Perfect!

After the two carloads of students met up at Lynden, I walked with them to three of the temporary sculptures, Sightseer, Feast, and Seedpod, as well as Open-Air Writing Desk, while I asked questions. Two topics came up repeatedly when they responded.

Many brought up the importance of distance. They appreciated being away from their families in order to develop their own identities. “I needed breathing space from my family,” is how one student put it. In another case, a student realized she was mimicking her parents in ways she wanted to change. A third student explained she had developed a closer relationship with her father from a distance. “We were not in the moment,” she said. On the phone they were able to talk about family dynamics and then work through problems in what she described as “a healthier way” when she returned home.

A number of students had strong reactions about technology and distance. Michael Collazo called Facebook “fake” because people create a certain persona. Two agreed with Michael and gave the example of students getting scared off by assertive Facebook comments that didn’t really express a person’s full personality. Some said you present yourself in a certain way no matter when or how you communicate.

Evin Sagduyu has grandparents who live in Turkey. His family used to visit every summer, but it has been four years since the last trip. “Skype is not the same because you aren’t interacting,” Evin said. “When I am there I am involved; Skype is a routine.” Nick Kinsella, in counterpoint, sometimes feels closer to people he communicates with online who live in other countries than with people in the same room.

Two surprises happened. First, we got lost. Of course we weren’t really lost. It is impossible to lose sight of the service road or the pond. However, on our way over to view David Robbins’s Open-Air Writing Desk, we approached it using a different route than I usually take. Paul and I both needed to backtrack to find it. I like getting disoriented. It shakes up my senses and I notice things I hadn't before.

I have explored Lynden day and night, and during all four seasons of the year, but had never experienced sunset. The picture shows my first. The sky cleared an hour before we departed from MIAD after days of rain and clouds making it an extra-special second surprise.

Pegi Christiansen - Distance visits
Photo: Paul Druecke

November 1, 2014 | Joe Acri

November is a time for organizing, for planning ahead.

October 1, 2014 | Joe Acri

October is a time for switching gears. School has started and everyone is settling into their schedules.


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