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A detail of "The Bookworm," by German painter Carl Spitzweg, in the MPL collection.
A detail of "The Bookworm," by German painter Carl Spitzweg, in the MPL collection.

MPL gets the go ahead to discuss lending "The Bookworm" to Grohmann

The Milwaukee Public Library's Board of Trustees has green-lighted discussions between the library and the Grohmann Museum, 1000 N. Broadway, at Milwaukee School of Engineering, that could bring $1 million to MPL in exchange for loaning Carl Spitzweg's painting, "The Bookworm," to the museum permanently.

If the deal is sealed, MPL cardholders would gain free access to the museum during specified times.

The motion approved by the board reads: "The library staff and the city attorney’s office will formally enter into negotiations with the Grohmann Museum to provide greater access and resources to support the conservation of "The Bookworm." The framework for the negotiations, as directed by the Board of Trustees, include an institutional loan agreement granting free access to Milwaukee Public Library cardholders; the Grohmann will maintain, protect, preserve and secure the painting; the Grohmann and MPL will work together on a display sharing the history of the painting, its provenance and its impact; and, finally a gift of $1 million will be made to MPL."

The 1851 oil painting (on canvas) by the German artist -- one of three versions of the same subject -- was gifted in a bequest to MPL by René Von Schleinitz in 1972. Other than a few stints away on loan, the painting has been a fixture in the library's Richard E. and Lucile Krug Rare Books Room.

The first version of the painting, made in 1850, is in the collection of the Museum Georg Schäfer in Schweinfurt. A third version was made in 1884.

The Grohmann Museum, founded with the collection of Milwaukee industrialist, art collector and MSOE benefactor Dr. Eckhart Grohmann, boasts more than 1,000 paintings and sculptures from 1580 to the present. The collection, called "Man at Work," focuses on industrial scenes and other images of working people laboring in a variety of ways.

The MPL painting would join other works by the artist in a Carl Spitzweg Gallery.

Any final deal will have to be approved by th…

A group of Serve 2 Unite students from MPS' Westside Academy II have organized an anti-violence summit.
A group of Serve 2 Unite students from MPS' Westside Academy II have organized an anti-violence summit.

Teens rally to demand: put the guns down

Last week 10-year-old Sierra Guyton was shot while she played in the schoolyard at Clarke Street School. That, along with many other incidents, has fueled a group of middle school students at MPS’ Westside Academy II, to organize an event to speak out against violence.

Put the Guns Down is slated for Wednesday, June 4, from 5 to 7 p.m. at Our Next Generation, 3421 W. Lisbon Ave. All are welcome to attend and admission is free. There will be free food, raffle prizes and free Put the Guns Down bracelets.

A poster for the event reads, "Attention teens -- are you sick of the gun violence in your neighborhood? Take a stand with other teens in your community. Meet with other teens from across the city to discuss the issue of gun violence and come up with solutions to improve our community."

I learned about the event via Jennifer Koss, a teacher at Westside Academy II. On Facebook, Koss told friends, "As we know, the violence is getting out of control in Milwaukee. There were seven people shot last night, including two on the block my school is located on. My Serve 2 Unite students are fed up with the violence and want to do something about it. They are hosting a youth anti-gun violence summit."

Serve 2 Unite is a non-profit group founded by Arno Michaelis and Pardeep Kaleka (son of temple president Satwant Singh Kaleka, who was killed in the Sikh Temple shooting in August 2012.

"Serve 2 Unite emerged in a spirit of defiance," reads the group’s web site. "The hate behind the murders was met with an ongoing practice of fearless, creative, compassion. Rooted in the Sikh principle of service to others, and relentless optimism in the face of adversity, Serve 2 Unite today engages young people of all backgrounds to value humanity and the aspiration of living a genuine, honest life as a peacemaker."

Serve 2 Unite works with students at MPS’ Washington High School, Hampton Elementary, Fernwood Montessori, Audubon, Westside II and NOVA Academy, and Escuela Verde.

In a…

Hit the local library and sign up to read.
Hit the local library and sign up to read.

Create a Super Reader and prevent your child taking the "summer slide"

It's that time of year again. The time when I'm thrilled that my kids are thrilled to sign up for Milwaukee Public Library's Super Reader summer reading program.

This year's program kicked off on Monday, May 19 and runs through Thursday, Aug. 28 (MPS is back in session on Tuesday, Sept. 2). Kids can visit any MPL branch and sign up for free. They'll get a Super Reader yard sign or window cling and a sheet to track their reading over the summer. 

Each time they complete a level, they can head back to the library and get a prize. At the end of summer they'll get more goodies, like free books, food coupons and admission to area attractions.

My kids couldn't wait to sign up last year and this year was no different. We stopped after school yesterday and left with our yard signs and impressive -- and perhaps daunting (to me, but not apparently to them) -- stacks of books to get started.

This morning at breakfast, they shaded in the progress circles based on yesterday's reading and were proud of their early progress. Last week, one of them said, "I think I'm becoming a book person."

Music to a parent's ears.

According to the National Summer Learning Association says that the "summer slide" -- that is kids' absence from the classroom -- affects their progress and also negatively affects the achievement gap.

"Most students lose about two months of grade level equivalency in mathematical computation skills over the summer months," according the NSLA's web site. "Low-income students also lose more than two months in reading achievement, despite the fact that their middle-class peers make slight gains. 

"More than half of the achievement gap between lower- and higher-income youth can be explained by unequal access to summer learning opportunities."

Read to your kids. Let your kids see you read for pleasure and create life-long readers and life-long learners. Buy them books. If they're too expensive at bookshops, go to a resale shop, pick some up at a rummage sale ('t…

St. Mary's School closed in 1969 and was razed nearly a decade later.
St. Mary's School closed in 1969 and was razed nearly a decade later.
An older photo of the school. Excuse the funky perspective, it's a photo of a photo hanging on a wall.
An older photo of the school. Excuse the funky perspective, it's a photo of a photo hanging on a wall.

Yesterday's cream city brick Romanesque schoolhouse is today's parking lot

I have trouble walking past Downtown's plague of surface parking lots without thinking about what was razed to create each drab, and in almost every case, underutilized lot.

In some cases, I remember what was there, having seen it with my own eyes. I think of the Randolph Hotel on 4th and Wisconsin and on the same block, the old Big Boy and the former Starship rock and roll club. Across the river, I can still picture the YWCA on Jackson Street and the gas station on Kilbourn and Van Buren.

In other cases, like the lot on the southwest corner of Kilbourn and Milwaukee, I've never really known what was there. (Yance Marti's great "Missing Milwaukee" provides insight in a number of cases.)

On a recent visit to Old St. Mary's, which abuts the plot, I discovered the land was once home to a lovely three-story cream city brick Romanesque Revival schoolhouse. Among an array of historical photos in the church are two of the school.

Soon after the church was built in 1840s, the first Catholic school "in the west" was opened on the lower level. Opening in 1851, that school proved popular enough that Father Leonard Blatz had a dedicated school building erected south of the church, on Broadway, in the 1860s.

In 1894, the church built the brick schoolhouse, with its arched windows, diamond motifs running between the second and third stories, and cut stone foundation.

I haven't been able to determine who the architect was, but it's possible that it was Henry Koch, who was working on a lot of schoolhouses at the time and designed many with similarly gabled roofs (Park Street, 18th Street, the original Cass Street, etc.). 

But the school's features were popular at the time, so they're not really enough to go on. One could make an equally valid argument for Ferry & Clas, for example, based on their Jefferson Street School a few blocks awat. And a number of architects who specialized in church work may also have designed the school.

Based on the photographs, it looks like the…