16 years ago, Marina Lee sculpted and painted a group of whimsical public art "creatures" for the Cass Street Park, 1647 N. Cass St.
Lee is currently repainting five of the colorful animal hybrids. I happened to show up at the playground to check out the creatures while she was painting and got to ask her a few questions about the project.
"I repainted 'Mimi the Lochness' once already because that one the kids can climb on and they, literally, wore off the paint," says Lee. "That’s a good thing."
The Brady Street BID, The Zilber Family Foundation and neighbors of the school funded the repainting project. Moving forward, Lee hopes to be able to repaint them every six years.
Lee sanded the creatures "bare" and then applied a coating of gel paint and primer before the colorful design work.
"I like to think of this as a fantasy safe place," says Lee. "I always like to promote imagination with kids and adults. And children are our future art patrons."
Lee has taken input from people passing by while she’s painting.
"This one has a lot of pink and purple in it because a little girl asked me if I could paint with those colors," she says.
Some of the creatures have names and stories, etched into signage – which is also being replaced.
Lee, a graduate of the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD), owns a studio in Riverwest called Beginning Dreams. She is also the artist behind Snail’s Crossing Park and the fiberglass planters at "Five Points" where Port Washington Road, Martin Luther King Drive and Keefe Avenue intersect.
Lee began the Cass Street creature repainting process in early August and will finish sometime next week.
"This project has been very rewarding for me," says Lee.