Earlier this week, we blogged about the existence of a unique and adorable piece of public art, a Homer Simpson portrait on the corner of Homer and Williams Streets, around the corner from where I lived for seven years.
In a city that often complains that its public art is swept under the rug and Bronze Fonzes get all the attention -- this installation got plenty of notice.
And rightfully so. It was a great work of spontaneous public art and we would be remiss not to cover it once it came to our attention.
Granted, the sign had been up for many months and already reported on Facebook and even the OnMilwaukee.com Message Boards. But shortly after Publisher Andy Tarnoff wrote the complimentary blog, it got picked up by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, and a day later, the Milwaukee Department of Public Works took the sign down.
My colleague Andy -- who is a both a gigantic fan of "The Simpsons" and a proud Bay View resident -- promptly contacted both the mayor's office and the DPW to see if he could help get the sign put back up.
Fortunately, DPW, too, found Homer's portrait to be a work of art and held on to it for safekeeping. "Yes, we still have the sign," Infrastructure Operations Manager Dale E. Mejaki, told us today.
Unfortunately, the law is the law.
Writes Cecilia Gilbert, DPW permits and communications manager, "Section 115 of the Code of ordinance forbids placing anything on public facilitates in the public right of way. This includes light poles, street signs, boulevards, the area between the curb and the sidewalk and traffic signals. City crews have been advised to remove anything from those areas. Anything other than official signs could present a traffic hazard and can be distracting."
However, Gilbert says there are ways to bring Homie back.
"If someone has a public art project there are several ways to get permission for placement. Art work has been approved for several public right of way locations, the round about on Canal Street, sculpture on the approach of the Kilbourn Bridge, statues on the boulevards. Remember the Beasties?
"The process can include the Milwaukee Arts Board, the Public Works Committee or receiving a special privilege (a temporary one was granted for the Beasties)."
But there's just one problem: no one has admitted to creating the sign, which might make it difficult to apply for the permission.
Gilbert, however, says there's another way to get it done.
"The best way to get the Homer sign placed immediately would be to find private property to place it on. That would the easiest and quickest way to get it placed," says Gilbert.
She is asking OnMilwaukee.com -- and our readers -- for suggestions on where to place the sign, noting that the DPW "cannot allow the sign to placed in the public right of way unless it goes through the process, which isn't quick a quick one."
She adds, "Private property is the best place for it, in my opinion, if you want it up quickly."
Was the sign cooler where it was? Certainly. But let's be honest -- it was just a matter of time before an official caught wind of it and removed it.
But now, working together, public art fans and "Simpsons" fans, alike, can bring Homer back.
Please use the Talkback feature below to post your ideas for a more legal placement of the sign, and make sure to use your real name and address if you'd like us to pass it on to Gilbert.
And if you created the sign, please drop me an e-mail and I will keep you anonymous if you prefer. But if we know who you are, we can help start the process of getting the sign put back where it was. Without the artist, the process can't begin.
Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.
He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.
With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.
He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for OnMilwaukee.com and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.
In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.
He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.