Art can move a person. So can sports. Milwaukee put the two together when Robert Indiana (famous for the "LOVE" postage stamp) was commissioned in 1977 to design the floor of the Milwaukee Bucks arena that was a part of the old MECCA (Milwaukee Exposition Convention Center and Arena).
The famous and still loved court was rendered obsolete in 1988 when the Bucks moved to the Bradley Center. It was disassembled and stashed away.
Sure, some high school and college games were played on it through the years, but it was never the same. Or so I've heard. And, as someone who is still a relatively new Milwaukeean, it's the one piece of art I've heard most about. Yes, that even includes the great pieces in and around the Milwaukee Art Museum.
Now, you can see it once again, or for the first time, on Aug. 23 from 7 to 10 p.m. at the U.S. Cellular Arena thanks to Andrew Gorzalski, a producer at Cramer-Krasselt and passionate Bucks fan, Ben Koller and several area arts groups.
Gorzalski and Koller will curate an exhibit of Indiana's MECCA, along with pieces from other artists (including live art by Dwellephant) and music from Andy Noble and Kid Millions. Reginald Baylor also will debut new work that is somewhat MECCA inspired.
Photography and access to the floor will be permitted.
The MECCA floor is the oldest portable basketball floor in existence, originally created in 1954 for the Milwaukee Hawks (now Atlanta), 23 years prior to Indiana painting the floor. The history of nearly the entire NBA has run up and down the floor, from Wilt Chamberlain and Bill Russell to Michael Jordan and Charles Barkley. It was also the floor for Dr. J's final NBA game.
This will be a truly unique event, purely Milwaukee, and one worth being a part of.
Jim Owczarski is an award-winning sports journalist and comes to Milwaukee by way of the Chicago Sun-Times Media Network.
A three-year Wisconsin resident who has considered Milwaukee a second home for the better part of seven years, he brings to the market experience covering nearly all major and college sports.
To this point in his career, he has been awarded six national Associated Press Sports Editors awards for investigative reporting, feature writing, breaking news and projects. He is also a four-time nominee for the prestigious Peter J. Lisagor Awards for Exemplary Journalism, presented by the Chicago Headline Club, and is a two-time winner for Best Sports Story. He has also won numerous other Illinois Press Association, Illinois Associated Press and Northern Illinois Newspaper Association awards.
Jim's career started in earnest as a North Central College (Naperville, Ill.) senior in 2002 when he received a Richter Fellowship to cover the Chicago White Sox in spring training. He was hired by the Naperville Sun in 2003 and moved on to the Aurora Beacon News in 2007 before joining OnMilwaukee.com.
In that time, he has covered the events, news and personalities that make up the PGA Tour, LPGA Tour, Major League Baseball, the National Football League, the National Hockey League, NCAA football, baseball and men's and women's basketball as well as boxing, mixed martial arts and various U.S. Olympic teams.
Golf aficionados who venture into Illinois have also read Jim in GOLF Chicago Magazine as well as the Chicago District Golfer and Illinois Golfer magazines.