Snail's Crossing, a park created in 2003 by thousands of Riverwest neighborhood artists, residents and students at various local schools, is in need of some repair. Snail's Crossing is a triangular-shaped piece of land which takes up most of the east side of the 3000 block of Bremen Street.
Fundraising workshops for the park are being held every weekend in March and April at Beginning Dreams forever, 833 E. Burleigh St.
The main focus of the fundraising efforts is to replace personalized tiles along the park's donor walk. Damaged by water, the tiles were created by many of the people who helped put the park together eight years ago; many were personalized with children's hand and foot prints.
"So many parents are heartbroken. So this time, we're doing something different. A portrait tile in addition to the new foot tile that parents can later take away," says Marina Lee of Beginning Dreams Forever and one of the original artists who worked on Snail's Crossing.
The fundraiser's theme and title is "Voice it, face it – together." Workshop participants will make a new foot tile for the park, a portrait tile and a pendant. At the final workshop Lee will be asking participants to voice their thoughts on things they are thankful for as part of an exhibit of the face tiles at ArtWalk 2012, which runs from Friday, Oct. 5 to Sunday, Oct. 7.
"I'm asking for people's thoughts to help offset all the negativity in our lives," says Lee, who is donating the clay for the tiles as well as her time at the workshops.
The workshops cost $25 per person (this covers attendance and materials at three different workshops). At the first workshop, participants will do the clay work, sculpting a tile. At the second, people glaze their tiles after Lee has fired them in her kiln and at the third workshop participants will make a pendant necklace, which they get to take with them right away.
At the last workshop, people will be able to see what their finished portrait and foot tiles look like, in addition to providing their positive thoughts for the ArtWalk exhibit.
The workshops started on March 2 and run through the end of April. Here's the schedule: every Friday from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. (adults-only nights), each Saturday from 12 p.m. to 4 p.m. and Sundays from 12 p.m. to 2 p.m. The workshop on Saturday, March 10 will go until 7 p.m. as part of "satellite night" which connects the project to other work by members of the Riverwest Artists Association.
There's no need to make an appointment, all are invited to come. Additionally, people can stop by to help make tiles for the park for free; everyone who helps also gets their name in the park (they just don't receive the portrait tile and pendant). Participants should plan on spending an hour, minimum, up to two hours at the workshops.
Lee says that the park needs thousands of tiles. There are about 300 name tiles to replace, as well as many which embellished them. Together, all these tiles make up the "neck" of the "snail" that is Snail's Crossing.
The park is a piece of earth art, a "geoglyph" landscaped to be a snail if viewed from the sky. An aerial-view drawing of the snail geoglyph is available on Lee's website here.
About 50 tiles were completed during the first weekend of the workshops.
In addition to the new foot tiles for the park, there are plans to repaint the fiberglass components of the snail (part of the playground equipment, as well as the snail's tentacles). Other plans include creating three planters accessible to the differently-abled, replete with tile sides, into which "sensory plants" will go (ones that smell good to park users).
Lee is working on receiving a grant from the Milwaukee Arts Board, which just started a fund for conserving different art works like those at Snail's Crossing and would match the fundraising money.
Smaller fundraising efforts were held in previous years for new benches and recycling bins for the park. New banners are made every year through the efforts of different groups, at ArtWalk or at area schools.
"We didn't expect to have this level of repair and fundraising for the park; we've just got to step it up this year," says Lee.
A new design for the donor walk is in place which will prevent future water damage.
Another aspect of the fundraising is artist Glenda Puhek creating pet portraits on tiles for $30, ten of which is donated to the park. Bring a photograph of the your pet to any of the workshops. Puhek is one of the main artists who originally helped create Snail's Crossing in 2003.
People interested in supporting Snail's Crossing but unable to attend the workshops can submit donations to the Riverwest Neighborhood Association, 901 E. Wright St. Anyone making a donation over $25 will have their name added to a tile for the park.
Royal has taught courses in critical pedagogy, writing, rhetoric and cultural studies at several schools in Wisconsin and Minnesota. He is currently Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design.
Royal lives in Walker’s Point with his family and uses the light of the Polish Moon to illuminate his way home.