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In Arts & Entertainment

One of InSite's 2007 installations by Chris Murphy.

InSite installs local creativity

In the last 10 years, Milwaukee has magnetized its drawing power in both the local and national art arena. The Milwaukee Art Museum, Gallery Night and MSOE's Grohmann Museum are just a few elements illuminating both the city's pull and resident's desire for art in our community.

InSite, a local movement for installation art, reveals its fifth community project this month, and in doing so, reminds us that it belongs on that list.

On Saturday, May 3, InSite institutes the VibranC project in the Sherman Park neighborhood with an opening event from 1 to 4 p.m. With previous projects in Bay View, West North Avenue and Vliet Streets, the Sherman Park exhibit engages another urban sanctuary for public art and presentation.

The VibranC project displays work in three locations -- Sherman Perk Coffee Shop, Sherman Park and the Sherman Park Community Association Office. For the first time, InSite received funding from the National Endowment of the Arts and collaborated with the Milwaukee County Parks System. Each of the three locations will temporarily show the work of a different local artist.

Like artistic contributions in the past, the VibranC project implores local artists to embrace aspects community involvement.

John Riepenhoff, artist and owner of Green Gallery, contributes a modified vending machine displaying local photography. At the Sherman Park location, Melanie Kehoss and Cari Enot each contribute an installation piece -- one stenciling residential architecture and the other developing an interactive trash can to produce awareness of waste and consumption. Geoff Strehlow, under the direction of artist Carrie Hoelzer will transform the outer walls of the SPCA Office with stained glass installations.

InSite's mission is to create community awareness through public art, but each local artist further fulfills a personal mission to increase community pride, environmental awareness or architectural understanding through his or her contribution.

"What I feel InSite is really about is the idea that public art is really public," says founding member Peggy Taylor. "It's about engaging with the public and doing temporary public art where we can really respond to neighborhoods and where we can have an ongoing relationship with neighborhoods."

Since InSite's inception in 2005, artists all over the city have looked to the organization as a means for transforming aspiration into reality. Ranging from photographic murals to relief sculpture to the creation of urban parks, past InSite projects define the mission for temporary installation art.

"I really enjoyed working with InSite," says Jeremy Novy, a summer 2007 artist. "It was a great opportunity. They came to me and I really liked their initiative."

InSite defines its effort in simple terms. Members insist work be temporary, public and art, regardless of medium.

InSite's realization called for citizen advocacy, grassroots organization and local achievement. In 2005, founding members Taylor and Amy Mangrich started with a simple conversation about the diminishing role of installation art in Milwaukee's urban areas.

"In the past, there had been a fair amount of installation art in Milwaukee but it had withered away," Taylor explains.

Hoping to find input from the local public, it looked to neighborhood organizations as a way to move into local communities. Community partnerships with agencies, such as the North Avenue Community Development Corporation (CDC) and the Bay View Neighborhood Association, allowed InSite to effectively organize community support for local artists to display local works. The three founding project managers and a slew of community associates and consultants brought installation art to the forefront of Milwaukee once again.

InSite's first met with the North Avenue CDC in February 2006 and by May revealed its first community effort: eight pieces of installation art on West North Avenue. North Avenue has seen a continuous flow of installation art over the last three years.

"Our goal now is to move forward working with neighborhoods in this communication where public art is public," says Taylor.

InSite continues to gain support and momentum but its largest initial push came in 2006 when the American for the Arts Convention coincided with its North Avenue reveal.

"They came and they saw it and it gave us national attention," Taylor says. "There was television coverage and media coverage. People began to come to us and so it gave us this base that we could build from."

InSite continues to create and flourish. This spring it received funding from the National Endowment of the Arts, a prestigious credit that further solidifies InSite's presence in the community. With InSite debuting new artists for the fifth time this May, it's safe to say the resurgence of installation art has arrived in Milwaukee.


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