The “emptiness” next to Bethel Baptist Church disappeared on Oct. 27, 2012, when the “Kindred Ties” bus shelter, unceremoniously reappeared on the site it had inhabited for the past six years. Evelyn Patricia Terry, creator of ‘Kindred Ties, offered her perspective on its importance, “Kindred Ties, a public art piece, establishes a sense of place in the African American community and celebrates nurturing families, spiritual awareness, global knowledge, and educational achievement. “Kindred Ties” represents our history, culture, values, and what we incessantly speak of – thereby coalescing my ideas, the community’s ideas, and other artists’ ideas to share with the world.”
Located in the busy six points’ intersection of 21st Street, W. Fond du Lac Avenue, and W. North Avenue the bus shelter’s disappearance March 17, bewildered “Kindred Ties” artists, employees in Seaway Bank across the street, and many concerned community organizers. “What could have happened?” They asked Terry. Although as a public art piece, it now belonged to the community, Terry felt invested to solve the mystery. She eventually tracked it down through Sandy Kellner, Chief Operating Officer of the Milwaukee County Transit System.
Kellner explained that, hit by a car, “Kindred Ties” damaged frame forced immediate removal. This happened around Saint Patrick’s Day. In partial view to passersby, it rested in MCTS’ back lot on 17th Street, near Fond du Lac Avenue. After establishing contact with Dean Amhaus, former Spirit of Milwaukee’s executive director and Ed Mordy, Spirit of Milwaukee’s financial consultant, a new bus shelter frame was purchased. Millennium Neighborhood Art Initiative, the original project host, provided restoration funds. The funds permitted the unharmed sixteen colorful welded sculpture images to be successfully transferred to a new bus shelter and the repaired “Kindred Ties” to be reunited with embedded bronze plaques at the original site. After seeing it repaired, Terry stated, “The positive energy that “Kindred Ties” summoned up for its creation and then for its restoration is extremely gratifying and speaks volumes to Milwaukee’s cooperative leaders. And ‘Kindred Ties’ is appreciated. Offering unsolicited comments during installation, several transit users said, to me, that they were pleasantly surprised to have such a nice and different object in their neighborhood. Many were also surprised to learn that an African American woman originated the concept and secured funds to hire diverse Milwaukee artists and businesses to manifest “Kindred Ties.”
Design and conception of “Kindred Ties”
In a section of Milwaukee where revitalization plans continue, “Kindred Ties” juxtaposes contemporary art with Bethel Baptist Church’s German-inspired, Gothic Revival Style architecture. Two welded and bent wrought iron linear sculptures painted in complementary colors occupy insides and outsides of each of the eight glass panels. The abstract sculptures represent the spiritual universe, a family tree, and a family including the grandfather and granddaughter, a grandmother and grandson, a mother, a father, a son with a book, and a girl embracing a globe. Bronze plaques in the concrete identify the colorful artwork, share seven positive sayings, and celebrate the artists and others who contributed to the public art piece. The yellow painted ceiling panels represent the beaming warmth of sunshine representing prosperity and radiant health.
Terry strongly desired to produce public art. The opportunity came after her friend and sometimes mentor, Durga Patel, spotted the call out to artists. The application process included selecting a community-based non-profit organization to work with. Terry selected the WAICO/YMCA, in her neighborhood, and was fortunate to work with the YMCA’s Economic Development specialist, Mike Stiehl, who suggested a bus shelter project.
In 1999, Terry assembled a distinguished team of artists as follows: painter, Maxine Banks (originated the “family” theme); illustrator and muralist Ras `Ammar Nsoroma (rendered the drawings); architect Theodore Lipscomb (constructed the model); painter and graphic designer Jerry J. Johnson (designed project sites and presentations); UW – Milwaukee professor emeritus Narendra Patel (provided project expertise); sculptor George Ray McCormick Sr., (welding apprentice) worked with sculptor Don Rambadt (welded and provided instruction for images); writer Fondé Bridges (provided seven sayings from his book 101 Simple Suggestions for Better Living), and both the Milwaukee County Transit System and Mike Nolte of Vanguard Sculpture Services (provided installation services).
Please link to http://portalwisconsin.wordpress.com/ for other stories on the Portal Wisconsin blog – Wisconsin’s art and culture site. Contact Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org.