Sunday 04 Dec 2016

Artsy Fartsy
Jennifer Flaten

Artists and art lovers are quick to tell you that art is passion. They wax poetic that art invigorates, excites and all sorts of other action verbs.

Artists insist that art should make you feel something. Which is great, but I get a little confused when I do feel something about a piece of art and they tell me that I am wrong.

If the art community is behind a project for public art and the public is lukewarm at best about the project then you better hold on to your hats because a fight is brewing. The art community is more then willing to go 10 rounds to beat the public into accepting their project.

Apparently, it is not acceptable to disagree with the artsy folks. If they tell you its cool then it's cool, no matter what you think.

Now this isn't a random observation, it is a first hand observation.

I have seen it in action right here in Milwaukee. Yes, I know Milwaukee and art don't exactly go hand in hand. In fact, Milwaukee and art have a long contentious relationship.

Most recently, there was a huge kerfuffle here about the Bronze Fonz.

The Bronze what you say?

The Bronze Fonz. Which surprisingly is exactly what the name implies, it is a life size replica of Arthur J. Fonzerelli aka Henry Winkler in bronze.

This piece currently resides somewhere in downtown Milwaukee. As you can imagine, this piece did not arrive without a long protracted fight.

It goes without saying that it created a huge divide in the art community. Is it art/isn't it art...why should we care.

I won't bore you with the details; suffice to say many people voiced many opinions. Some of them rather juvenile and obscene-and those were from the art community. Still, the outcome was the Fonz is now on the Riverwalk.

My opinion, since I am entitled to one, is no one will decide between vacationing in Milwaukee over say Las Vegas simply because we have a bronze statute of the Fonz in our downtown. Nor will a bronze statue of a fictional TV character give us any big city creds.

Why the artists in this conservative (underlined numerous times) beer drinking, white collar, small Midwestern city are shocked that the inhabitants can't get behind public art remains a mystery to me.

This city boasts and impressive list of failed and contentious public art projects, more then any city has a right to have.

The latest involves some sort of flip art that attaches to street lamps. I dunno it isn't my thing; I am not passionate about it, so it makes me philistine.

I do in fact like art. I just don't like all art and not really abstract art. However, I do appreciate sculpture, paintings and the like, just not a bronze Fonz.

Hey, when I lived in the Twin Cities I got a kick out of the Spoonbridge and Cherry...now that's art.

In case, you aren't familiar with the Spoonbridge and Cherry, it is a giant sculpture of a spoon with a cheery balanced on it.

I think it is cute. I admit thinking its cute is probably not the reaction the artist was looking for. It is one of many pieces located in the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. I think the sculpture garden is a great place to spend an afternoon.

They were smart in Minneapolis they have a sculpture garden. All the public art you could want neatly encased in a park. Don't like art? Don't go to the sculpture garden.

Here in Milwaukee we want to put it on street corners and at the entrance to the Airport.

At one point, a big, blue shirt was supposed to grace the parking garage at the airport. Apparently, that offend some people, it supposedly made fun of our blue-collar background. Therefore, we scrapped it.

As a city, Milwaukee seems to suffer from low self-esteem. We cannot embrace what we are, a middle class city on a lake. We spend an awful lot of time in this city trying to keep up with the big kids.

I don't care how many sculptures we hang all over the city. We will never ever be Chicago, LA or NY. Why we can't just accept that and move on?

We keep inventing these weird slogans and monikers for ourselves. We are now the Fresh Coast and we've changed our slogan about 50 times. I think now we are supposed to "live like we mean it".

I think in terms of spending public money, that a new park or botanical garden would be more up my alley.

At heart, I am a nature girl. A beautiful green expanse dotted with sculptures, flowers and benches that would be "art" to me. If you don't like then you're a philistine and nuts to you.

Jennifer Flaten lives where the local delicacy is fried cheese, Wisconsin. She writes about family life, its amusing or not so amusing moments. "At least it's not another article on global warming," she says. Jennifer bakes a mean banana bread and admits an unusual attraction to balloon animals and cup cakes. Busy preparing for the zombie apocalypse, she stills finds time to write "As I See It," her witty, too often true column. "My urge to write," says Jennifer, "is driven by my love of cupcakes, with sprinkles on top. Who wouldn't write for cupcakes, with sprinkles," she wonders.

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