MOBILE USERS: m.isthmus.com
Connect with Isthmus on Twitter · Facebook · Flickr · Newsletters 
Saturday, July 12, 2014 |  Madison, WI: 72.0° F  Fair
Collapse Photo Bar

Madison's "zealous nuts"

Please limit discussion in this area to local and state politics.

Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby jjoyce » Mon Oct 15, 2012 10:06 am

At a city neighborhood conference over the weekend, Fred Kent of the Project for Public Spaces, said "you have to have zealous nuts to make a great city."

I guess that's a population different from the zealots and the nuts, which aren't mutually exclusive.

An aside: This Kent guy sounds like he delivered a bunch of academic BS that's really just fancy common sense. The "place making" concept sounds a lot like the Richard Florida schtick about how a city needs "al fresco" dining and bike paths to prosper in the new economy. Isn't it the other way around? A city with economic opportunities and good-paying jobs leads to a population with free time and money to spend which leads to cool hangouts and the freedom for moneyed hobbies like leisurely bicycle trips, right? Put up all the al fresco dining you want in Beloit... not many people there have the time or money to grab a latte and an artisanal grilled cheese. You can't be a "place maker" if you don't have the cash to get it done.

The reason Madison hits so many of the check boxes for a modern city with nice places is because of the UW, which happens to be really good at spitting out stem cell researchers and real estate geniuses. Not zealous nuts.

I'm sure Paul Soglin considers himself one of the zealous nuts, as defined by Fred Kent. Maybe he is. But are there any others? Kenton Peters sort of fits that description, but the city has largely fought everything he has ever tried to do. Same was true for Frank Lloyd Wright. Wasn't the original vision for Overture significantly nuttier before the city and historic preseverationists got their hooks in it? What's so nutty about saving the Yost's facade? Doesn't it seem like our zealous nuts are more often engaged in blocking things than building things? Is that too cynical?
jjoyce
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 12168
Joined: Tue Apr 17, 2001 4:48 pm
Location: Madison, WI

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby Mad Howler » Tue Oct 16, 2012 12:32 am

Jason,
I thought about attending this conference but it was unclear to me who was welcome. Thank you for your take on some of the absurd. It was an all day event last Saturday; did you come away anything on the upside?
MH
Mad Howler
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 1252
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:36 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby snoqueen » Tue Oct 16, 2012 10:31 am

I wish I'd been able to attend the conference, but I couldn't. I can still comment, unfortunately...

The "place making" concept sounds a lot like the Richard Florida schtick about how a city needs "al fresco" dining and bike paths to prosper in the new economy. Isn't it the other way around? A city with economic opportunities and good-paying jobs leads to a population with free time and money to spend which leads to cool hangouts and the freedom for moneyed hobbies like leisurely bicycle trips, right?


I agree with you here, to an extent. Once the customers are available, any healthy city will have more than enough businesses spring up to serve them, or attempt to. Look at Trek's B-cycle program.

All the city (any city) has to do at that point is get out of the way, or be reasonably accommodating.

Still, sometimes getting ahead of the curve works. If we hadn't built the city bike paths, would B-cycle have wanted to locate here?

I'm sure Paul Soglin considers himself one of the zealous nuts, as defined by Fred Kent. Maybe he is. But are there any others? ... Doesn't it seem like our zealous nuts are more often engaged in blocking things than building things? Is that too cynical?


What you're seeing is not blocking, but different views of a desirable end result. Some people want to build a mini-Chicago Loop, others envision a more decentralized city (though not sprawl). The give and take is frustrating but healthier than a city run on my-way-or-the-highway rules that inevitably favor wealthy developers and corporations over neighborhoods. With hard work, you get the best of both worlds. There's a reason the Jenifer St. Market got on the "favorite places" list and Target on the unfavorites.

I was interested in the apparent failure of urban "art" spaces like the corny Philosopher's Grove at the top of State Street. In my observation, these things have failed far more often than they succeeded in Madison. Maybe the endless selection process weeds out anything but the blandest and most pointless. Chicago's big chrome bean is a wonder to behold and the Picasso Baboon (shown here wearing his Bears hat: http://0.tqn.com/d/gochicago/1/0/P/0/-/-/picasso.jpg) is dead-on and much-loved. I know we're not Chicago, but can anybody point to public art projects in Madison that are halfway successful? Nobody even notices the broken red granite pillars in the GEF courtyard on King Street, but when they were put up they were supposed to be public art. We have a very expensive public mural hidden along the John Nolen underpass under the convention center. Everybody hates the pile of white bird poop in front of the stadium. Can somebody list a successful piece of recent public art or art space I'm missing here?

I'd suggest de-prioritizing this overblown kind of expenditure until we get a handle on what works better. In terms of community support, the artists who get paid (and sometimes paid well) for these projects are often not even local, and in any event the money could be spread out to better effect.

Our recent citywide Gallery Night was a far more effective way to support local arts, in contrast: lots of viewers, lots of small sales, lots of exposure for both new and experienced artists.

The real zealous nuts (I don't like the phrase) who have made Madison neighborhoods come alive don't seem to be on the radar at all. Becky Steinhoff, who runs (and pretty much created) the Atwood neighborhood center on Waubesa Street has done more for that neighborhood, and the people in it, than all the public art in the world. And that's what I call "place-making."

So my takeaway is this: it's living institutions like neighborhood centers, not fatuous feelgood installations, that make a real and ongoing difference. It's hard to say this as one who supports the arts (and it's not an either-or matter) but if we go by results, those are the ones that last and the ones we most need to nourish.



And, as an aside, it's great to have someone finally speak the unutterable and say the emperor has no clothes:

While singing the praises of State Street, Kent offered many suggestions for improvement. He returned often to the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art, which he views as a "dead building" with too many windows that fails to "energize the street."


So true. And way too late. Imagining how to fix this is way out of my league, and I love the MMoCA.
snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 11268
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby Mad Howler » Tue Oct 16, 2012 10:46 pm

Sno,
I didn't notice around for a few days and was worried. I'm glad your back and thanks for the hearty helping brought to this discourse.

But I think I can respond to...
Can somebody list a successful piece of recent public art or art space I'm missing here?


My kids really get jazzed up by the fountain installations on either side of the capital where the inner loop is bisected by Washington street. The whole piece seems to put a context to this place we call Madison.
Mad Howler
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 1252
Joined: Wed Apr 04, 2012 8:36 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby Bwis53 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:00 pm

I'm fond of the Dr. Evermor sculptures on the near east side.
Bwis53
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 6278
Joined: Tue Dec 31, 2002 9:39 pm
Location: Bay Creek

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby Stebben84 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 12:18 pm

Bwis53 wrote:I'm fond of the Dr. Evermor sculptures on the near east side.


I agree, but those were privately purchased.
Mad Howler wrote:But I think I can respond to...
Can somebody list a successful piece of recent public art or art space I'm missing here?


My kids really get jazzed up by the fountain installations on either side of the capital where the inner loop is bisected by Washington street. The whole piece seems to put a context to this place we call Madison.


I never really liked those things when they were put up, but they've grown on me.

To respond to Sno, very little recent public art has been any good around here. I blame the city and the committee they put together to choose the work. Ugh, even the finalist all suck every time I look at these submissions.

I don't know how public it is considered, but I do like the light sculpture that is outside in front of the Kohl center. It's subtle and people may not even know that it was a commissioned outdoor sculpture.

snoqueen wrote:In terms of community support, the artists who get paid (and sometimes paid well) for these projects are often not even local


I agree, but to be fair, there are not many people locally who specialize in large public installation art. It's really not something your local painter can just come up with. It takes a different set of planning and design. You have to propose it to the city or institution with specifics on it's long term care and preservation among other things.
Stebben84
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 4730
Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:59 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby minicat » Wed Oct 17, 2012 2:29 pm

snoqueen wrote:I know we're not Chicago, but can anybody point to public art projects in Madison that are halfway successful? Nobody even notices the broken red granite pillars in the GEF courtyard on King Street, but when they were put up they were supposed to be public art.


That is supposed to be an art project? I've been wondering for a couple years what the hell those were there for ... I kept expecting some sort of awning or something to be put up.

At least they're not as bad as the priapic "football" sculpture outside Camp Randall.
minicat
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 4437
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2002 2:22 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby Stebben84 » Wed Oct 17, 2012 2:52 pm

minicat wrote:That is supposed to be an art project? I've been wondering for a couple years what the hell those were there for ... I kept expecting some sort of awning or something to be put up.


Ha, but what if you had walked past this.

Image

http://wirednewyork.com/forum/showthrea ... 864&page=2

Damien Hirst's new sculpture in New York. I like it, but I KNOW this would not fly in Madison.
Stebben84
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 4730
Joined: Thu Mar 02, 2006 12:59 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby minicat » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:49 pm

I guess if she was holding a football it would fly in Madison.

That's out there, but at least it's recognizable as art.
minicat
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 4437
Joined: Mon Nov 04, 2002 2:22 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby snoqueen » Wed Oct 17, 2012 3:56 pm

That reminds me of those hideous pickled human cadavers on display at Hilldale a couple years ago.
snoqueen
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 11268
Joined: Fri Feb 14, 2003 11:42 pm

Re: Madison's "zealous nuts"

Postby Henry Vilas » Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:23 am

Bwis53 wrote:I'm fond of the Dr. Evermor sculptures on the near east side.

Dr. Evermor will be on American Pickers (History channel) tonight at eight.
Henry Vilas
Forum God/Goddess
 
Posts: 19524
Joined: Wed Sep 04, 2002 8:57 pm
Location: Name sez it all


Return to Local Politics & Government

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest

moviesmusiceats
Select a Movie
Select a Theater


FacebookcommentsViewedForum
  ISTHMUS FLICKR

Promotions Contact us Privacy Policy Jobs Newsletters RSS
Collapse Photo Bar