The Madison Arts Commission didn't plan on highlighting temporary art in January and February, but that's how the first months of the new year are shaping up. Local artists Christine Olson, Timothy Browning, Jeremy Wineberg and William Turnbull will each install public pieces funded by the city's Blink grant program. Locations include Monona Bay, Lake Monona proper and a plaza at the UW Humanities Building. The Blink-funded works will join Brenda Baker's "When Water Was Here," a skeletal piece constructed from dogwood and willow boughs, which debuted suspended above the Vilas Park path on the winter solstice.
Arts Commission administrator Karin Wolf says that Baker's work was funded under a different city art grant. But city support for temporary outdoor arts is always meant to have the same effect: "We want to surprise people who are walking through everyday spaces. I think of it as interrupting the quotidian. Waking up people from the day-to-day. It's an opening up of possibilities."
Indeed, Olson's piece for Monona Bay, the fuschia-colored fishing hut "Hot Shanty" (which will be up Jan. 20), exists in a kind of continuum of surprise. It was inspired by the art-shanty village constructed every year in the Twin Cities, and will function as an ever-changing temporary gallery space, hosting film screenings, readings of Inuit myths and discussions of global warming.
Browning's piece, "Penguins on Ice" (already in place), is another in a long line of plywood works that the former member of the UW's fun-loving Pail & Shovel Party has brought to the lakes since erecting his iconic sawed-off version of the Statue of Liberty on Lake Mendota in 1978.
Wineberg has had the most trouble siting his piece, "Inverted Lakes." A topographic model of local lakes done in ice, it was slated for a spot along Yahara Parkway, but that plan was upended when Madison Gas and Electric excavated the area. He's since found a spot between Main and Williamson along the Yahara and is planning on a Feb. 1 start date for the project.
UW MFA candidate Turnbull had better luck placing his piece, "Flowfield," at the Humanities Building. His collection of welded metal stalks will be up by Jan. 22.
Although Baker has done temporary installation work for years, both on her own and as a member of the local collective Fieldwork, "When Water Was Here" is the first one she's installed in her own neighborhood. She says the suggestive, site-specific installation (on the Vilas Park walking path between Grant Street and Edgewood Avenue) is meant to focus viewers' attention on the area's landscape prior to the arrival of European settlers, when the Vilas Park path was a waterway and formed a link between groups of Indian mounds located at what are now Edgewood College and Bear Mound Park.
"This whole area around Lake Wingra was a Native American camp," she says, emphasizing the work's strong sense of place. "There's a lot of history here."
While the Blink pieces will be up for only a short time, "When Water Was Here" won't come down until the summer solstice. "It'll change and be more hidden in the spring," says Baker, who's looked on with delight this month as thick fog, fresh snow and ice have already modified her work. "And as the context around it changes, that will change the way the piece will be read or seen. I think that's what's fun about having a piece that's up for six months, a year."
The artists will talk about their work and the Blink grant experience in general on Feb. 13 at Escape Java Joint.
For 30 years, Broom Street Theater patrons have scrunched together on padded benches that all but guaranteed a stiff back by the time the performance was over. But artistic director Callen Harty says that era is now over. When Scott Rawson's The Maple Bluff Mystery opens on Jan. 18, the audience will be greeted by new padded chairs arrayed on custom-built bleachers.
"We'll lose about 10 or 12 seats," says Harty. "But the chairs will be very comfortable."
The whole project cost about $14,000 and was funded with private donations, including a $4,000 gift from the James A. Johnson Fund, which is administered by the Madison Community Foundation. Harty says the family of Gayle Hookerman, the sister of Broom Street's late artistic director Joel Gersmann, also made a large donation to the project.
Harty says other changes are afoot at the theater. This summer, he plans to run acting classes for both adults and children. The theater's board is also entertaining the possibility of hosting everything from short runs by touring companies to poetry readings and film screenings at Broom Street's performance space at 1119 Williamson St.
"Flexible programming is in line with the history of the place," says Harty, who notes that films and poetry events were featured at various times in the theater's past.
Beginning in 2008, Broom Street will also offer a variety of ticket packages, including a season pass that will allow the holder to attend an unlimited number of performances. Harty says it's the first time the company has had printed tickets for its performances at the Williamson Street location.
Long live the King
It's the end of the King Club as we've known it. Tristan Gallagher and his wife, Lisa, have taken on new partners and will stop featuring live music at the King Street club after Jan. 21. The sole exception will be Clyde Stubblefield's weekly "Funky Mondays" gigs, which will continue after the club closes for a month.