Milwaukee, Wisconsin – The “emptiness” next to Bethel Baptist Church disappeared on October 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, explaining that, “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 17th 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 and set out to solve the mystery. She eventually tracked it down through Sandy Kellner, Chief Operating Officer of the Milwaukee County Transit System.
Kellner explained that a car, around Saint Patrick’s Day, hit Kindred Ties and the damaged frame compelled immediate removal. In partial view to passersby, it rested in the back lot of MCTS 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 much appreciated. Offering unsolicited comments during installation, several transit users told me that they were pleasantly surprised to have such a nice and unique 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 create the piece.”
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. Painted in an assortment of complementary colors, two welded and bent wrought iron linear sculptures occupy the interior and exterior of each of the eight glass panels. The abstract sculptures represent the spiritual universe, a family tree, and a three generation family including a grandfather and granddaughter, a grandmother and grandson, a mother, a father, a son with a book, and a daughter 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 two yellow painted ceiling panels represent the beaming warmth of sunshine symbolizing prosperity and radiant health.
Terry strongly desired to produce public art influenced by many of her colleagues nationally who were doing so. The opportunity came after her friend and sometimes mentor Durga Patel spotted a call-out-to-artists requesting proposals for public art in the Milwaukee community. The application process included selecting a community-based non-profit organization to assist with funding. Terry selected the WAICO/YMCA, in her neighborhood, and was fortunate to work with the YMCA’s Economic Development specialist, Mike Stiehl. Stiehl suggested a bus shelter project.
In 1999, Terry assembled a distinguished team of artists: 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 consulting); sculptor George Ray McCormick Sr. (apprenticed as welder); sculptor Don Rambadt (welded and provided instruction); 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).
Terry stated, “I am just glad it’s back.”
Contact Evelyn Patricia Terry at firstname.lastname@example.org.