I wanted to share some sentiments from an unprepared but inspired participant in the Potable gesture in September. He captures much of what I was trying to communicate and so much more.
Michael Blahy writes:
You might not remember me from September 28th, but I was the person who came to the Pryor Avenue Iron Well with the big five gallon bottle (and was too camera shy to get photographed!). I am a graduate student at UW-Milwaukee and am currently working on my Master’s thesis. I have been mulling over my essay for some time now, when I realized last night that there’s something particularly significant happening at the well that your Potable Realized project helped me realize (I am so thankful that you extended your experience and thoughts from the well to your blog). The iron well is just as much of a neighborhood gathering place as any of the corner bars in Bayview. For people like me it has become a quotidian experience to fill up and quickly chat with anyone else visiting the watering hole. It is so casually nestled in our neighborhood that it is easy to forget its long history and, more importantly, the connection it provides city residents with local geography and natural resources.
My concerns about the iron well arise out of a narrative I constructed about another vernacular landscape in the area–that of Hubbard Park in Shorewood. I trace its history back to the 1800s when the land hosted a mineral spring resort. Over time the landscape morphed from a rustic park in the country to an amusement park, a train depot, and, finally, what it is now, a residential/park hybrid. However, with the site’s evolution, each layer of history has been slowly erased. The landscape’s rich history is only acknowledged by a few plaques–kind of a let down considering the significance of the geography of the site.
Anyway, it seems to me that the Bayview iron well, in general, and, your artistic project, specifically, have done a better job of inscribing a sense of place that is alive both in its present, day to day form and in its history and geography.
I apologize if I rambled on for too long here, but, if you’re at all interested in discussing your experiences further, I would love to talk more.
And thank you for the wonderful drinking cup! We are enjoying it very much here at home!
Michael and I spent some time on the phone with his prepared questions relating to my project and his thesis “In Small Urban Places.” From his viewpoint I learned and I will be forever grateful. An artist and one who responds is a true gift. There are so many of us that make work day after day, year after year and wonder about making an impact. I am honored by Michael’s thoughtful sentiments and how they might relate to his own discoveries about community.
From Michael’s thesis draft:
“It is so casually nestled in our neighborhood that it is easy to forget its long history and, more importantly, the connection it provides city residents with local geography and natural resources. Artistic endeavors such as “Potable” literally help one to realize the significance of the place. It seems to me that the Bayview Iron well, in general and, Schwalbe-Bouzide’s project, specifically, have dona a better job of inscribing a sense of past that is alive both in its present, day to day form and in its history and geography.”
I have been researching other possible site for Potable events in the future. You might enjoy following this blog:
Find a Spring. Michael and I both have!