ART Milwaukee to transform abandoned rail tracks into performance space

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ARTery will feature performance art along this former route of a rail line between a bottling company and a box company. -Photo: Beintween

Keith Hayes likes playing with words. The architect and activist’s nonprofit organization is called Beintween, for example. He Kickstarted a project last year to develop a new type of walking path surface called “matireal,” created out of thrown-away rubber car tires. Hayes plans to use that matireal to build a new ‘Creational Trail (add the “re-”, you’ll get it) in Milwaukee’s Harambee neighborhood.

The trail’s name? The ARTery.

But in his latest endeavor, Hayes isn’t playing with a single word. That’s what he’s asking you to do.

More specifically, Hayes and his allies at ART Milwaukee and the Greater Milwaukee Committee have been trumpeting a call for performance ideas since December. They’re looking for innovative, area-specific ways to bring attention to the developing ARTery, a 2/3-mile extension of Riverwest’s Beerline Trail from Keefe and Richards Streets up to Capitol Drive. The trail will be paved with Beintween’s matireal and outfitted as a public park space.

Over the past year, Hayes has worked with educational consultant Tyrone Dumas, performance artist/activist Dasha Kelly and volunteers to lay out the raw matireal along the ARTery path.

Twenty submissions will be selected for performance on the path. Those winners will share a $40,000 prize from a $350,000 ArtPlace America grant. Beintween co-received the grant along with the GMC and Art Milwaukee in May 2013 to fund the ‘Creational Trails Project. In addition to the ARTery path, ‘Creational Trails includes a similar revitalization of Wisconsin Avenue from the Milwaukee River west to I-43. That project, called The Avenue Project, is helmed by Art Milwaukee president Angela Damiani and will develop what she calls “placemaking residencies” or temporary art installations.

For the ARTery path, Hayes says organizers are “really trying to get core performances that can be emblematic of the neighborhood.” The goal is to help foster a sense of community. Hayes picked up the idea while studying at UWM under Diébédo Francis Kéré, a prize-winning German architect.

Rather than taking the typical architectural mindset — “If you build it, they will come” — Hayes says his goal is to build community and then base the project on what the community can and will be able to do.

Building community is critical in the Harambee and Riverwest neighborhoods, which are isolated from one another, Hayes says.

Hayes sees a cultural richness in both neighborhoods that’s not reflected in their economic value. He wants to use the ARTery project as a way to tie the neighborhoods together both physically and culturally.

“Harambee means ‘all pull together’ (in Swahili), but who’s pulling?” he asks. “We can’t necessarily change segregation, but what if we could just create a physical connection that would be an extension of this trail?” 

The deadline for submitting ideas for the ARTery project is Feb. 7. Beintween will select 40 entries for a talent show performance on Feb. 22, where a panel of judges will select the winning 20. Most of the money received by winners will be set aside for production and documentation of their performances over the summer.

ARTery will precede the city’s plans to pave the trail in spring 2015. But Hayes says the performances, along with a series of installations organizers hope to set up along the path over the summer, can give the city a guide to follow when they take ownership of the trail.

“(The ARTery) is a blank canvas,” Hayes says. “We have an opportunity to change the impression of what this could be.”

Submissions

Beintween’s call for performance ideas concludes at 5 p.m. Feb. 7. For more information or to submit an idea, visit creationaltrails.com.