Tag Archives: museum

In the garden: Show explores Frida Kahlo’s work from new angle

In a sprawling, multi-disciplinary show, The New York Botanical Garden focuses on a long-overlooked side of artist Frida Kahlo: her deep connection to Mexico’s plants and flowers, and how they inspired her art.

“Flora is a very important part of her creativity,” said guest curator Ariana Zavala, a specialist in Mexican art and director of Latino Studies at Tufts University. Even those who thought they knew everything about Kahlo, Zavala said, will come away having learned something new.

The exhibit, “Frida Kahlo: Art, Garden, Life,” includes 14 of Kahlo’s original works; an evocation of the garden at her Mexico City home, Casa Azul (Blue House); plentiful photos from Kahlo’s life; and various Mexican cultural offerings. It will be on view through Nov. 1.

A good place to begin is in the huge, glass Enid A. Haupt Conservatory, where the focus is on the gardens of Casa Azul, where Kahlo was born in 1907, lived for years with muralist Diego Rivera, and died in 1954. Pathways are lined with sunflowers, marigolds, fuchsia, palms, jacaranda, oleander, and numerous succulents and cacti, many of which still grow at Casa Azul, now a museum.

The lush, indigo-blue walls of Kahlo’s home have been vividly rendered, as has her garden’s Aztec-inspired pyramid, designed by Rivera, who painted it dazzling rose, blue and yellow. Here, it holds an array of native Mexican succulents and cacti in huge terracotta planters.

In researching the show, horticulturalists at the botanical garden, working with colleagues in Mexico and a longtime volunteer gardener at Casa Azul, came to understand Kahlo as an expert in plants, with an impressive botanical library. She replanted her parents’ European-style garden with a mix of cacti and succulents, which she saw as symbolic of the native plants of Mexico, and with tropical plants, fruit trees, and other edible or medicinal plants.

“When we learned about Kahlo as a truly sophisticated gardener, who also happened to be a great artist and cultural icon, we were blown away,” said Todd Forrest, the botanical garden’s vice president for horticulture and living collections.

Over time, Kahlo transformed Casa Azul into an expression of her deep connection to the natural world and to Mexico.

Her studio overlooked the garden, and the plants came to play an important role in her art.

“As we studied Frida Kahlo through her plants, two important themes emerged: those of duality and of hybridity,” Zavala said.

Both themes are illustrated in the 14 artworks on view at the garden’s LuEsther T. Mertz Library art gallery. In Kahlo’s 1931 “Portrait of Luther Burbank,” the horticulturalist, whose garden she and Rivera had visited, is depicted as a hybrid plant-human. Kahlo, whose father was born in Germany and whose mother was Mexican, repeated this theme of hybrid origin in other works on view.

“Two Nudes in a Forest,” painted in 1939, shows a light-skinned woman resting her head on a dark-skinned one. And in the 1940 “Self-Portrait with Thorn Necklace and Hummingbird,” Kahlo, impassive and dressed in stark white, stares straight at the viewer while lush tropical vegetation and animals, including a black monkey and cat, surround her and appear to be on the verge of overtaking her.

In conjunction with the show, the garden is offering an array of cultural offerings to celebrate the artist.

“Frida liked to have fun. She had a love of life. This project is a celebration of Mexico,” said Zavala. “In addition to taking in Frida’s paintings and Frida’s plants and what they meant to her, we hope people stay to enjoy some food and music from Mexico.”

There are Mexican cocktails and food; cooking lessons; textile demonstrations; music; an “Octavio Paz Poetry walk”; a native plant walk, and even a Mexican-themed puppet theater and “Frida’s Kitchen” exhibit for kids.

Wall texts throughout the show are in Spanish and English.

On the Web …

The New York Botanical Garden: www.nybg.org

Casa Azul: www.museofridakahlo.org.mx

frida

Milwaukee gets the nod | Buddies building bobblehead hall of fame, museum in Milwaukee

“Say ‘bobblehead’ five times. You just have to smile.”

Collector Bobbie Davis of Green Bay offers this advice to the glum, ho-hum and meh-sayers. The waitress and mother of two meditates to relieve stress. She kickboxes to vent tension. But all she needs to brighten her day is to look at her growing collection of bobbleheads.

There’s obviously a substantial number of people like Davis shaking their heads “yes” to bobblehead collections. Bobble-making is a burgeoning business. And bobble-distribution is huge, especially at ballparks. Fan giveaways crowd Major League Baseball’s promotional calendar this season — T-shirts, garden gnomes, pennants, caps, baseball cards, posters and more. The giveaways that sell out stadium after stadium, game after game, are the bobbles, which demonstrate why there are 130 bobblehead promotional nights on the MLB’s 2015 schedule.

The Milwaukee Brewers’ calendar contains 20 all-fan giveaways this season, including two gnomes, seven T-shirts and 10 bobbleheads. Fans left Miller Park on May 10 with a Hank the Dog bobble and later this season the Brewers will give away bobbles in the likeness of Carlos Gomez, Paul Molitor, Khris Davis, Bob Uecker, Jonathan Lucroy and also a vintage Brewer boy bobble.

Bobbles are popular enough these days to give Phil Sklar and Brad Novak big heads. These Milwaukee buddies are the brains and believers behind the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum, which they hope to open in the city in late 2016. They also manufacture and sell bobbleheads to support charitable causes and commercial campaigns.

Sklar and Novak, co-founders of the hall of fame and museum, have been best friends since middle school. They attended UWM at the same time. They’re both big sports fans. And they’re roommates with an extensive bobblehead collection.

“It got to the point where bobbleheads were taking over the kitchen,” Sklar says. “And we were like, what do we do with these?”

Building a bobble

The men — Novak was working in sales and Sklar in corporate finance — began talking about how to transform a hobby into a business. They knew they wanted to exhibit the collection and collect more bobbles. But a complete business model came together for them when they helped create a bobblehead for a friend involved in the Special Olympics.

“We realized there was no real good provider of bobbleheads out there offering bobbleheads to somebody who wants 500 or 1,000,” Sklar says. The guys were aware of major suppliers providing tens of thousands of bobbleheads for mass market but they identified an unfilled market for boutique bobbles — say the Little League Brewers rather than the Milwaukee Brewers.

Novak and Sklar began creating bobbles. “We’ve had really good traction,” says Sklar, adding that the company has manufactured several dozen bobbles and is working on several dozen more. “We’re working not just in our area. We’re working all over the country.”

To make a bobblehead — one or 10,000 — a client provides Novak and Sklar with photographs showing what features they want included, or exaggerated. An artistic rendering is created and then, with the client’s approval, a mold is created. Once the mold is finalized and a painted model approved, production begins.

The minimum order for a custom bobble is one, with the price at about $110. Novak and Sklar plan to create an online system for ordering a custom bobble. And someday perhaps, patrons will leave their museum with a personalized bobble.

“The technology isn’t there right now for people to come in and take a bobblehead home, but they could have their face scanned and have their bobblehead in a week,” says Sklar. “And we can have virtual bobbleheads to share on social media.”

Opening the museum

Novak and Sklar are evaluating sites for the museum and hall of fame, with a focus on establishing the institution in downtown Milwaukee.

“This has the potential to really be a good attraction that draws people into Milwaukee,” Sklar says.

Already they have artistic renderings of how the museum might look and, as they plan for an opening, they are visiting other museums in other cities.

“We’ve also done a lot of research online,” Sklar says. “A few things that we have built into the plans for certain are we want to tell the history of bobbleheads. And how bobbleheads are made. And what’s the story behind certain bobbleheads? We can tell those stories, the story of Jackie Robinson or Willie Mays.”

It turns out that the Willie Mays bobble is a milestone in bobblehead history.

The first published reference to a bobblehead is in an 1842 Russian short story, “The Overcoat,” by Nikolai Gogol, who wrote, “like the necks of plaster cats which wag their heads.” Many types of bobbleheads have been made over the years. But modern bobble mania dates to 1999, when the San Francisco Giants gave away the Mays collectible.

“Now,” Sklar says, “I think bobbleheads are everywhere. There’s so much negative news everywhere and we just want to bring some positive cheer, unite people. Bobbleheads, they’re just fun.”

But first, an exhibition

Novak and Sklar’s bobblehead collection is approaching 4,000, large enough that a couple of interns will spend this summer cataloging items.

“And we’re getting more and more bobbleheads,” Sklar says, adding that collectors have offered to donate or loan items to the museum.

In January 2016, RedLine Milwaukee will preview the museum’s collection in the exhibition Bobbleheads: Real & Fantastical Heroism.

The exhibit “presents both a challenge and an opportunity for RedLine Milwaukee,” says RedLine executive director Jeanne Jarecki. “While we will be in our sixth year as a growing nonprofit, we expect this exhibition will attract thousands of visitors and international attention.”

RedLine, 1422 N. Fourth St., Milwaukee, is a charitable organization that promotes the arts through education and with a focus on social justice. The exhibition will focus on heroes: How do we define “hero”? Who is a hero? What are the differences between a “real hero and a fantastical one”? And what role does heroism play in social activism?

Using a timeline approach, the exhibitors will share the history of bobbleheads, explore technological changes in the craft of making the bobbles and examine bobbles as cultural objects.

“We’re looking to showcase the breadth of bobbleheads,” says Sklar, who notes that bobbles vary in size and material, including ceramic and plastic. “In the past five years, people have gotten really creative with bobbleheads.”

The key element of any bobble, of course, is the bobbling ability, by spring or hook.

“If it bobbles, it’s in. That’s our tagline,” Sklar says.

On the Web …

Find more about the National Bobblehead Hall of Fame and Museum at bobbleheadhall.com.

Fantastic fandoms get the museum treatment at RAM

Most art exhibitions show works from a movement or artist of the past, or perhaps a contemporary portrait of what’s going on in the world of art today. In comparison, the Racine Art Museum’s new exhibit is literally out of this world.

“A Whole Other World: Subculture Craft” is a show that orbits around fantastic fandoms in the realm of speculative fiction, like science fiction, superheroes and steampunk. The works included in “A Whole Other World,” by 26 artists (nine from Wisconsin and one international artist), re-envision pop-culture sci-fi icons or explore their own fantasy world. 

Lena Vigna, the curator of the exhibition — herself a fan of Batman, Wonder Woman and “Doctor Who” — says, “I’m holding up a lens to the human condition, trying to provide a framework of art that doesn’t feel esoteric — rather more appealing to the general public.”

SCI-FI

Science fiction is an important artistic genre, because its ripple effect can predict future innovations in science and engineering. At its best, science fiction forces us to ask, “How do we create a positive future by retro-engineering a social or technological future that hasn’t happened yet?”  

Science fiction is always painted against a background of change, but the actions its protagonists take to change their world for the better can differ. 

“Doctor Who” and “Star Wars” could fall on opposite ends of that. An action movie series at heart, Star Wars celebrates combat and strife as the way to vanquish evil. “Doctor Who” scripts believe in embracing the differences that make you unique, and emphasize intelligence over brute force to win the day.

A reimagining of familiar characters and artifacts from both franchises can be found at the museum. Jamie Kratz-Gullickson of Beaver Dam creates felted Star Wars characters from local sheep’s wool.  Thomas Richner presents a new 5-foot long cardboard replica of the Millennium Falcon alongside an almost-to-scale papier-mâché R2-D2. Whovians will probably delight in Kristy Daum’s 6’ x 8’ stitched quilt, “The Tenth.” (If you have to ask, you’re obviously not a fan.)

SUPERHEROES

Many have a love affair with superheroes — endowed with extraordinary powers, we may love them more than we love ourselves, for they are who we want to be. 

They inhabit an emotional world and a destiny that only few can truly understand. Subtlety rarely enters the storyline. All that’s needed are lots of primary colors, bold type, love, fear, hate and a few explosions. 

Artist Mark Newport flies against clichéd superhero concepts. He constructs full-body superhero costumes, both for traditional heroes and his own creations: the Sweatermen and friends like Argyleman. 

Vigna says the suits pose the question of “Where do we look for heroes?” and ventures her own guess at an answer. “We look at superheroes as strong, but these (costumes) are saggy. He calls them real heroes and compares them to real people in his life. His Uberdad costume is an example that asks, ‘What does it mean to be a man? If I put this costume on would I feel like a hero?’”

STEAMPUNK 

Originating as a role-playing fantasy, “steampunk” is defined as a stylistic genre inspired simultaneously by Victorian England, the Wild West and futuristic technology. Steampunk outfits overflow with overly mechanized devices and feature intricate design aesthetics. Tesla coils, multiple gears and pressure relief valves that may or may not have some important function are common artistic choices. 

Steampunk embraces a broad lifestyle and creative vision, occasionally mixing the digital with the handmade. It is a fashion and lifestyle movement — sustainable, gritty, analog and salvaged, a fantasy often imagined by artists to exist in a post-apocalyptic or dystopian world.

But steampunk is different for each individual creator. Steampunk-influenced fashion designer Silversärk (aka Stephanie Schultz) says that, “To me, (steampunk) is about taking inspiration from every resource imaginable, and making a tangible, wearable piece of art to reflect the time period or event, or encapsulate the designer’s thoughts and emotions, much like a painting.”

Milwaukee fiber artist and Project Runway alum Timothy Westbrook also will have work featured in the exhibition, although he is exploring “reverse steampunk” — re-contextualizing antiquated technology in a modern context. “I believe that regressing technologically will allow us to progress socially,” Westbrook says.

Westbrook’s contributions to the exhibit include four gowns created from re-purposed materials, three of which were recently on display at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee. “What I’m suggesting is in 2220 we could be using items from the past to create a more sustainable present,” Westbrook says. “My work examines the expiration date of stuff. For example, I’m into using cassette tape, eight-track and reel-to-reel audio-tape as a woven fabric. I’m rescuing these abandoned memories to reincarnate them into elegant wearables.”

ON DISPLAY

“A Whole Other World: Subculture Craft” at the Racine Art Museum runs May 24 through Sept. 6. RAM admission is $5, $3 for students and seniors and free for children under 12 and members. Guests who visit in cosplay (dressed in character) will receive free admission throughout the exhibit’s duration. Visit ramart.org for more information.

The Harlem Renaissance revived in Madison museum

The Harlem Renaissance, the rich period of African-American cultural, artistic and social growth in one of New York City’s most famous neighborhoods during the 1920s, seems miles and decades removed from Madison in 2015. 

But don’t tell that to the founders of the new Harlem Renaissance Museum, on Madison’s east side. They argue there’s no better time or place to tell the tale of one of the richest periods of social growth in American history and illuminate its connections to Madison.

“Madison has a vibrant arts community, has a diverse arts culture and is located in America’s heartland,” says attorney and Methodist minister David Hart, who helped co-found the museum. “We wanted to play homage to a fertile time in the history of arts’ creation and development. What better place than Madison?”

Hart, who also is a spoken-word artist, is part of a Madison arts collective whose members decided 12 years ago that they wanted to leave a more lasting impression on the community. They decided to establish a Harlem Renaissance Museum to do just that, and to highlight the Madison connections of several leaders in the movement. 

The museum, which opened its doors on March 28, has just 500 square feet of gallery space at 1444 E. Washington Ave. to house its 14 pieces of art, plus the mounted letters of Jean Toomer, an early 20th-century African-American author who spent time at UW-Madison. 

In true reflection of the period it honors, there is corresponding performance space so that different types of arts can mix and mingle in an offering as diverse as the Harlem Renaissance itself, says poet Peter Brooks, a UW-Milwaukee Ph.D. candidate in rhetoric and composition who acts as the museum’s unofficial academic adviser.

“The Harlem Renaissance was a convergence of identities, best known for African-American artists who tried to carve out their own niches,” Brooks says. “We had a concept that, thanks to the Internet, this (era) is sort of the new Harlem Renaissance in which we’re all trying to find creative avenues to talk about our lives.”

The Harlem Renaissance, known at the time as the “New Negro Movement” after out poet Alain Locke’s book of the same name, ran from 1918 to about 1934. In part the result of the great African-American migration from the South, its impact stretched throughout the Northeast and Midwest.

Literature was a key component of the movement, with writers including Toomer, Langston Hughes and James Baldwin rising to prominence. New music also emerged, from jazz artists like Duke Ellington, Billy Strayhorn and Thelonious Monk. Drama, art, fashion and dance also blossomed.

The connections between the Harlem Renaissance and Madison are many, Hart says. Locke also spent time teaching at UW-Madison, and the late Nellie McKay, a chaired professor there, is best known as co-editor of The Norton Anthology of African-American Literature.

The university even awarded Duke Ellington an honorary doctorate in the ‘70s and mounted a weeklong festival of his music, an effort for which the jazz great wrote his one and only polka.

But the true highlights of the Harlem Renaissance were the intellectual discussions and political discourse that emerged along with new and exciting art forms. This discourse is something the new museum hopes to replicate in the facility’s performance space, says Brooks.

“Along with giving African-Americans of the day an identity and voice, the politicizing of art was one of the Harlem Renaissance’s greatest contributions,” Brooks says. “Langston Hughes’ poem ‘Ku Klux’ mocks the rhetoric of the KKK and shows you how much of hate really is stupid. Mixing politics and art makes you think twice about what’s going on.”

The museum founders would like to see that discourse continue in a nonthreatening way, especially given the racial politics and tragic deaths taking place in cities like Baltimore, Ferguson, and even Madison.

“The museum is an open and affirming space in which we’re looking to do something innovative and showcase all the various Harlem Renaissance art forms,” Hart says. “We’re looking for thoughtful discussion about issues in a nonthreatening environment that allows us to have fun.”

ON DISPLAY 

The Harlem Renaissance Museum is at 1444 E. Washington Ave. in Madison. It is open noon-1:30 p.m. on Wednesdays and Thursdays, on weekends by appointment and during live performances. For more information, visit the museum’s Facebook page. Donations can be sent to P.O. Box 762, Madison, WI, 53701.

‘Shifting Gears’ exhibits Wisconsin’s love affair with biking

Wisconsin’s love affair with biking is the subject of a new exhibit at the Wisconsin Historical Society in Madison:”Shifting Gears.”

“Cycling is a big deal in the state today and cycling was a big, big, bigger deal in Wisconsin in the late 1800s, specifically the 1890s,” says curator Joe Kapler. “Cycling probably had a greater presence in society then than it does today.”

Kapler advises visitors to pay special attention to the design and aesthetics of the 23 displayed bicycles. “Look at the finish and the detail,” he says. “These just look bitchin’ cool. They would look bitchin’ cool if they were on a shop floor today.”

Besides historic and cutting-edge bicycles, the museum offers virtual reality experiences using stationary bikes and pre-recorded video. You can join the Green Bay Packers as they make their annual ride to training camp, down a lane of cheering fans. Or you can ride the 32-mile Elroy to Sparta Trail in less than 10 minutes.

“Relatively speaking, Wisconsin has always been a leading cycling state,” says Kapler, the museum’s curator of cultural history. “By measurements by various bike organizations, trails, advocacy, tourism — Wisconsin rises up to the top three or four states.”

The exhibit contrasts past and present, though often there isn’t much contrast. Says Kapler, “The same issues we discuss and debate today were debated — sometimes contentiously — in the 1890s as well.”

One display is a road map and biking manual from 1896, adapted to be interactive. “There are no automobiles,” he notes. “There’s just horse-drawn transportation and foot traffic on the roads.” Yet there are bicycle routes across the state in any direction, with bicycle shops and hotels offering discounts to cyclists.

“You’d think that map was produced in 1996, not 1896,” Kapler says.

But visitors will likely be most excited by the bikes. “This mix of bicycles all have a connection to Wisconsin history,” he says. “Some of the earliest are from 1869 or so. And we have a couple that were made and never even hit the shop floor. They were assembled, completed and handed over to us.” One of the featured modern bikes is a high-end, custom-made Sotherland, built in Whitewater.

One of the strangest bikes must be the 1893 Crabtree Special, built almost entirely out of wood, including the chain and pedals. And then there’s the bicycle that isn’t really a bike at all; to ride the Monowheel, the cyclist pedals from inside the wheel.

On Display 

“Shifting Gears” runs through Oct. 10 at the Wisconsin Historical Museum, 30 N. Carroll St., Madison. It will subsequently move to the History Museum at the Castile in Appleton, and reopen in November. Admission is by donation: $4 per adult, $3 per child, or $10 per family is requested. Call 608-264-6555 or visit wisconsinhistoricalmuseum.org for more.

Strengthen the link between MAM and O’Donnell

Ever since The Milwaukee Art Museum’s winged architectural masterwork transformed the lakefront in 2001, residents have adopted it as an icon. We take pride in “The Calatrava,” the first U.S. building by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. Something besides beer has made Milwaukee famous. 

In contrast, O’Donnell Park has been treated like an ugly stepchild. Calatrava designed his breathtaking building to dovetail with the park plaza. He placed the museum and pedestrian bridge to line up with Mark DiSuvero’s “sunburst” sculpture “The Calling.” The park’s contrasting focal points and panoramic city views draw shutterbugs and tourists. O’Donnell Park is an ideal place to visually take in Milwaukee.

This park-museum linkage is now threatened by county schemes to sell off O’Donnell Park for private redevelopment. Some elected and appointed officials claim that O’Donnell Park is much too valuable as “buildable real estate” (read “high-rise”) to be used merely for the public’s benefit. They sidestep private-development restrictions stemming from the Public Trust Doctrine and the sacrosanct principle that parks are always set aside forever. Park-sale mania also ignores compelling data that parks are powerful economic catalysts. Great cities all have great public spaces where everyone is welcome, especially downtown. Parks contribute to a diversified tax base by attracting and serving businesses, residents and tourists. It’s synergy writ large.

While some don’t view O’Donnell Park as the indispensable nexus between MAM and downtown, museum leaders clearly do. MAM depends heavily on O’Donnell Park for access and parking. Milwaukee County’s Board will vote April 23 on a resolution to allow MAM officials to explore formal agreements with county officials.

This effort could yield a win-win solution for both MAM and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum, located in O’Donnell Park. The collaborative Lakefront Gateway Project recently commissioned four teams of professionals to submit design concepts for unifying downtown with lakefront parks and cultural destinations. The city is coordinating the project with the county, which owns park space within the focus area. 

An alternate board resolution seeks bids from for-profit businesses to redevelop any or all of O’Donnell Park (which includes a 1,332-space parking lot under the plaza). The county keeps trying to sell this revenue-producing park, without providing criteria for why it should be sold rather than responsibly stewarded. Selling the park would unnecessarily wreak all kinds of havoc, most alarmingly by declaring it “surplus property” and removing its income from the parks budget.

Please urge county supervisors to allow MAM to pursue a formal arrangement that mutually benefits the public, Milwaukee County Parks and MAM. It’s in everyone’s interest to preserve the park, much-needed parking for lakefront venues and unfettered public access to our world-famous museum. A far-sighted MAM-O’Donnell partnership could engender many positive outcomes, including more respect and care for Milwaukee’s irreplaceable overlook park.

Virginia Small is a conservation advocate who volunteers for a parks friends group in Milwaukee.

Exhibit to focus on ‘Van Gogh and Nature’

An exhibit featuring 50 paintings and drawings of nature by Vincent Van Gogh will open in western Massachusetts in June.

“Van Gogh and Nature” is the first exhibit devoted to the artist’s exploration of nature.

It will open at the Clark Art Institute in Williamstown on June 14.

The exhibit will include iconic paintings such as “A Wheatfield, with Cypresses,” “The Olive Trees” and “The Sower.” Works included in the exhibit are on loan from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam, the National Gallery in London, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and other museums.

The Clark Art Institute is located in the Berkshires of western Massachusetts. It houses European and American paintings and sculpture, English silver and early photography.

Museum working to preserve plywood art in Ferguson

The Missouri History Museum and the Regional Art Commission are working to preserve art that has been added to plywood meant to protect storefronts or cover damage from protesting in Ferguson and St. Louis.

The wood has been enhanced with drawings, bright colors and positive sayings, such as “listen with love” and “heal the world,” since a grand jury last month declined to indict white Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death of Michael Brown, an unarmed, black 18-year-old.

Hundreds of artists have banded together to highlight the community’s strength and provide a positive outlet that will allow people to move past the images of businesses being looted and burned, said Tom Halaska, owner of the Art Bar on Cherokee Street and an organizer with Paint for Peace STL. The effort has received tremendous support from business owners and residents, he said.

About 100 board-covered businesses have been decorated, and participants plan to continue their artistic mission, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

The museum hopes to eventually collect some of the art for research or possibly for an exhibit, according to Chris Gordon, director of library and collections.

But not everyone supports the preservation effort, and opposition has been felt by business owners and protesters alike.

“It’s not the history you’d want to remember,” said Varun Madaksira, owner of the Original Red’s BBQ in Ferguson, which was set on fire after the grand jury announcement.

Tony Rice of Ferguson has been protesting since Brown was killed on Aug. 9. He believes the plywood art masks residents’ sadness.

“It’s an attempt to whitewash the pain the community has suffered,” Rice said.

Supporters of the effort say art can help turn a negative situation into a positive one. Boarded-up buildings can lead people to believe an area is unsafe, said Rachel Witt, executive director of the South Grand Community Improvement District.

“When you put paint on, it really changes the perspective,” she said.

Brands capitalize on Art Basel in Miami Beach

Would you like a designer tie with that painting, a collage on your new Mercedes?

Or how about an art iPad app to complement your stock tips?

Art Basel Miami Beach often makes for unlikely pairings as luxury brands capitalize on the prestigious art fair to promote their goods in the ultimate fusion of art, music, fashion, real estate and commerce.

From alcohol to architects, low-end brands like Club Monaco to luxury luggage makers, companies are pitching to deep-pocketed art consumers and partygoers who come from around the globe. And there’s usually a little celebrity star power to help grease the wheels.

Street style artist Olek crocheted 200 pieces of Club Monaco duds to toast the clothing store’s new location on Lincoln Road. Watchmaker Hublot turned to the fastest man in the world to crown their new store with a twist on the standard ribbon cutting ceremony. Six-time Olympic gold medalist Usain Bolt sprinted alongside a track outside the store and run through the inaugural ribbon at an event in the Design District.

And if you’re in the mood to buy a luxury South Beach condo (priced up to $20 million) so you don’t have to stay in a hotel for next year’s Art Basel, 1 Hotel & Homes will whisk you over from the fair to the property in a chauffeured Tesla and to any other parties you’re hitting up during the week. Not to be outdone, Mercedes is partnering with digital artist Laurence Gartel, who wrapped a $200,000 RENNtech Mercedes-Benz Super in an abstract digital collage. The car was unveiled at a private event in Fischer Island Club.

Last week, Miami Heat basketball star Chris Bosh promoted his Mr. Nice Tie collection by unveiling a piece by artist Jerome Soimaud, along with a freestanding piece inspired by the tie collection from artist Leandra Arvazzetti at the Yeelen Gallery.

Wealth management group UBS announced Planet Art at Art Basel’s opening reception last week. The new iPad app offers a snapshot of the most relevant and trending topics in contemporary art, said John Mathews, managing director and head of private wealth management at UBS Americas.

Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid unveiled a new homeware collection, luxury furniture maker Moroso created a limited-edition table and portal chair and Absolut Elyx launched a pop-up, roof-deck club. And naturally, the Absolut lounge, served as the venue for several other promotions, including a new book and a collective of blind photographers from a Mexican NGO.

George Lucas chooses Chicago as site of his museum

Star Wars creator George Lucas’ plans to locate his future museum of art and movie memorabilia in Chicago.

The Windy City beat out Los Angeles, San Francisco and other cities vying to host the attraction. Lucas released a statement expressing his hopes to open the Lucas Museum of Narrative Art in 2018 in Chicago.

“I am humbled to be joining such an extraordinary museum community and to be creating the museum in a city that has a long tradition of embracing the arts,” the statement said.

Given Lucas’ close ties to California, where he was born, the decision was a surprise. Lucasfilm’s visual effects division is based in San Francisco, and Marin County is the headquarters for Lucasfilm and Skywalker Sound.

But Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel offered Lucas a lakefront location close to other attractions, including the Shedd Aquarium and the Field Museum of Natural History. Meanwhile, San Francisco rejected Lucas’ first choice of a location near the Golden Gate Bridge.

Chicago also had a leg-up because Lucas’ wife, Mellody Hobson is from Chicago, and the city closed down Promontory Point along the Lake Michigan shore so the couple could host a star-studded party there after their California wedding.

Throughout the decision-making process, a spokesman for Lucas praised Chicago for the attention it heaps on culture, architecture, innovations and education.

“Chicago’s a great city. We have a tradition that resonates closely with the way George Lucas has described his museum, as a museum of visual storytelling,” said Gillian Darlow, CEO of Polk Bros. Foundation and a co-chair of Chicago’s site selection task force. “He wants to help inspire other people, especially kids, to have bold visions the way he did.”