Artscape exhibit takes sculptures to the streets of the Third Ward

Seth Tyler's ”Road to Kandahar“ is forged and fabricated steel. Photo courtesy The Historic Third Ward Association

In the Third Ward, it’s a given you’ll be able to find art if you’re looking for it. With galleries, studios and museums lining the streets, there is no shortage of artwork on this side of town. Now, with the arrival of the fall season, the neighborhood is expanding its artistic displays to the streets for Artscape.

Artscape, which began this week, is an annual outdoor sculpture walk coordinated by the Historic Third Ward Association. For the event, sculptures have been placed on the sidewalks in various locations throughout the district, giving pedestrians a unique opportunity to view artwork in an outdoor environment as they walk to and from the neighborhood’s boutiques and restaurants.

Kanoe Fish, event and marketing coordinator for the Historic Third Ward Association, said the group wanted to provide residents and guests of the Third Ward something beautiful to enjoy as they explore the area.

“It definitely adds to the neighborhood during those months,” Fish said. “It’s interesting, unique and special, and people really enjoy it.”

And Artscape doesn’t just add artistic flair to the district. It also highlights local culture by only showcasing work from Wisconsin artists.

“We like to give local artists the exposure that the traffic in the Third Ward brings,” Fish said.

This marks the sixth year since the Historic Third Ward Association created Artscape. This year, there are nine featured sculptures throughout the district, down from last year’s 14. Fish said the smaller number of pieces allows the association to place the works in only the best locations in the district.

The sculptors themselves are a mix of new faces and old favorites, although none of the featured pieces are repeated from year to year.

“We have some really great folks that we’ve worked with in the past that we like to go back to,” Fish said. “We also have our eye out for new artists that have innovative pieces.”

Seth Tyler, a sculptor based in Mequon, is one such artist who caught the association’s eye this year.

Tyler, who has been interested in sculpting since childhood, said he has visited the show but has never been involved before. This year, Artscape features three of Tyler’s pieces, all of which are primarily constructed of steel.

“It’s a good neighborhood,” Tyler said. “There is a lot of foot traffic around there. It’s a pretty reasonable way to get some exposure.”

There is no set route for people to take to view the sculptures, but they’ll be hard to miss, standing alone in the middle of the sidewalk.

Unlike traditional exhibitions, Artscape’s sculptures are spread out across the entire neighborhood, even going so far as to separate works crafted by the same artist. This allows observers to experience the pieces more casually and see them as individual works.

Tyler said he likes the Artscape setup because of its laid-back feel. To him, it can be both a destination and an everyday experience for the patrons of the Third Ward.

Bruce Niemi's ”Praise“ is one of two stainless steel works in the show. Photo courtesy The Historic Third Ward Association

“I prefer that aspect because it’s more approachable by everyone and a little less elitist than galleries tend to be,” Tyler said. “It’s kind of ‘come as you are.’ It’s in public and out in the open.”

As the sculptures go up, local businesses take an interest as well. Mark Van Ess, owner of home decor store Cranston, 250 N. Water Street, was surprised to note the installation of one sculpture outside of his store and another across the street.

“It really just draws some interest to the Third Ward, the streets, showcasing the area as an arts and entertainment district,” Van Ess said.

It’s simple as events go, but that might just be the appeal of Artscape. All it takes is nine sculptures on street corners, and an already-eclectic neighborhood further cements its reputation as a place where art is truly welcome.

“We get really positive feedback,” Fish said. “People really enjoy having the pieces around.”

Artscape sculptures will be on display until Nov. 12.