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Harwood sculptures moving to Hart Park

Oct. 19, 2011

Six sculptures that have adorned the Harwood pedestrian bridge will move to Hart Park by spring.

More than 10 years ago, the Village Business Improvement District partnered with Gary Zimmerman, a principal of Zimmerman Design Group, to commission artist Richard Taylor to design public art. The project cost about $50,000 and was donated to the city.

When Café Hollander took over the building Zimmerman had occupied, it looked to install a fountain and outdoor seating. A couple of the sculptures had to be removed to make space for the new elements. Those pieces have since been sitting in Public Works storage, while other pieces remained on the bridge.

City and BID officials have been working with the artist and donors to find a new spot within the city to display the sculptures. As the playground and site utilities project moved forward near the Rotary Park Pavilion, Mayor Jill Didier saw a place to mix fine art, music and recreation in one area.

"The sculpture was such a special donation, so I think it will be a wonderful addition to an area that is becoming such a gathering place for this community," Didier said.

She admiteds to walking past the artwork on the bridge frequently without understanding the message of the pieces. She believes other people have as well - or may not have even noticed the sculptures - and by putting them in Hart Park they will receive more attention.

Getting involved with the relocation gave her the opportunity for an art history lesson.

"I've learned what the symbolism behind the artwork means and how the art represents our history," the mayor said. "I'm excited for other people to see that for themselves."

The sculptures are actually four independent but related pieces ranging in height from three to 10 feet that "incorporate pieces of Wauwatosa's past and future," according to a letter that was submitted to the city Plan Commission in 1999. Suggestions of grist wheels and architectural elements from Wauwatosa historically significant structures, day lilies, an Ojibwa talking, the firefly and water are represented in the pieces.

Those themes still fit nicely in Hart Park and it will provide exposure to people of all ages in the new setting, BID Director Kathy Ehley said.

The Parks and Forestry Board on Tuesday unanimously approved the relocation to the park. Ed Haydin, Tosa resident and architect working on the playground project, said the sculpture bases could be designed and poured since the concrete contractors are already on site.

"It's always my mission to integrate art in my work wherever possible," Haydin said. "This was a real opportunity."

The city has allocated $10,000 for relocation. The funding came at least in part from Café Hollander as part of the fountain approval, said Alderman Michael Walsh, who sits on the board. The artwork will go back to Taylor's Milwaukee studio for refurbishing before installation.

Board members voiced some concern about the sculptures being situated too close together, after they had been spread among the bridge. There was a suggestion that spreading pieces throughout the park could provide some unity between the sections, but they also didn't want to interfere with the artist's vision.

There will be room to walk between them and sit on the bases to relax and take in the park, Haydin said. Pieces will be illuminated at night so they can become a focal point.

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