Lake Effect

Williamson Gateway Sculpture /

Milwaukee drivers are very familiar with highway headaches due to what seems to be constant construction projects in the city year-round. Madison residents can relate. Back in the spring of 2011 construction began on Williamson Street. Located on the East Side of Madison in the Marquette - Atwood Neighborhood, and known as Willy Street, it is a place where small businesses rule and works of art dot the landscape.

The Marquette – Atwood Neighborhood Association saw the demolition of the street as an opportunity to create something beautiful out of the rubble. They gave local artists permission to raise funds to build works of art for the community. What began as a huge pain in the neck for commuters was actually the beginning of a transformation that went beyond the road.

Radio Chipstone curator Gianofer Fields went to Madison to speak with metal artist Arika Koivunen and black smith Aaron Howard about their contribution to Willy Street - a giant metal tree made of recycled materials.

"All of a sudden here we are with murals, with poetry in the street, with historical markers on the horizon, with a gateway it's not just about this piece, it's really about an enlivening of Willy Street," says Koivunen.

Fields spoke with metal artist Arika Koivunen and black smith Aaron Howard in July of 2014, the tree was completed in August of the same year. For more information on the Willy Street project, visit the Willy Street blog, and visit the Williamson Gateway Sculpture facebook page for more photos and information about the tree's story from beginning to end.

abimercado / Flickr

Many people can recall a childhood memory of going outside to take advantage of a sunny, breezy day that was simply perfect to go fly a kite. Kite-flying seems like a quaint past-time, but these air acrobats have done some serious work in their day.  Supposedly, founding father Ben Franklin flew a kite and discovered electricity. Later, in the 18th and 19th Centuries the U.S. Weather Service used kites to raise instruments for atmospheric experiments. 

What does a kite have to do with The Niagara Falls? Well, it was a kite that carried the lead wire across the 800-foot chasm that allowed us to build the world's first railroad suspension bridge. And get this - in 1822 a schoolmaster named George Peacock used a pair of kites to pull a carriage at speeds up to twenty miles per hour. Go Fly a Kite…indeed.

Contributor Gianofer Fields explores the lofty history of kites with the help of Cait Dallas, Lead Interpreter at Old World Wisconsin’s German Farm site. While we often think of kites as playthings, Fields discovers through history that they were not always about fun and games.

Textile artist Laura Anderson Barbata's work is a cross between traditional textile artistry and activism. And according to Liese Pfeifer, Academic Curator at the Design Gallery for the School of Human Ecology Barbata, works with local artists to create wearable textiles which are often used in live performances.

Gianofer Fields

We often talk about objects from our past with a fondness, but what happens when the memories are negative?

Either you discard the thing or you build new memories – even if the object in question is a can of good old-fashioned...Spam?

Dominic Alves / Flickr

Crosses, Stars of David, the Egyptian ankh, Chinese characters - they're all symbols that are commonly worn by people who subscribe to their meanings.

In this edition of It’s a Material World, contributor Gianofer Fields explores what symbols as objects mean to the wearer. Madison's Catherine Dorl says there's one symbol she clings to - both literally and metaphorically: The Peace Symbol.

Independent filmmaker Guy Maddin says he had made a number of films long before the short lived Canadian Documentary Channel contacted him about a commissioned work.

The head of the network gave Maddin a challenging task - document his hometown Winnipeg, Manitoba and...make it interesting.

Material Culture contributor Gianofer Fields spoke with Maddin while he was in Madison for a presentation of the film, and inquired about how he recreated this place on film:

Gianofer Fields

Spring may be just around the corner but that's little comfort for those who are completely over this winter. Yes, we've spent our share of days cooped up at home waiting for the latest bout of bad weather to pass. At least we have things like radio, television, and shopping online to keep us from pulling out our hair. 

Madison Childrens Museum

As Wisconsinites, we're lucky to have access to some really stellar museums. Our state boasts nationally and internationally recognized institutions like the Milwaukee Art Museum, Ten Chimneys in Genesee Depot and Madison's Chazen Museum of Art, while researchers travel far and wide to look at artifacts and materials like the Racine Art Museum's renowned collection of contemporary crafts and the Wisconsin Historical Society's vast Civil War holdings.

Alex Watson / Flickr

Gardening, scrap booking, knitting, wood-working, bird-watching, golf. We've all got hobbies - some we're prouder to admit to than others. But what do these activities - and the supplies required - signify about our lives? What does what we do in our leisure time say about who we are?

Mike Kalasnik / Flickr

A spokeswoman for Governor Scott Walker says context is lacking in a report about a major gift to Walker's 2010 campaign. The story, by investigative reporter Michael Isikoff, was published yesterday in the online Yahoo News service.