- Associated Press - Saturday, May 14, 2016

MADISON, Wis. (AP) - Essential parts of “Updraft,” a striking new 25-foot sculpture recently installed in Brittingham Park, are the trees, beaches and water of Lake Monona.

“Right now it’s a little naked,” said artist Mike Burns. “But when there’s plantings and things soften up a little bit, it will look like a monumental plant.”

A dedication for “Updraft” is set for Saturday at 5:45 p.m. at the Brittingham Park Community Gardens near the Park View Apartments, The Capital Times (https://bit.ly/1VTAXgI ) reported.

The Monona Bay Neighborhood Association has raised just over $65,000 for the art project, with a goal of $80,000 for the installation and maintenance endowment combined.

The project evolved from one Burns started at a planned bird sanctuary at Hoyt Park. That project fell through, and Burns’ work and grant funds were transferred to Brittingham, where funding was thought to be more easily found. Community planner Mary Berryman Agard worked with Burns, who queried people working in the community gardens and biking through the park to find out what kind of art they’d like to see.

“It wasn’t, ‘This is my art and you’re going to have to like it,’” Burns said. He wanted to “do something pleasant … welcoming and focused toward the environment, the lake and sky and trees and fields, and the growing things.”

Burns had a few challenges communicating with non-native English speakers who use the gardens, some of them Hmong and Chinese. But he quickly realized that their main priority was to keep their gardens safe from animals, while immediate neighbors wanted the garden to be aesthetically pleasing, too.

“I wanted low visual impact while at the same time making it interesting,” Burns said. “I rejected the standard chain link fence. The fence will blend in. It will be similar materials to the sculpture and the benches that are weathering (Cor-Ten) steel,” meaning they’ll change color as they age.

There are four benches in the works, but there’s no time table for when they’ll be installed, likely in the fall, Burns said.

The fence around the community garden is 90 percent complete. There will be decorative gates installed and leaf designs on the fence as well.

The sculpture itself is finished.

“Brittingham Park has such a great view, with a lot of sky,” Burns said. “That led me to think of getting something taller that would take advantage of the lake and the bike path, the lack of trees around where we were. Having an arch that people would walk or bike through is a welcoming thing.”

Burns, 67, has been making public art in Madison for several decades, working in bronze and stone. He graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s art program in 1972, crediting professors Fred Fenster, a jewelry teacher, and pottery professor Don Reitz as major influences.

“I found three dimensional art forms made me happy,” he said.

Some of the work Burns has made in Madison is invisible, or at least overlooked now, he said, like a curved sculptural wall on Eastwood Drive at Division Street. A bronze courtyard fountain with neon lights at Wiedenbeck Warehouse Apartments is now behind a security gate.

He’s made work at the McFarland Library and a Mayo Clinic hospital in Eau Claire. He worked with the UW-Madison Arboretum for about five years, starting with simple sign posts and donor recognition benches. In the Arb, he made three entryway arches, “like doorways.”

For Brittingham’s sculpture, Burns worked with Hooper Corporation to create the piece based on 12-inch tall models he made.

“I wanted to do something more spacial, to create a sense of being in a place while you’re in a transition space,” he said. “It was fun to use these abstract, organic, growing things.”

Monona Bay’s association is still collecting donations, which can be made through the Bayview Foundation by writing “Updraft” in the memo line of a check or online. Naming rights for benches ($5,000 donation) and gates ($2,500) are still available.

Electronic donors can send an email stating their name and donation amount and noting their donation is for Updraft.


Information from: The Capital Times, https://www.madison.com/tct

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