St. Francis Custom Motorcycle Builder Wins National Competition

November 1, 2017

A welding class at St. Francis High School was the initial impetus that propelled Steve Dietzman on the path to becoming a highly accomplished custom-motorcycle builder. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

A man went looking for America and couldn’t find it anywhere.”

That was the tagline that advertised Easy Rider, the 1969 cult classic biker movie.

Since then, thousands have surrendered to their wanderlust to ride the nation’s ribbons of highways on two wheels, in search of their own America.

Champion custom-motorcycle builder Steve Dietzman of Studio Cycles stands ready to outfit them with his rad rides.

Steve Dietzman, a modest 25-year-old, rose to national prominence this year with his custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper. He won the Retro Modified Class category of 2017 International Motor Show (IMS). Dietzman believes his attention to detail and his passion to go above and beyond helped him win the competition.

“I went to [the IMS] for about three years as a spectator, so that motivated me to finish up my bike and enter it in the show,” he said.

Dietzman’s custom-built 1968 Triumph Bonneville Chopper was the winner in the 2017 International Motor Show’s Retro Modified Class. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Milwaukee’s Royal Enfield (retail store of British motorcycle manufacturer) sponsored the retro Modified Class category. Dietzman won a trophy, a Royal Enfield motorcycle, and a cash prize.

The Compass caught up with Dietzman on a sunny September afternoon as he worked in a workshop near in the Tippecanoe neighborhood. Motorcycles in various stages of completion were staged throughout the shop.

Most of Dietzman’s motorcycles are projects for his friends. He pointed to a Harley-Davidson Panhead, stripped down to the frame, wheels, and fuel tank. “This is my buddy’s Panhead. He got married and started a family at 23, so that’s what happens,” Dietzman said, pointing to the bike’s shell, indicating his friend’s progress on the rebuild has been slowed.

Another friend dropped off a Honda for a full custom build.

On display was one of Dietzman’s most recent accomplishments, a sleek blue and chrome 1979 Harley-Davidson Shovelhead Chopper. The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. The iconic rally began in 1938 and is held annually in the first week of August in Sturgis, S.D.

Dietzman performed the fine-tuning, welding, and mechanical aspects of the build. The paintwork is outsourced to his buddy, artist Rome Urbaniak. “Some people think it’s my best work yet,” he said, referring to the Shovelhead, “but I don’t think so. I always strive to go above and beyond, always pushing, pushing one step further. I hope my best work is yet to come!” he said.

Dietzman owns five motorcycles, three in driving form. His Triumph Bonneville is his favorite.

Teen Passion

Dietzman started riding motorcycles when he was 16. His first bike was a 1969 Honda 350. “My friend and me used to rent a single-stall garage not far from here during high school and we hid our motorcycles from our parents,” he said. “We called it ‘the studio’ because it was tiny. The name carried over to Studio Cycles.”

Dietzman’s parents found out about his motorcycle after one of their friends saw him cruising around Bay View. “After I caught wind of this, I decided to drive my bike home one day. Their response to me having a motorcycle was well received! I believe they knew (about my bike) longer than I thought they did,” he said.

Dietzman is a 2011 graduate of St. Francis High School. The school has a woodshop, but hasn’t had an auto or metal shop for some time, Dietzman said. So during his junior year, he participated in a school-to-work program and studied welding at Milwaukee Area Technical College’s downtown campus.

“I realized I didn’t want to do welding as a career,” he said. However, he immediately connected with the fabrication aspect of welding that he could use it for work on motorcycle frames and parts.

When he sought a deeper understanding of engine mechanics, he took a small engines class at MATC, along with auto tech training.

He built his first motorcycle when he was 18, a 1977 Harley-Davidson Ironhead Sportster. “It was totally stock and (I) made it into a bobber. I changed the frame and everything on it,” he said.

The bike was featured in a motorcycles-as-art exhibit curated by Michael Lichter at the 2017 Sturgis Motorcycle Rally. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Bobbing a bike involves stripping extraneous bodywork from a motorcycle, including removing the front fender and shortening the rear fender.

Dietzman finds motorcycles primarily via Craigslist.

For his commission projects, clients usually have a general idea of what they want and Dietzman fine-tunes it for them. He gets ideas from social media. He studies photos and considers how to make good ideas even better.

Despite holding a full-time sales position at Fastenal, an industrial supplier, along with his own business, Dietzman still finds time to mentor bike builders of the future through BUILD, a nonprofit educational organization that pairs teams of high school students with bike-builder mentors. The St. Francis High School program started in 2011, during Dietzman’s senior year. He and four other students participated in the program’s inaugural year.

“School was a little boring for me, but to go work on those motorcycles after school was awesome,” he said. “I remember skipping work to go work on motorcycles. That gave me the kick start to want to work on bikes.”

Dietzman serves as a mentor in the St. Francis High School program.

He helps students gain valuable life and interpersonal skills while restoring vintage motorcycles. They start out with a motorcycle chassis that is in rundown condition and turn it into a full race bike. They learn a wide range of skills, including motorcycle design, welding, fabricating, painting, and even fundraising. At the end of the build, the bikes are raced at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.

Other high schools that offer BUILD include Bradley Tech, Pulaski, New Berlin, South Milwaukee, Shorewood, and Muskego.

Still in his 20s, the sky, or the open highway, is the limit for Dietzman. While he loves making custom bikes and might expand into a larger workspace with a storefront, he’s keeping his full-time job and will see where the road takes him.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Bay View Compass. 


Goodbye Old Friend

September 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

South Shore Park’s iconic beech tree has died

The trunk of the State Champion European Copper Beech in South Shore Park will remain in place for a time as local groups, Friends of South Shore Park among those, consider ways to memorialize the tree. PHOTO Katherine Keller

I hate to see it go,” said Lauri Gorton, who lives on Estes Street across from the State Champion European Copper Beech tree in South Shore Park.

The iconic Bay View tree has reached the end of its life and is giving way to Milwaukee County Parks arborists, who began removing its limbs August 9. The beech succumbed to old age and a fungal disease.

“The tree is so significant,” Polly Caster said. She was among a group of people who gathered at the tree to pick up pieces that the arborists placed at its base for those who wanted to pickup a souvenir. “It’s been like a neighbor. I see it every day when I walk my dog.” Caster has lived on Mabbett Avenue since the early 90s.

Jan Grimes has lived on Superior Street since 1985, and like Caster, has admired the tree for decades.

“I see it every season. It’s delicate leaves in spring and fully leafed out in summer. It was magnificent,” Caster said.

Log Ladies Jan Grimes and Polly Caster took a break from a painting project to gather slabs and logs that were cut from the Eurpoean Copper Beech tree in South Shore Park. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The stately beech is believed to have begun life in the mid-1800s. That means it may have been part of the South Shore landscape for about 160 to 170 years.

The beech would have sprung up on the land some years after Elijah and Zebiah Estes purchased their land in 1835 or 1836 and developed their home and farm on the land above Lake Michigan. A section of their land was later incorporated into what is now South Shore Park.

Residue from the Bay View rolling mills likely settled on its limbs. Perhaps social activist and “civic saint” Beulah Brinton strolled past the tree as she introduced new immigrant families to the developing village of Bay View.

The tree survived the many changes to the land that nurtured it over a period of 16 or so decades.

In 2016 we reported that Milwaukee County Parks Forestry Supervisor Gregg Collins said that the majestic beech tree was in poor health and “over-mature.” In other words, the tree had exceeded its species’ typical lifespan. He compared it to a human being who was 105 years old.

Collins said that beginning in 2012 the tree lost several large limbs and that missing bark was evidenced at the base of the trunk. Missing bark indicated tissue dieback, another symptom of a tree in decline.

In 2015, he hired Wachtel to examine the tree. He said they observed canopy thinning, gypsy moths, aphids, carpenter ants, more tissue dieback, and fungal infection. Different strategies were deployed to support the tree — an antifungal treatment, ant killer, compost tea, watering the root zone, and adding mulch at the base of the tree.

The tree’s distress was exacerbated that year by hot dry weeks in June, July, and August.

Last year, the majority of its leaves dried and shriveled by midsummer. Collins decided to give the tree one more year but it failed to rebound.

Jeffrey Gollner, Milwaukee County Parks arborist and natural resources technician was in charge of the crew that removed the beech tree’s limbs.

“Fungus killed it,” he said. “We tried various fungicides, fertilizers, and plant growth regulators.”

A plant growth regulator is a hormone, Gollner said, sometimes used on large old trees. It slows growth, allowing the tree’s “energy to be directed toward maintenance,’ to its existing limbs, leaves, and roots.

He said there are numerous European Copper Beech trees growing along the lake in Milwaukee County, but also along the lake as far south as Racine and to Green Bay on the north. noting they don’t grow farther inland.

Mike Gagliano, Jeff Gollner, Ellen Stollenwerk, and Joe Wilson used their skills and expertise to remove the limbs of the Wisconsin State Champion European Copper Beech tree in South Shore Park. It is thought the tree is approximately 160 to 170 years old. The rings will be counted if the trunk is not hollow. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Gollner said there are many Wisconsin State Champion Trees in Milwaukee County Parks and on private land. He noted that one of those is an Ohio Buckeye that is growing on private property on the little section of Euclid Avenue, east of Kinnickinnic Avenue, in the little neighborhood behind Walgreens.

Not far from the dead beech is a Norway Maple that was marked for culling that Gollner estimated to be about 60 years old. Trees are culled when they begin to die. Dying or dead limbs fall and pose a hazard to park-goers.

He said parks are relatively harsh environments for trees. The Norway Maple’s native habitat is a forest where the soil is covered with decomposing leaves, bark, and other plant material with nutrients that are absorbed by the tree’s roots. By contrast, park trees are surrounded by turf that “sucks nutrition” for itself, disadvantaging the trees. Human traffic compacts the soil — trees require porous soil for good root growth.

Gollner said that the trunk of the European Copper Beech will remain in place for a time as local groups, Friends of South Shore Park among those, consider ways to memorialize the tree, perhaps with tree carvings, a bench made from the wood, and salvaged slabs.

If the trunk is intact, Collins said his staff would do its best to get an accurate count. If some of the trunk has rotted away, he said they’d get an approximate date, working with what remains.

“While it is very sad to see the tree that provided so many with shade and climbing fun for kids go, our tree actually lived longer than many of its kind,” said Milwaukee County District 4 Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic. “The Milwaukee County Parks, Friends of South Shore Park, and the Bay View Historical Society are all in talks about how to best memorialize the remaining stump.” South Shore Park falls is in Dimitrijevic’s district.

The South Shore Park European Copper Beech was included on the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources’ list of State Champion Trees. Although it is currently on hold, the champion tree program is a database of the state’s largest trees. DNR’s website notes, “DNR keeps big tree records to encourage the appreciation of Wisconsin’s forest and trees.”

Andrew Gawin, a member of Friends of South Shore Park, said his group requests suggestions about how to memorialize the tree. Cutting boards for a bench is one idea. Another is to take a cross section.

Gerry Thieme, who worked for the parks department at the time, planted the second European Copper Beech tree that is growing about 50 feet east of the original old tree, said Gollner. Gregg Collins said it was planted 17-20 years ago.


KK’s Glorious Flower Baskets

September 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson

This summer Kinnickinnic Avenue from Morgan Avenue to Becher Street was again beautified with bountiful hanging baskets. A project of the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District (BID), the basket arrangements will be displayed through September or mid-October, weather permitting.

The more successful of the baskets that bedeck Kinnickinnic Avenue are planted with Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, a bright pink petunia, and Supertunia Vista Silverberry petunias, typically white with pink accents. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

This was the second year that Custom Grown Greenhouses (4507 S. Sixth St.) created the baskets for the KK BID.

“We’re really pleased with the beauty of the baskets,” said Mary Ellen O’Donnell, BID board member and chair of its streetscape committee. We continued the contract with them this year and didn’t go out to bid because we were so happy with them last year.”

O’Donnell said this year they deferred to Custom Grown owner Paul Budzisz and his team, allowing them to select the flowers, whereas, in previous years, she and other BID members helped select them. Each basket is a little different and is planted with varieties of petunias, dragon lady begonias, sweet potatoes, lantana, and Carlina, among others.

Custom Grown handled all aspects of the project. They selected the flowers, planted the baskets, placed them on the brackets, watered them, and will remove them at the end of the season. The baskets are saved for reuse by the BID, O’Donnell said.

The 2017 budget for the project was $9,000. “There were high watering costs last year, so what we did was up-the-budget a bit to accommodate that,” O’Donnell said. “But we’re on track to be a little under budget this year.” There are about 58 baskets, she noted.

Budzisz has owned Custom Grown Greenhouses since 1988. “This year, they (BID) let me do my own thing to see what works best and what doesn’t,” he said. “There are some combinations where maybe we can cut down on the watering, and we also want to see people’s reactions (to the plant choices and designs).”

The more successful baskets are planted with Supertunia Vista Bubblegum, a bright pink petunia, and Supertunia Vista Silverberry petunias, typically white with pink accents. Neither requires deadheading and both are drought resistant. “They perform the best and most baskets with those turned out very well,” Budzisz said.

Some of the other baskets include Dragon Wing begonias with yellow sweet potato vines, lantana, and pink begonias. Budzisz is particularly pleased with the results of the baskets near the Immaculate Conception church on the corner of Kinnickinnic and Russell avenues. Those baskets hold begonias, Carlina, a white cascading plant, purple petunias, and blue ivy. They have grown successfully and Budzisz has heard good feedback from passers-by when he watered the baskets.

Custom Grown Greenhouses owner Paul Budzisz and employee Claire Raasch try to incorporate plants that don’t need much maintenance when designing their hanging baskets. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Budzisz, along with employee Claire Raasch, who has been at Custom Grown for 25 years, tries to incorporate plants that don’t need much maintenance.

Challenges like inclement weather and vandalism have been minimal. “We might have to touch them up occasionally,” he said, “but the only thing that happened was last year, when a basket fell. The hanger broke and the basket was lying on the ground. We think it was because last year’s sweet potato vines grew to where they nearly touched the ground and they got caught on something or had been tugged. This year’s vines don’t grow that long.”

Custom Grown works with other municipalities including Whitefish Bay, Wauwatosa, and Germantown, providing and caring for flowers and other plants. While much of their business is retail, they also grow plants for the Wisconsin State Fair Park grounds and for the Milwaukee County Zoo.

More color on KK

In addition to the hanging baskets, the KK BID also maintains the Art Stop site north of the KK/Howell/Lincoln avenues intersection and about six concrete planters owned by the BID, located in the vicinity of KK and Lincoln. O’Donnell said they were purchased and installed by a former, now defunct Bay View business association.

“Not every business was (using) the planters in front of their businesses,” said O’Donnell. The BID let businesses that wanted to use its planters continue doing so. For those who did not, the BID took them over. The BID added an additional planter at the south end of KK in front of Rusty
Sprocket Antiques.

PHOTO Katherine Keller

Additionally, Custom Grown provided the plants at the base of the new gateway signs on KK at Morgan Avenue and at Bay Street. The Becher sign was installed on an existing landscaped mound that is maintained by the city, O’Donnell said.

The sign just south of Morgan Park was installed on a barren island. “We wanted to put some nice landscaping around that sign, so we purchased planting materials from Custom Grown for both locations, as well as for Art Stop,” O’Donnell said. The BID contracted Curative Care, a nonprofit that hires people with disabilities. “They have a landscaping team as one of the services they provide. We were really excited about working with the organization. They planted at the two sign locations, as well as on the bare areas of the Art Stop. Custom Grown is doing the watering until the plants are established. Curative Care is handling the weeding and cleaning.”

Budzisz credits projects like KK BID baskets for promoting gardening and encouraging people to add more beauty and color to their properties. He said he hopes the trend continues to catch on with individuals and businesses.


Earl Gutbrod Has Retired

August 1, 2017

By Sheila Julson 

Bay View post office loses a friendly, familiar face

Newly retired postal clerk Earl Gutbrod said Bay View is the friendliest neighborhood he worked in during his 36 year career with the United States Post Office. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

For the past 15 years, jovial postal clerk Earl Gutbrod served thousands of patrons at the Bay View post office.

Known for his cordiality and humor, Gutbrod put on his United States Postal Service uniform for the last time May 31 and retired after 36 years of service. He has lived in Bay View for the past 30 years.

Now with leisure time aplenty, Gutbrod is pursuing photography, historical studies, canoeing, and, he added with a laugh, procrastinating.

Gutbrod, the oldest of six children, lived in numerous Milwaukee neighborhoods throughout the city during his childhood, attending approximately nine different Catholic parochial schools. After graduating from Riverside High School, he served in the U.S. Army from 1966 through 1969 and was in Vietnam from 1968 to 1969. “I left footprints all over the Central Highlands,” Gutbrod said.

He graduated from UW-Milwaukee in 1974 with a bachelor’s degree in business and then worked in sales, but he didn’t enjoy it.

During the early 1980s when an economic recession hit, he, like many others in America’s workforce, had difficulty finding work despite a solid work record and a good work ethic.

“It was scary because I always thought I could get a job,” he said. “So I took the post office exam on a lark, not really thinking about it,” he said. At that time, he was working two jobs, one at a wholesale meat company and another driving a school bus.

His application was accepted and he began working at the main branch on St. Paul Avenue in February 1981.

“I started on a letter sorting machine,” Gutbrod said.

The position challenged him to memorize addresses and the letter carrier to whom they were assigned. He was soon sorting letters at a rate of about one per second, using a 10-key horizontal keyboard. “At first, it was very difficult. I wasn’t a typist, but it’s interesting what needing a job can teach you,” he said.

Today, automated systems sort mail from the time it is dropped into the mailbox until it’s routed to the carrier who delivers it.

He also performed other sorting tasks and saw many examples of how difficult some made it for their letters to reach the intended destination. “During a postage rate increase, somebody taped pennies onto the envelope by the stamp to make up the difference,” Gutbrod laughed.

Gutbrod worked at the downtown branch for about 10 years. From there, he worked as a substitute window clerk at a dozen post offices throughout Milwaukee. He enjoyed exploring different neighborhoods during his lunch breaks, and he was particularly intrigued by the Historic Mitchell Street neighborhood. The area’s stores, such as Goldman’s, the former iconic department store that sold everything from candy raisins to girdles, fascinated him. He remembers taking lots of pictures there.

Gutbrod worked at the USPS branches on 34th and Vliet and on the North Shore before being placed at the Bay View station in 2008. “I worked all over Milwaukee, and in all of the neighborhoods, people, overall, were decent and respectful,” he said. “Bay View is the friendliest neighborhood by far. I got to know a lot of people. It was always great seeing a friendly face in line, and we’d all kid around a bit.”

The drawbacks? “The worst was having to be the messenger of bad news,” Gutbrod said. Sometimes mail was lost or delayed. Customers expecting checks or other important mail would often come to the post office in search of an important letter or check. Despite a desire to help, neither Gutbrod, nor any other postal branch clerk, had any power to recover
delayed or lost mail.

“One week, I had two very unpleasant experiences because parcels got held up in customs in Russia and in Algeria,” Gutbrod recalled. “The one in Russia was especially poignant. A woman
(in Milwaukee) was mailing a wedding dress for a relative to get married in. She sent it express mail. The package made it to Russia and then it sat in customs in Russia and never made the wedding. As much as I wanted to help, sometime people don’t realize limitations. I have absolutely no influence in Russia or Algeria!”

—Photo Earl Gutbrod

The Red Fox is a favorite photo subject of Earl Gutbrod and is Bay View’s unofficial mascot.

The advent of the internet has drastically changed our way of life for better or worse and it has particularly impacted USPS. The agency’s bread and butter had long been mailed bills where a first class stamp was used by the creditor to mail a bill and first class postage was used again by the recipient to mail payment. Now, many people pay bills online. “That revenue is not being replaced,” Gutbrod said. “Somewhere along the line, a young person might ask what’s a stamp? That, by far, has been the biggest change.”

Gutbrod also noted that during his time working for USPS, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act (PAEA) was signed into law under the George W. Bush administration in 2006. Under PAEA, USPS was forced to prefund its future healthcare benefit payments for its retirees for 75 years forward.

The post office is a stand-alone government agency of the executive branch. It is the only federal agency that pays its own way. It has not received taxpayer money for many years. “If you use the corporate model, the board of directors would be Congress. These are the people that make the rules for which the post office must comply, with one big difference — the people on our board of directors get millions of dollars in campaign contributions every year from our competitors,” Gutbrod emphasized. “This has all sorts of crazy effects on some of the rules that Congress writes.”

PAEA and the impact of the internet occurred simultaneously, greatly reducing USPS mail volume. Consequently, Gutbrod said, service was affected due to cost-cutting measures that were instituted. Reducing the number of employees at post office counters was one of those.

Another was setting up a two-tier wage system creating the job category “city carrier assistants” (letter carriers), who begin employment at lower pay rates and who are on contract rather than permanent employees. They get moved around wherever needed and sometimes have to deliver a route with which they are completely unfamiliar. “People came in and said a letter was delivered to the wrong place, but the poor carrier was never even on that route before,” Gutbrod said sympathetically.

Earl Gutbrod served patrons at the Bay View Post Office from 2008 through May 2017. —Photo Jennifer Kresse

Easing into retirement

A history enthusiast, Gutbrod is contemplating studying for a master’s degree in history. He’s particularly intrigued by 19th century America. “We talk about the way things have changed, but nothing compares to the way things changed during that century,” he said. “You had rural to urban lifestyle changes, steam power, changes in the economic structure, the Civil War, and the Industrial Revolution.”

Gutbrod has been a hobbyist photographer since he received a camera for his first communion at the former Holy Ghost Catholic Church on Lincoln Avenue at 32nd Street, now San Rafael.

He’s shown his work at Seasons of Life Art Gallery, located at St. Ann Center in St. Francis. His photo of a fox is on permanent display. He uses different types of digital equipment and is playing around with stereo photography, a technique where two pictures are captured simultaneously and then displayed side-by-side to give a three-dimensional effect.

Gutbrod also plans to go canoeing and kayaking. His motorcycle, a Honda 1800 VTX, will see more miles.

He shared a story about his last day on the job. “On my last day of work, I brought in an Eisenhower (silver) dollar. For my very last customer, I said, ‘I’m retiring tomorrow, and this job has been good to me. I’d like to give you this buck for luck. She took it and smiled, and said ‘I’ll never spend it.’”

He said he would like to thank his customers in Bay View. “It’s been good,” he said. “I was treated kindly, with respect, and these people made it all possible.”

To receive additional social security benefits, Gutbrod worked until age 70.

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to the Bay View Compass.


MPS students create tiles for local community garden

June 1, 2017

By Katherine Keller

Four of the beautiful tiles made by Kate Vannoy’s Audubon High School students for the Hide House Community Garden plots. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Bay View resident Kate Vannoy discovered the Hide House Community Garden a number of years ago as she walked her dogs around her neighborhood. Last year her friend Tiffany Hoebeck rented a plot in the garden and Vannoy thought, “I want to do that too.”

There are 105 plots in the community garden on Deer Place between Greeley and Burrell streets. Since the raised beds were established in 2010, an attempt was made to identify the plots by painting its number on the frame. But the paint didn’t last long and the numbers faded to a state of illegibility.

Last year some of the HHCG members thought tile numbers would be a more durable solution, but when they researched prices, they found it would be cost-prohibitive.

Audubon High School students Byron Radford and Ximena Piedrabuena-Alcaraz participated in tile-making, a service-learning project that offered students the opportunity to help a community-based organization, while experiencing the complete range of ceramics. PHOTO Kate Vannoy

What about making tiles, they wondered. Lin Lindner and Tim Mckeehan, who own Terra Domus Design Group, a handmade tile, mosaics, and pottery studio in the Hide House, offered the use of their studio for garden members to make tiles. But only a few members signed up.

Then Kate Vannoy stepped up. She teaches art at Audubon Technology and Communication High School and thought tile-making would be a good project for her students.

Vannoy assigned the project to her class of 25 students with autism and special needs. The previous year she taught a regular art curriculum to many of those students but this year she wanted to give them a new and practical art experience.

Erika Bufkin incises a number into the clay in the early stages of tile production. PHOTO Kate Vannoy

It would be part of a service-learning curriculum that offered her students the opportunity to help a community-based organization, while experiencing the complete range of ceramics.

That range included every step from clay to firing. “My students did everything from reclaiming old clay, wedging, forming tiles, decorating, bisque firing, glazing, re-firing, cataloging, packaging, distribution — with all the trials and tribulations, including remaking tiles — that happened throughout the long, involved process,” Vannoy said.

The class made a number tile for each side of each frame. That’s 105 plots — 420 tiles, each about 5.5 inches square. They worked on the project from February until the end of May.

“There are 25 students enrolled in the course, but we also have three to five paraprofessionals and health care assistants in the class, and more often than not, we had additional students who came through to help,” Vannoy said. In all, a total of 30 students and eight adults had a hand in creating the tiles.

Working with clay is always a favorite art project for high school students, Vannoy said. But this was more than an assignment to make a coffee mug or vase. It was a project that required many skills.

“(By) working on a project of this scale, the students have become proficient in knowing what each stage of the clay-to-ceramic process is and how to tell what will work and what might not,” she explained. “They had the chance to experiment, then try something else if it did not work out the way they wanted. Some of the students in our class enjoy repetition and work exceptionally well with sequential processes. This was a perfect project to build on those strengths while experiencing something new, all while helping their community.”

The Audubon High students made a number tile for each side of each frame at the Hide House Community Garden. They made 420 tiles, each about 5.5 inches square. They worked on the project from February until the end of May. PHOTO Kate Vannoy

“I liked crafting and sketching and decorating,” said Byron Radford. “And glazing to make it shine. I made scratch marks and different designs around the numbers.” He embellished the tiles with multiple colors.

Alejandro Rentas, who said he enjoyed the tile project, agreed. “I like making my own designs,” he said, but added that it was challenging to draw the lines into the clay to create the number shapes.

Paraprofessional Rokenda Smith saw the students become more cohesive as they worked on the project. “I noticed they learned to work as a team. It became a group effort,” she said.

“Everyone showed artistic ability with color, design. The tiles were personal and original,” said Angee Berté, another of the classroom’s paraprofessionals. There were many steps that the students learned before they had a finished tile. “They flattened the clay, cut squares, made designs, allowed them to dry, applied the glaze before they were fired in the kiln,” Berté said.

“They were so excited when we started, then some of the adults and students, who don’t love repetition, got bored after awhile with the constant forming, decorating, and remaking tiles,” Vannoy said. “However, it was about then that we started firing and glazing so most got excited and interested again. By the end everyone was happy to try out their new ceramic skills on projects for themselves, challenging themselves with different forms.”

Vannoy said that she is planning a field trip when school begins in fall, so the students can see their tiles in place in the Hide House Garden.

“I would love for our students to come and see the gardens. Too many of our students have limited access to whole fresh produce. We have some small plots at school for some students to work and harvest, but I think it is important for students to have access to gardens at home — in their neighborhoods. Wouldn’t it be great if all neighborhoods had community gardens?

Dr. Kate
Kate Vannoy holds a PhD in Educational Philosophy with a focus in instructional design. “Alternative nontraditional methods of instruction are my passion,” she says.
Dr. Kate, as her students address her, has taught at Audubon for 18 years, where she began as a middle school art teacher, later taking on the roll of technology coordinator. In 2008, when Audubon expanded and added the high school program, she went back to the art classroom. She started the credit recovery and attainment program and also coordinates the GED Option 2 program.

She graduated from Bay View High School in 1989 after attending 13 different grade schools in the U.S. and Canada. She and her husband Art Vannoy purchased their home in Bay View in 1995, where they raised three daughters.

Full Disclosure: Katherine Keller is a Hide House Community Garden volunteer.


New Bay View mural highlights neighborhood’s historic landmarks

January 7, 2017

By Katherine Keller

From left: Susan Ballje of the Bay View Historical Society. Josh Ebert, Tom Aldana, Mike Davenport, and Chacho Lopez are members of the Creative Collective of Artists from Walker’s Point. Member Jon Bartels, one of the mural painters, is not in the photo. Aldana did not contribute to the mural. PHOTO Sheila Semrou

When the Faust Music building came tumbling down last year, the iconic “For A Stronger Bay View” message painted in red letters on its north wall fell to rubble. For decades the sign served as a quasi locator sign at the neighborhood’s northern gateway on Kinnickinnic Avenue at Ward Street.

Now a new mural three blocks south again boldly announces “Bay View.” It is part of the painting that covers the entire north wall of Steve Ste. Marie’s Maytag Laundromat, 2510 S. Kinnickinnic.

“Historic Awakenings” is the mural’s theme, referencing 23 historic Bay View landmarks. A project of the Bay View Historical Society and the Kinnickinnic Avenue Business Improvement District #44 (KK BID), the mural was designed to promote an interest in Bay View’s historic architecture, settlers, and history.

The depicted landmarks are those that were officially designated as such by the Bay View Historical Society.

Susan Ballje, one of the mural project organizers and past Bay View Historical Society president, said the idea for the mural began to emerge as the result of community visioning meetings presented by the KK BID in the past year. “Thoughts of a project to share the past and enjoy the present, and most importantly, to know Bay View’s history, began to surface,” Ballje said. The goal was to  share Bay View’s history and highlight the significance of the area.

Ballje worked with the BID board, including Lee Barczak, Mary Ellen O’Donnell, and Carisse Ramos. Ald. Tony Zielinski advised them about city guidelines. “I supported the mural. We need more murals. Public art is part of our blueprint for Bay View,” Zielinski said.

Ballje and her colleagues sought and received the Bay View Historical Society’s boards’ funding support for the $6,920 project.

“The Bay View Historical Society decided to take on the responsibility (of finding a building and artists) to use the mural as a way to educate the public about the history of the area. We researched murals and looked for funding to support the design, plan, and installation.” Ballje and her colleagues researched murals in Milwaukee, Ashland, Wis., Portland, Ore., and Chicago, Ill.

The  society received a $3,000 Community Improvement Project grant from the city of Milwaukee’s Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation. The remainder was funded by the Bay View Historical Society through donations made directly for the mural and from allocations from its education and community fund.

The artists they selected, Josh Ebert, Chacho Lopez, and Jon Bartels, are members of the Creative Collective of Artists from Walker’s Point. They are also tattoo artists at Walker’s Point Tattoo Company, 712 S. Second St.

“Susan called our shop and asked if we were capable of doing the mural,” Ebert said. He told her they were, and they were hired. He said she had seen some of their murals and thought he and his colleagues would be a good fit.

A number of buildings to provide “the canvas” were considered but Ste. Marie’s building was selected because it was centrally located with a big wall. “It took much longer than expected to work out contracts and agreements, find the right location, acquire funding, and create a workable design,” Ballje said. Things began to fall into place in early summer but painting didn’t begin until November.

Ste. Marie said that Ballje contacted him in May asking if he’d consider a mural on his north wall. “Anytime we, as property owners, have an opportunity to get involved with a project of this scope and depth, we should give all the support needed to move things along. We take from the community in terms of our sales, but that street runs both ways; we must also give back.”

He said under the terms of his contract, he agreed to keep the building in good repair “and standing” for the next 10 years.

Ebert said the shape and configuration of the wall, the utility meters, window, and the three-dimensional sign in the upper right corner of the wall presented challenges. The design itself required problem-solving because it would incorporate 23 landmarks. “It was difficult to integrate so many elements and still keep a consistent look and good flow,” Ebert said. “The design or sketch was put together in a matter of days, given the tight timeline. The font was chosen by Chacho to give it an ornamental antique look.”

Ebert said Bartels painted the panel with the Copper Beech tree and Lopez painted the “lettering and some buildings.” Ebert himself painted the remainder of the mural, “from the Avalon to about Puddler’s Hall.”

In total, they worked for three weeks. They began by priming the wall with a gray exterior primer to cover the existing white paint. They used spray paint to create the buildings and text. Ebert said they were paid $3,000 for the artwork plus $3,500 for materials.

“The old and the new are represented side by side, honoring the history in a very public setting,” Ballje said. “With stories and landmarks dating from the mid-1800’s, this mural helps to recognize the importance of preservation while changes are made going into the future.” She hopes the mural will stimulate conversation about Bay View history and also curiosity about the buildings that will lead to walking around the neighborhood to find the landmarks.

Ste. Marie is pleased with the finished art. “The mural actually exceeded my expectations,” he said. “It is really one of a kind and adds a lot of character to Bay View. It’s much better than a boring old white wall.” 


The Magnet Factory

January 7, 2017

By Sheila Julson

Wood and metal repair, restoration, conservation

Owner Mike Brylow named his Bay View building, 2424 S. Graham St., The Magnet Factory, a nod to Dings Magnetic Separator Company that once operated there. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

After a century-plus of Industrial Age manufacturing, its vestiges are everywhere — from museums to landfills. While much of the output from decades of manufacturing eventually winds up in a landfill graveyard, people like Mike Brylow seek out our civilization’s discards and gives them new life.

Brylow offers a range of services including the repair, restoration, and conservation of wood and metal antiquities in the Bay View building he’s named The Magnet Factory, 2424 S. Graham St. There he builds custom furniture from reclaimed material, but he also services and repairs vintage automobiles. Air-cooled Volkswagens are his specialty.

Mike Brylow offers a range of services including the repair, restoration, and conservation of wood and metal antiquities in the Bay View building he’s named The Magnet Factory, 2424 S. Graham St. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Brylow, who has lived in Bay View for most of his life, worked as an auto mechanic for 30 years when he sustained his second severe foot injury. The injury knocked him back for four months. While he recovered, he reevaluated his direction and path and led him to the decision to pursue his interest in restoration work.

From his teens on, he had a strong interest in automobile repair. His neighbors were car guys, and he was the curious boy who often rode his bike to watch them work and ask what they were doing. He learned more from a friend’s father who let him watch as he worked on cars and occasionally allowed Brylow to help.

Later a friend got him involved in restoration work. “During the 1980s and 1990s when the antiques business was thriving, I got to work with him. It was fun to take something that exists or is ready to be thrown away and turn it back into the world again,” he said.

When he decided to pursue a new direction, he looked for a building. He had always been intrigued by the “mystery building” on Graham Street. He discovered it was owned by James Zvonar. Prior to Brylow’s purchase, the building served as a warehouse for Industrial Machinery Corporation, a company that buys, sells, appraises, and auctions metalworking equipment.

Zvonar had received offers from others who wanted to purchase the building, Brylow said, but he was never able to make a deal. But the timing was right for Brylow and Zvonar and everything fell into place. He purchased the property from Zvonar in 2012.

Brylow noted that King Lofts owner Scott Genke, a good friend, also contacted Zvonar about purchasing the building, but two days after Brylow. “Had I not taken action when I did, he would have bought the building,” he said.

Thus began a two-year long renovation process that involved acquiring special permits for his restoration work, as well as constructing living quarters in the building, where he and his wife now live.

Mike Brylow’s Magnet Factory office is furnished with antiques and heated by a wood-burning stove. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

“It was in horrible shape,” Brylow said. “Windows were boarded up and were either smashed out or rotten.”

Brylow’s knack for finding the unusual led him to windows from an old East Side apartment building that he purchased for $15 apiece. “They originally mounted vertically, but we turned them sideways and they fit perfectly,” he said.

His passion for unusual automobiles is obvious while strolling through his shop.

Brylow pointed out a turquoise-colored 1947 Crosley once owned by the Madison Shrine Club. The Shriners, who used it as a clown car for parades, modified it by adding an extra exit. Brylow is restoring the vehicle to its original condition “from the ground up, every nut and bolt.”

Crosley automobiles were manufactured in Indiana on and off between 1939 through 1952.

The Shriners used this 1947 Crosley as a clown car for parades. They modified it by adding an extra exit. Brylow is restoring the vehicle to its original condition “from the ground up, every nut and bolt.” PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

He’s currently working on a 1950s GMC tow truck for a friend. Brylow said rumor has it the truck was an Indy 500 vehicle, but he has to research that claim. “It’s much more ornamental than your average tow truck,” he said.

He recently restored a step van for Chris Keidel of Mobile Bike Werx, a Bay View business that offers onsite bicycle repairs. Brylow sandblasted the vehicle to a raw, shiny aluminum. “You’ll definitely notice it when he’s out and about,” Brylow laughed.

Another project on Brylow’s shop floor is a 1972 2-door Honda 600. He said it’s one of the very first Hondas that was imported into the United States. He’s also working on a 1973 Volkswagen van.

Brylow is a skilled woodworker who crafts objects from salvaged materials but also makes custom builds. He’s often worked with wood from bowling alleys, transforming the sturdy wood into tables and countertops.

Some of his repurposed bowling alley wood can be found in Scott Genke’s King Lofts building.

One of his treasures is a railroad stationmaster’s desk that he estimates is from the 1880s, the height of the steam railway era. He left the original teal paint in place and reglued and reclamped it, making it structurally sound. He noted that painted furniture is hot these days. “In the past, I would have stripped it and refinished it. There’s beautiful oak under there, but painted furniture is the trend right now, so painted it is.”

Brylow also uses his Magnet Factory to host events. He’s participated in pop-up art shows and Bay View Gallery Nights.

He recently partnered with From Here to Her, an alliance of Milwaukee-based female artists. “When we bought the place, we knew we wanted to share it with the community,” Brylow said.

He will also use the building to host his daughter’s wedding this spring.

Despite the many projects he’s worked on over the years, he has no favorites. “It’s fun to just open the door every day and see what’s here,” he said, “You really can’t have a bad day in this place.”

The Magnet Factory’s name is a nod to the heritage of his building. Situated on an unassuming end of a very short street, the building once housed Dings Magnetic Separator Company, now known as Dings Co. Magnetic Group, located in West Milwaukee.

Currently, Brylow has about 5,000 square feet of workspace for his projects.

Brylow said his business has always been generated by word-of-mouth and is by appointment only.

The Magnet Factory
2424 S. Graham St.
(414) 412-7293 + Facebook

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the  Bay View Compass. 


Bay View High School preps student chefs

December 1, 2016

By Sheila Julson

small-lead-photo-at-the-stove-with-stock-pots-vandezande

From left: Sonya Gordon, Chef Dane Baldwin, Esmeralda Vieyra. The Bay View High School Culinary ProStart curriculum includes both textbook and hands-on lab instruction. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

On a recent November morning a group Bay View High School students donned in chef coats enthusiastically prepared collard greens, turkey giblet gravy, and whipped cream. They were working under the guidance and direction of ProStart teacher Annmarie Sims and chef mentors Dane Baldwin and Jarvis Williams.

ProStart, new to Bay View this academic year, is a two-year program with a curriculum designed to prepare students for culinary arts and hospitality careers.

Bay View is one of four MPS high schools participating in the pilot. The other three are Washington, James Madison, and Vincent. The nationwide program was developed by the National Restaurant Association Education Foundation in 1997.

Isiah Wright, a junior, watched Chef Baldwin demonstrate making turkey giblet gravy. Wright said he was always interested in his family’s Southern cooking traditions. He had heard his grandmother talk about the ProStart culinary arts program, and when he heard it was coming to Bay View, he signed up.

“It gives you a brighter eye about being in the kitchen, especially regarding safety and other regulations,” Wright said. “I learned a couple of things that I would have done are wrong because of the safety hazards. I brought those skills home and helped my mom become safer in the kitchen.”

small-juniors-michael-kinjorski-and-isiah-wright-julson

Juniors Michael Kinjorski and Isiah Wright are gaining work experience and honing their cooking skills through the ProStart Culinary Arts Program at Bay View High School. PHOTO Sheila Julson

Michael Kinjorski, also a junior, has been cooking since he was seven years old. Now he cooks dinner for his family and said that he has always wanted to open a restaurant. “We learn a lot about knife cuts and safety that I didn’t know about,” he said. “The class made me more comfortable working with knives because I was worried about cutting myself.”

ProStart operates in over 100 high schools throughout Wisconsin and has been in existence for 19 years, according to the Wisconsin Restaurant Association Education Foundation.

Bartolotta Restaurants was an instrumental partner in establishing ProStart in a workforce development format for MPS. Husband and wife team Jennifer and Joe Bartolotta, owners of The Bartolotta Restaurants group, are enthusiastic supporters of urban education.

Other partners include SURG Restaurant Group, Hospitality Democracy, Honeypie, and the nonprofit Arts@Large.

Program funding is provided by Milwaukee Public Schools. Bartolotta Restaurants sponsored a fundraising gala this past September at Discovery World, said MPS communications spokesperson Amy Kant. Jennifer Bartolotta said that $307,000 was raised at that gala to implement ProStart at MPS and that some of those funds will also pay for the cost of establishing an authentic restaurant-style commercial station in each one of the schools.

The district originally borrowed money to get ProStart rolling, Bartolotta said. A portion of the gala funds was also applied to repaying that loan.

The district and its partners also worked with Colder’s Furniture to acquire new refrigerators and stoves at a discounted rate. Milwaukee-based Boelter food service and equipment company donated chef’s knives, cutting boards, graters, sifters, and Vitamix blenders. Bartolotta said, “We gave them an order for about $150,000, and they sold it to the district for $49,000.”

Mentors Make It Happen

ProStart curriculum includes both textbook and hands-on lab instruction. Chef Baldwin works at Mr. B’s Steakhouse, part of the Bartolotta restaurant group. He grew up in Milwaukee and through the Chapter 220 program, an MPS program that promoted school integration, Dane attended Whitefish Bay High School. After working as a cook, Baldwin decided to pursue a career as a chef. Now he wants to share his knowledge with others, and he’s seen enthusiasm for the program grow. “You can see a graduated interest every week and it has spiked,” Baldwin observed.

small-dicing-an-onion-vandezande

Chef Jarvis Williams observes student Derion Ashford who is deftly practicing his knife skills dicing an onion. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

Jarvis Williams is a corporate chef with SURG. He’s been with the restaurant group for 10 years, and he’s also a Bay View alum, Class of 1999. Since the program began, he’s seen the students become creative and not only prepare foods they like, but also try different foods and various ways to present the foods.

Williams said students made coleslaw and miniature sliders. “The students have ideas about what to cook or have been exposed to things at home,” he said, “They come from different cultures and backgrounds and have different ways to prepare food and bring it to the table.” He said they enjoy eating what they prepare.

small-teacher-annmarie-sims-and-surg-chef-jarvis-williams-julson

From left: Ms. Annmarie Sims, Chef Jarvis Williams, Adrianna Flowers, Dezarae Moore, Chef Dane Baldwin, Michael Kinjorski, Sonya Gordo, and Isiah Wright. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

Sims comes from a cooking family. She has worked in customer service and business, volunteered with her church for a hospitality team, and operated her own cake baking business. She also taught an adult version of ProStart Culinary & Job Readiness Program through HeartLove Place. Sims enjoys working with teens and seeing their engagement in the program. “It piques their interest and gets them thinking more positively about their future,” she said.

Some recipes used for the ProStart cooking labs are traditional but with a healthier twist. Sims says they use no pork when preparing greens. Instead, they use herbs and garlic for flavor. Sims, Baldwin, and Williams also alter recipes and class structure to accommodate food allergies.

Team Atmosphere Emphasized

ProStart classes draw students with diverse interests — academics, sports, and arts, including football players and cheerleaders. But in ProStart classes, Sims says everyone is equal and there’s no special treatment for popular students. There are four students on each team. Each team member rotates through four different positions — head chef, sanitation chef, organization chef, and assistant chef.

Sandra Peterson, Bay View High School principal, said the students love working with Baldwin and Williams. Recently the students prepared appetizers and mini desserts that were served at a community meeting. “I was so proud of them,” Peterson said, “They were so professional in their presentation of the hors d’oeuvres.”

There is a waiting list for ProStart and many other students have already expressed their interest in signing up with their guidance counselors.

Arts@Large has been working with kids in ninth and tenth grades, exposing them to culinary arts through a partnership with Honeypie, Peterson said.

From left: Chef Jarvis Williams, Chef Dane Baldwin, Adrianna Flowers, Dezarae Moore, Michael Kinjorski, Isiah Wright, Raivianna Johnson, Sonya Gordon, Marques DeVaughn. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

From left: Chef Jarvis Williams, Chef Dane Baldwin, Adrianna Flowers, Dezarae Moore, Michael Kinjorski, Isiah Wright, Raivianna Johnson, Sonya Gordon, Marques DeVaughn. PHOTO Steve Vande Zande

Jennifer Bartolotta helps with the ProStart classes and spends time at each of the four MPS high schools where the program is offered. “After two years working with these chefs, these students will have the skills to walk into any restaurant in the city of Milwaukee, including our Bacchus or Sanford, on day one as an entry level prep cook,” she said. “That’s what Chef Baldwin and Chef Williams are bringing to this program. [If the] students decide if they want to do this as a career, we’ve positioned them to be successful on day one. We want our kids to enter up the ladder.”

ProStart students who successfully complete the program can earn up to 10 credits toward graduation in Milwaukee Area Technical College’s culinary arts program.

Sheila Julson is a regular contributor to the Bay View Compass.


New community garden takes root at Cupertino Park

July 5, 2016

By Sheila Julson

The 25 new community garden plots on the corner of Shore Drive and Ontario Street are flooded with many hours of unobstructed sunlight. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The 25 new community garden plots on the corner of Shore Drive and Ontario Street are flooded with many hours of unobstructed sunlight. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Those passing by the bluff of Cupertino Park on the northeast corner of Shore Drive and Ontario Street will notice a bounty of vegetables and flowers flourishing under the summer sun.

Cupertino Community Garden, directly east of Bay View Terrace, consists of 25 four-by-eight foot raised beds. Five of those are approximately 30 inches tall, significantly higher than the others, to make those plots wheelchair accessible.

Bay View’s newest community garden was created in response to the desire of residents in the vicinity of Cupertino Park to have a garden space. The project’s leaders partnered with Groundwork Milwaukee, UW-Extension, and Milwaukee County’s Sowing, Empowering, and Eliminating Deserts of Food (SEED) program.

Cupertino Park is a 7.5 acre Milwaukee County Park on the bluff between Russell Avenue and Ontario Street that spills down along the waterfront on Lake Michigan. Bay View Terrace resident Joe Walsh spearheaded the idea for the Cupertino garden. He observed that the south end of the parkland on the bluff was very advantageous for growing because it benefits from many hours of direct sunlight. Another benefit is water access. There is a fire hydrant on the east side of Shore Drive at Ontario. Fire hydrants are fitted with adaptors by the Department of Public Works to provide tap/hose access to community gardens.

Last fall Walsh began asking his neighbors if they’d be interested in a small community garden.

Walsh reached out to Antoine Carter, program manager of Milwaukee Urban Gardens (MUG), a program of Groundwork Milwaukee.

Groundwork Milwaukee is part of Groundwork USA, a network of independent, not-for-profit environmental businesses called Groundwork Trusts. These trusts are locally controlled and offer cost-efficient project development services designed to improve the health and economy of its communities.

There are 90 community gardens under Groundwork Milwaukee’s purview, Carter said. His organization advises and assists garden organizers in other ways, such as obtaining fire hydrant permits, liability insurance, and providing workers to help community gardens with large projects such as distributing mulch or soil.

Other Groundwork Milwaukee community gardens in the Bay View area include Village Roots near Beulah Brinton Community Center, and the Hide House Community Garden at Greeley Street and Deer Place.

“Groundwork Milwaukee’s role is to be a first point of contact for any group looking to start a community garden,” Carter said, “What we do is provide a fast track to activating a space. Because we have a leasing agreement with the city, we lease lots from the city and then lease those to garden groups. That allows us to also provide insurance. While we’re providing insurance, we also like to stay involved with any technical support for growing and community engagement.”

Carter met with the Cupertino project’s leaders to assess their needs and overall goals. “Because they were interested in using county park land — most of our gardens are on vacant lots owned by the city or private owners, we decided it would be good to partner with UW-Extension and the SEED program to assist with design and help with logistics for the garden,” he said.

Walsh and Ryan Schone, food system coordinator for UW-Extension, canvassed the Cupertino Park vicinity to gauge interest in a community garden. Schone emphasized the importance of community engagement. He said that means gathering opinions and keeping residents involved, versus a top-down approach where an organization just comes into an area and builds garden beds with the hope that residents will support the new garden.

Approximately 35 to 40 people attended a forum in January at South Shore Park Pavilion. Not everyone supported the garden. There was some pushback from residents who objected to using Milwaukee County Park space for the gardens or who worried community gardens might not be well-tended and would become unsightly.

“The response was quite positive,” Schone said. “There were some concerns, but we overall addressed that. It was very evident that the community was getting behind it, with no major red flags.”

He noted that the area in Cupertino Park where the garden is located isn’t as heavily used as some parks, South Shore, for example, but despite that, he said they left a large portion of space north of the new garden plots open for recreation.

SEED funding covered much of the costs, Schone said. Other costs are covered by support from community partners such as Groundwork Milwaukee and by garden plot rental fees.

SEED
Milwaukee County Board Supervisor Marina Dimitrijevic helped sponsor the three-tiered SEED (Sowing, Empowering, and Eliminating Deserts of Food) resolution that was adopted last year. The goals of the program are working with community partners to eliminate food deserts by growing produce in neighborhoods with little access to fresh vegetables and fruit, increasing the number of community gardens, and planting fruit orchards.

Through the SEED program, Milwaukee County will partner with the Hunger Task Force, Growing Power, and UW-Extension. Hunger Task Force will operate a Mobile Market within the county to serve residents who live in food deserts and coordinate with the existing Stockbox delivery program to seniors. “Our goal is to create a million square feet of community garden space throughout Milwaukee County,” said Ryan Schone, food systems coordinator for UW-Extension. They’re working on eight new garden sites this year, but two of those may not launch until next year.

The raised bed gardens were installed shortly before Memorial Day weekend. Approximately 15 to 20 volunteers performed the work, Carter said. Bliffert Lumber and Hardware donated some of the boards that frame the plots. Soil was purchased from Blue Ribbon Organics.

No gardener has more than one plot this year, Schone said. Each paid $20 for the plot and the price included water. There were five people on the waiting list who did not receive a plot this year.

“Cupertino has an active group of people dedicated to the overall success of the garden,” Carter said. “Urban agriculture has really grown in the city and because there are so many vacant lots, it provides a great space for change. We’re happy to be a part of it and help people transform unused space into something they really want to enjoy.”

“The garden is not exclusive to Bay View Terrace residents,” Walsh emphasized. ‘It’s a community garden and for use for some people from the Terrace, but it’s also for the community.”

 Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to the Bay View Compass.


South Shore Park Earth Day turns 20

May 1, 2016

By Katherine Keller

When the six-foot bull snake was brandished above their heads, horror and alarm registered on some of the young faces. Other faces shone with curiosity, delight, and wonder.  St. Thomas Aquinas Academy students were captivated by Troy Abuya’s Wisconsin Snakes presentation at the 2016 South Shore Park Earth Day event that marked its 20th anniversary on April 18.

Recoiling from Bull Snake

Naturalist Troy Abuya taught students about Wisconsin snakes. No one was bored during his presentation. PHOTO Katherine Keller

St. Thomas Aquinas Academy students were captivated by Troy Abuya’s Wisconsin Snakes presentation at the 2016 South Shore Park Earth Day event that marked its 20th anniversary on April 18. PHOTO Katherine KellerIt cannot be said that boredom characterized the experience of the 530 students who participated in the 11 different natural science presentations in the pavilion or outdoors among the trees.

Bull Snake Horror and Delight

St. Thomas Aquinas Academy students learned about Wisconsin’s snakes, including this bull snake. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Students from Burdick, Clement Avenue, Fernwood Montessori, Lowell, St. Thomas Aquinas Academy, Trowbridge, and Woodlands elementary schools participated in science activities that ranged from viewing water organisms through microscopes, to designing a sewer system, to learning how to identify the park’s trees. Students in grades 4, 5, 6, 7, and 8 attended.  Students from Lowell and Woodlands picked up litter in the park.

Dr. Carmen Aguilar and Camila De Vincenti at the Mussel Beach laboratory in South Shore Park Pavilion. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Dr. Carmen Aguilar and Camila De Vincenti at the Mussel Beach laboratory in South Shore Park Pavilion. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Clement Avenue student Camila De Vincenti said she liked discovering how invasive mussels affect Lake Michigan. “I saw the more mussels there were in the cup, the cleaner the water became. They are where the colder water is,” she said. The experiment that demonstrated cold water is heavier than hot water was also compelling.

Dr. Cuhel and student

Dr. Cuhel of the UWM—Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science is in the early stages of an experiment that demonstrated cool water is heavier than warm water. PHOTO Katherine Keller

The mussels and water temperature experiments were part of the presentation, “Mussel Beach—the crushing weight of invasive species,” by Dr. Carmen Aguilar and Dr. Russ Cuhel of the UWM—Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science.

Celebrating Bea Reinders

Bea Reinders was honored with a cake during the adults’ lunch break. She is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service.

Reinders played a key role since 1997 in the South Shore Park Earth Day. The first year she assisted by helping prepare lunch, but because she was retired, she realized she could do more work behind the scenes to help those organizers with full-time jobs. In the following years she contacted and scheduled presenters.

Bea Reinders, who was presented with a cake, is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service on behalf of South Shore Park Earth Day.

Bea Reinders, who was presented with a cake, is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service on behalf of South Shore Park Earth Day.

Bea Reinder's Cake

“Bea arranges all the presenters and the food for the luncheon. Bea has gotten monetary donations to pay for the luncheon…Bea knows how to make something wonderful with no money,” said Diane Piedt.

Diane Piedt is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service on behalf of South Shore Park Earth Day. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Diane Piedt is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service on behalf of South Shore Park Earth Day. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Like Reinders, Piedt is retiring after 20 years of volunteer service at the event. She was teaching at Trowbridge the first five years, helping arrange her school’s participation. For the past 15 years, she coordinated the schools and set up workshop rotation schedules. “Two Fernwood teachers started [the South Shore Park Earth Day] event, who at the time were part of a group called the Coalition of Bay View Schools. It began because the two Fernwood Elementary School teachers wanted children to get initiated to South Shore Park, which is what they did the first year,” Reinders said recounting the event’s history. “The mission is to educate children and inspire them to pursue careers in science and environmental studies.”

The teachers who established the event were Teri Rudolph and Patti Sorano. At that time, their school was still Fernwood Elementary, not yet a Montessori program. The principal was Dennis Schumacher.

The first year the only activity was strolling through South Shore Park.

“The second year the teachers wanted to enrich the experience of walking in the park, and that year, the first presenters were included in the event. They were located in the park. The children stopped at an exhibit to learn about recycling—how to make paper out of garbage, for example,” Reinders said.

“There would be no Earth Day (at the pavilion) if it were not for the support of the principals,” Reinders said. The principals allowed their students to attend the event.

The presenters, also volunteers, don’t charge for their service. Schools pay no fee or admission to participate in the event.

“Once the presenters came, they were sold. They wanted to come back again the following year,” Reinders said. “I’ve had a passion for this and the people who present. They have a passion for passing their knowledge down to children. You have to have passion.”

Reinders said that each year some of the children make a special effort to thank the organizers.

“One year a boy said me, ‘You do this because you love us.’ That will bring a tear,” she said.

Wonders of Water Organisms

With the aid of microscopes, students had a look at the microorganisms found in water. The workshop was presented by the Riverside Urban Ecology Center.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Designing a Sewer

Students in the midst of designing a sewer system. PHOTO Katherine Keller

2016 Earth Day South Shore Park Presenters

Mussel Beach—The crushing weight of invasive species
UWM—Milwaukee School of Freshwater Science

Drs. Carmen Aguilar and Russ Cuhel

A Walk in the Park—Identifying trees in South Shore Park
Frank Mulvey

Birds
Lora Loke and Wolfgang Siebeneich

Hawthorn Glen Outdoor Education Center

Creatures of the Water—What creatures are in the water?
Riverside Park Urban Ecology Center

Develop a Sewer System
Susan Coyle and Cari Roper, MMSD

Rescuing Wildlife
Joyce Konkol

Slither, Walk, Hop—Meet Wisconsin snakes, a turtle and a toad close-up
DNR Havenwoods

Snakes of Wisconsin
Troy Abuya, Naturalist

Water and Air Pollution
Samm Posnanski, Water Resources Management Specialist, Wisconsin DNR

What Is the Buzz about Bees?
Charlie Koenen, Apiarist 

Wonders of Wetlands
Lynne E. Whelan, U. S. Army Corps of Engineer

If you would like more information about sending your students to the 2017 South Shore Park Earth event or if you would like to present, please contact Frank Mulvey,
kfmulvey90@gmail.com

 


Creators, tinkerers thrive at Milwaukee Makerspace

April 30, 2016

By Sheila Julson

The construction of a wooden boat is one of the projects underway at Milwaukee Makerspace in Bay View. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

The construction of a wooden boat is one of the projects underway at Milwaukee Makerspace in Bay View. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

There is a hive of creative activity inside an inconspicuous red brick building on Potter Street near the library. Budding metal workers, woodworkers, ceramics artists, electricians, garment makers, silk screen artists, and others are intently at work. They savor the challenges of problem solving, the joy of accomplishment, and the teamwork required to bring projects to fruition. In short, they are satisfying our deep human desire to tinker and create.

Milwaukee Makerspace (MM), 2555 S. Lenox St., is a not-for-profit social club that provides shared workspace for creators, inventors, and tinkerers,  encompassing all ages and skills. It is a place to access tools, machinery, materials, and most importantly, knowledge and experience shared by other members. The 16,000-square-foot space, open to the 200-plus members 24/7, provides access to equipment and space that one may not have in a home or garage.

The building was constructed in 1962 for a Krambo Food Store and later housed DataShield, Inc. It is divided into several well-organized work areas, each resembling mini-industrial shop floors.  There are computers, 3D printers, a table saw, a welding equipment; a metal forge and casting area. There are mills and lathes and a room dedicated to computer numerical control (CNC) machines. “CNC machinists work with computer numeric controlled (CNC) heavy machinery from setup to operation to produce parts and tools from metal, plastic or other materials. Computer numeric controlled equipment is precision machinery that cuts, grinds, or drills into the material,” according to snagajob.com.

There is a ceramics section with potter wheels and a kiln and a section where T-shirts are printed by silkscreen. In a separate dust/grease-free section of the building, there is a sewing lab.

Countless tools, supplies, and spare parts abound, supplying makers with elements they need to transform projects from an idea to reality.

Part of MM’s mission is that its members bring in their machinery and tools to share with other members. “Almost any tool you can think of, we have here at Makerspace,” said Carl Stevens, communications director and MM member. Some tools and supplies have been donated to MM.

Each work area has a “champion,” a member who stepped forward and volunteered to be the leader of that area. Champions ensure the area stays clean. Many have professional experience in their craft—the welding area champion is a welding inspector by trade.

“Champions are also in charge of checking people out when they use tools in their areas,” said Stevens. “For every tool that plugs into a wall, there’s a checkout process.” Champions make sure other members who wish to check out a tool are trained and capable of using the tool safely.

Introductory classes are also offered for the work areas.

During the weekly Tuesday evening meetings, there is show-and-tell session and a tour of MM that is open to the public. The tour offers a view of members’ projects. The night the Compass toured, there was an in-progress meticulously handcrafted wooden canoe; metal trivets and knives forged from scrap metal, robots and other radio-controlled vehicles with different functions, restored vintage Girl Scouts uniforms, mobile phone stands, a concrete and metal end table, and a poker chip wheel.

“The forge is a really active area, with people becoming interested in blacksmith art,” said Stevens, as he pointed toward neatly arranged railroad ties and scrap metal that would be transformed into makers’ projects.

Lance Lamont is Milwaukee Makerspace president.

Lance Lamont is Milwaukee Makerspace president.

MM president Lance Lamont said he has a smattering of skills. He showed the Compass an MM sign he crafted from metal and wood, using a CNC router and welding to make it. Lamont first became aware of MM in 2011 and has been actively involved since 2013. He’s in his second term as president and enjoys the interaction with members and educating those interested in joining.

Lamont explains that MM has a loose organizational structure, with a seven-member board of directors. Membership dues are $40 per month, which entitles the member to a key fob so that they may come and go as they please. “We have a very trust-based culture,” he said. “We trust you to be safe and understand the proper operation of a tool before you use it.”

Lamont added that MM values transparency. It posts its member handbook and rules on its website.

MM’s big event, Milwaukee Maker Faire, is held annually at State Fair Park on the last weekend in September. They partner with the Betty Brinn Children’s Museum and other sponsors to showcase members’ creations and explain how the items were made. The fair is not exclusive to MM members. Any individual is welcome to show off projects.

Members also volunteer for other maker fairs in Wisconsin and the Midwest and at community events such as Bay View Gallery Night and Doors Open Milwaukee.

Beware! The Daleks have invaded Bay View. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Beware! The Daleks have invaded Bay View.
PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

The Members
The camaraderie among members is evident as they joke around, give advice, and applaud each other’s accomplishments in a noncompetitive atmosphere. Members sometime use their skills to help one another if someone’s car or bike breaks down.

MM members have backgrounds in computers, electronics, machining, fabrication, theater, and design. There are many jacks-of-all-trades who want to learn new skills.

Jon Hughett is champion of the jewelry-making area. He began a long-term project to break the Guinness World Record for the highest numbers of Daleks together in one place at one time—in Milwaukee. The British currently hold the record. Daleks are the fictional extraterrestrial villains from the Doctor Who television series. There are three nearly completed robotic Daleks in Hughett’s MM Dalek factory.

“Before I started making these, I had none of the skills that went into this,” Hughett said. He and others in his club, Dalek Asylum Milwaukee, used the CNC machine to make the fiberglass resin casing. The built the motorized controls found inside each Dalek that allow users to move them around.

Stevens said other groups have also formed within MM to collectively focus on a project.

Karen Pauli, the sewing guru, folds a garment in the sewing area. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Karen Pauli, the sewing guru, folds a garment in the sewing area. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Karen Pauli has a degree in theatrical costuming from UW-Milwaukee. She works on several types of sewing projects, including restoring historic Girl Scout uniforms for local troops, for display and Scout fashion shows. She will also help out MM members whose backpacks split or who need to repair torn garments.

“People join Makerspace for the equipment and the workspace, but then they discover the brain trust they have bought into,” Pauli said. “It is a collaborative mindset. I have a sewing area with all the tools and facilities I need at home, but I didn’t realize that I missed being around other people.”

Founders
Tom Gralewicz, a co-founders of Milwaukee Makerspace, was a member of robotics clubs throughout the country. His education and background lie in computer science and physics. When he lived in Dallas, Texas, he was a member of the Dallas Personal Robotics Group, where he enjoyed its casual, social ambiance. When he moved back to Wisconsin, he wanted to join a robotics club but the closest one was in Illinois. He and some fellow Wisconsinites made the drive, and they eventually decided to start a club in Milwaukee.

Gralewicz said the club members originally met casually at his home. Royce Pipkins, another MM co-founder, eventually discovered the NYC Resistor hackerspace (a term often used interchangeably with makerspace) in New York. Gralewicz and Pipkins were led to hackerspace.org that provided advice about starting a makers club in one’s own city. In 2009, MM was born.

They met at Culver’s restaurant in West Allis for a year and brainstormed about how to attract more members. To get the word out, the club built motorized pot-of-gold parade floats for the St. Patrick’s Day Parade in 2010, Gralewicz said. Soon another project developed that converted toy Power Wheels cars into racing vehicles.

That same year the group leased space at Chase Commerce Center. In 2011, its growing membership and other reasons prompted the group to look for a new location. Eventually Gralewicz’s real estate agent discovered that the Lenox Street building was for sale. Some of the members invested in the purchase of the building, forming the Milwaukee Makers Investors Group. MM moved into its current space January 2013.

“Within six months of moving into this space, membership grew to 140 members,” Gralewicz said. The move to a larger, cleaner space also attracted a new demographic to the group—women. “Until then, we had no women members,” he said.

He noted that while some MM members are aspiring entrepreneurs, most don’t aim to become millionaires or change the world. “They have a passion. It doesn’t matter what you want to do, Gralewicz said. “If there’s a skill you want to learn, and somebody here knows how to do it, they’ll do it with you.”

Other Creativity Hubs
The concept of a makerspace is international. “You can find makerspaces in most cities that are university related, or large enough,” Lamont said. “Some have fun names—Arch Reactor, and some are just Makerspace, but the common thread is an interest and passion for creativity.”

Makerspaces are independent of each other, with no overarching organization that controls them. They vary in size and uniqueness.

Milwaukee Makerspace
2555 S. Lenox St.
milwaukeemakerspace.org

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and contributor to the Bay View Compass.


Emerald ash borer damage in Milwaukee County Parks

April 30, 2016

By Sheila Julson

Green Emerald Borer (insect) PHOTO Zerene Stacker/U.S. Geological Society

Green Emerald Borer (insect) PHOTO Zerene Stacker/U.S. Geological Society

Nearly 3,000 trees have been removed in Milwaukee County Parks since 2009 because they were infested with the invasive emerald ash borer. Others were cut down as a prophylactic to prevent further infestation, said Gregg Collins, forestry supervisor for the Milwaukee County Parks system. The emerald ash borer (EAB) is an invasive, wood-boring, metallic green beetle (Agrilus planipennis) originating in eastern Asia. It was first discovered in Wisconsin in August 2008.

The effect of the EAB is apparent in the defoliating Green Ash tree. PHOTO Wikimedia Commons/Bugwood Network

The effect of the EAB is apparent in the defoliating Green Ash tree. PHOTO Wikimedia Commons/Bugwood Network

“We are actively removing Green Ash trees (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), which are certainly infested and already debarked, and completely dead,” Collins said. “At the same time and often in the same park, we will remove Green Ash, which do not exhibit outwardly visible symptoms. We do this with the understanding that when EAB has infested an area, 100 percent of the remaining ash trees will become infested during the population explosion if not chemically treated with a pesticide.”

Lead Photo Culled Green Ash in HP

Two Green Ash trees were culled in Humboldt Park this spring. PHOTO Katherine Keller

Trees have been culled in many parks throughout the Milwaukee County Parks system, including Humboldt, South Shore, Bay View, and Sheridan on the South Shore. Collins noted that while they haven’t seen full infestation at Humboldt Park like in other parks, they did find EAB feeding galleries and the D-shaped exit holes in several trees near the tennis courts during the winter of 2014-15.

“We have confirmed EAB is present not only in our parks, but throughout the city of Milwaukee, other municipalities, and Milwaukee County in general,” said Guy Smith, chief of operations for the Milwaukee County Parks. “We have educated staff who know the signs, symptoms, and decline stages of trees that are victims of EAB infestation.”

An article published by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources states that “EAB larvae live underneath the bark of ash trees, feeding on the layer of the tree’s trunk that lies just below. When they do this, they cut off the flow of water and nutrients in the tree. Most trees die after about 3 years of infestation. The top of the tree begins to die first.”

When EAB symptoms are detected on ash trees in any region, they are subject to rapid decline. Because EAB larvae live and feed on the inside of ash tree bark, it is difficult to detect their presence until symptoms of damage occur.

Smith said Milwaukee County Parks prioritized park land into zones based on highest concentration of park patron use, focusing on playgrounds, picnic areas, and sections along roadways and bike trails. The practice of preemptive ash tree removal in high patron-use areas is a means to keep people safe from the falling limbs or trees weakened by the rapid desiccation caused by the EAB.

Green Ash trees. PHOTO Wikimedia Commons/Bugwood Network

Green Ash trees. PHOTO Wikimedia Commons/Bugwood Network

The staff of the Land Resources Division of Milwaukee County Parks also removes other tree species for specific safety or maintenance reasons. Some trees were removed recently along the west side of Lincoln Memorial Drive because they either possessed a defect that was going to lead to certain failure, were an undesirable species, or had a growing habit that was affecting vehicular, bicycle, or pedestrian use along the drive.

Green Ash tree leaves. PHOTO Wikimedia Commons/Bugwood Network

Green Ash tree leaves. PHOTO Wikimedia Commons/Bugwood Network

“The Land Resources Division of the Milwaukee County Parks Department puts a high value on trees and the benefit they are to each and every one of our parks and our environment overall,” Smith said.

During spring and fall, Milwaukee County Parks replants trees throughout the system, depending on available staffing and budgets. Smith said they try to replenish areas with trees where they would be most appreciated. “We plant a very diverse group of native tree species,” he said.

The mild 2015/2016 winter allowed the forestry staff to begin planting trees in February this year. The parks department partners with the Milwaukee Brewers and the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to plant donated trees, along with Keep Greater Milwaukee Beautiful, the Park People of Milwaukee County (Milwaukee County Parks’ overarching friends group), and park friends groups for reforestation efforts. Smith added that Friends of South Shore Park and Humboldt Park Friends have been valuable partners helping with planting trees, organizing clean up projects, and other projects in natural areas.

How You Can Help Prevent the Spread of Emerald Ash Borer

Do not transport firewood across county lines. EAB can hitchhike on firewood and invade trees in EAB-free counties. Buy firewood near your planned campsite and from state-approved vendors. For a list, consult http://goo.gl/Jla89f

Report ash trees showing signs on infestation to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Email datcpemeraldashborer@wi.gov or call 800-462-2803. Learn the signs of Emerald Ash Borer infestation at youtube.com/watch?v=KJqnfWecZ9U

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to the Bay View Compass.


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