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


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.”


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.


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.


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.

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

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,


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

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.”

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 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.

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

Report ash trees showing signs on infestation to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Email or call 800-462-2803. Learn the signs of Emerald Ash Borer infestation at

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

Ever hear of a memory café?

February 29, 2016

By Jill Rothenbueler Maher

Reassurance can come from being with others who are in the same boat. That’s true for people dealing with early-stage Alzheimer’s, mild cognitive impairment, or other types of dementia.

People can find others who know their struggles at the monthly “memory café” held in the Bay View United Methodist Church.

The casual group doesn’t specifically discuss religion and is not a support group. Instead, it’s a meetup of mostly seniors and their loved ones—a social outlet for sufferers and exhausted caregivers.

Memory cafes meet around the world. The Bay View location formed in March 2015 and currently attracts around 10 attendees plus volunteers and Pastor Andy Oren. He and associate pastor Kelly Fowler have been formally trained to lead these groups.

The volunteers, like Valanee Schmitz, a member of Bay View United Methodist Church, offer coffee, hot tea, water, and perhaps a cookie. She and others lead activities and group conversation, sometimes punctuated with a group song.

Combats Isolation

Unbridled isolation can be a big problem for both sufferers and their caregivers, so free, low-key meetups help lift their spirits.

“We’ve heard it over and over again that this is just a great outlet for them,” said Oren. “We get people talking about, What do you remember about this from when you were a kid?’ or whatever, to trigger memories.”

Carl and Carol Kucharski moved to the area in August from West Virginia, after Carl’s diagnosis of frontal lobe dementia, to be near their daughter and her husband. The two couples live in neighboring condos.

“[The memory café] doesn’t make you feel so isolated. It’s something different every time we meet. We have learned a lot about the area and people really welcomed us… I was a schoolteacher and this isn’t what I intended for retirement,” Carl said.

The couple said they view his diagnosis and their relocation as a new adventure. After coming to the church for the memory café, they eventually joined the congregation.

Chris and Laura met on seven years ago and had their first date at Starbucks. After being together for only a few years, Laura began suffering from primary progressive aphasia, a degenerative brain condition. They’ve enjoyed the memory café; other social groups have been awkward since Laura has difficulty speaking.

“It’s a good program. It’s a place Laura can feel very comfortable sharing, even though it’s difficult to talk,” Chris said. She works from home and adjusts her hours to attend the group with her wife.

 Pastor Andy Oren, Bay View United Methodist Church, was instrumental in establishing the Memory Café at Bay View United Methodist Church. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse

Pastor Andy Oren, Bay View United Methodist Church, was instrumental in establishing the Memory Café at Bay View United Methodist Church. PHOTO Jennifer Kresse


Pastor Oren was inspired to create the memory café at his church from a July 2014 M magazine article about former Wisconsin Governor Martin Schreiber’s difficulty coping with his wife Elaine’s Alzheimer’s disease. Schreiber was honest about the challenges of taking on the cooking, cleaning, errands and other chores and losing time for his work and exercise. The article was accompanied by a mention of memory cafés and Oren realized there weren’t any in the Bay View area. His father had dementia so Oren has a personal connection to the project.

Upcoming meetings are March 21 and April 18 from 1pm to 2:30pm at Bay View United Methodist Church, 2772 S. Kinnickinnic Ave. (

For more information about Alzheimer’s or to RSPV a meeting at BVUMC, contact Wendy Betley of the Alzheimer’s Association, 414-479-8800.

Stately companion of grace and grandeur

December 31, 2015

By Katherine Keller

 With a girth of 16 feet, this silver maple dwarfs Gladys Vaught’s home on Griffin Avenue. It is estimated that the tree is about 120 years old.     — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

With a girth of 16 feet, this silver maple dwarfs Gladys Vaught’s home on Griffin Avenue. It is estimated that the tree is about 120 years old. — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

About two months ago I met Gladys Vaught. I went to her home to pick up photographs and news clippings of the Quonset and Wingfoot homes that she and her family lived in after World War II. As I walked toward her front door, I was awestruck by the enormous silver maple tree that stands next to the house.

Gladys and her husband Harlan bought their house, 3410 S. Griffin Ave., in 1961.

After looking through her collection of clippings and photos, we talked about the tree, a silver maple. She told me of her love and admiration for the tree and of her attachment to it.

The silver maple in 1961. COURTESY GLADYS VAUGHT

The silver maple in 1961. — COURTESY GLADYS VAUGHT

This photo from the 1920s shows the silver maple as a ‘mere sapling’ compared to its present height and girth. — COURTESY GLADYS VAUGHT

This photo from the 1920s shows the silver maple as a ‘mere sapling’ compared to its present height and girth. — COURTESY GLADYS VAUGHT

Referencing a 1920s  picture of her home, Gladys told me, “The maple is in that photo and it was already a big tree back then,” she said. The house was built in 1910.

I think that maple is one of the biggest trees I have seen in Milwaukee, although the Copper Beech in South Shore Park is nearly as large in girth, if not height. I decided a story about the tree would be of interest to our readers, and I wondered if we could determine its age.

I asked John Ebersol to measure the circumference because that is the starting point when calculating the age of a living tree. He did. He said it’s 16 feet.

I found two websites that each provided metrics to estimate the age of a silver maple but they produced conflicting results. So I turned to an expert, here in our backyard, for advice.

FUN FACT On March 26, 1895, King Alfonso planted a pine sapling near Madrid and started Spain’s Arbor Day.

“A 16-foot circumference would equal about a 61-inch diameter,” said Dave Sivyer, City of Milwaukee Dept. of Public Works Forestry Services Manager. “The silver maple is a fast growing species, so if it averaged 0.5 inches diameter growth annually, it would be no more than 120 years old.”

Gladys Vaught said her tree’s roots run under her house and extend far and wide beneath most of her lot.   — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

Gladys Vaught said her tree’s roots run under her house and extend far and wide beneath most of her lot. — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

That means the giant maple tree sprouted about 1895.

“Still, that’s quite old for an urban tree,” Sivyer said. “The American elm, another fast growing tree in our area, averages about 0.4 inches diameter growth annually. So 0.5 inches, while it doesn’t sound like much, is probably the maximum average annual growth rate for the silver maple.”

The silver maple is native to North America and is one of the most common trees in the United States. Its wood is used as pulp for paper, and for furniture, flooring, and musical instruments. Its sap can be used for making maple syrup but its sugar content is lower than that of the sugar maple, a close relative to the silver maple, which is the preferred source for syrup makers.

Gladys reveres the tree and said, with a twinkle, she tells it that she wants it to stay around longer than she does.

I asked her if she would share more of her thoughts and memories about the tree. This is what she wrote.

For 54 years I have been privileged to share my yard with Ms. Maple aka Her Majesty. She is not just a tree; she is a part of our family.

Through the years, four children, six grandchildren, and now six great-grandchildren, have enjoyed her many gifts. In the spring, her helicopter seeds rain down on them. 

Through the summer, they enjoy the shade she provides. In fall, they run through the blanket of leaves she lays out over the lawn.

In one of her huge arms is a hollowed out cavity that becomes the nursery for two to three baby squirrels, and then she’s their playground for the rest of the summer.

One year I saw a mother raccoon carry her two babies up into that cavity to keep them safe from danger. They lived there for two months, and when they left, the squirrels moved back in.

In heavy winds, her dead branches break off, which then are used for our many family bonfires.

Many species of birds can be seen and heard singing in her mighty branches and the woodpeckers enjoy the insects in her bark.

Her Majesty’s branches loom over my home and her vast root system runs under the house and lawn. She’s my air conditioning in the summer.

Family and friends come to sit on the patio under her canopy of branches and they tell me how they feel stress-free as they relax there.

If you lean up against her for a time, you may just feel her energy as I have many times.

No, she isn’t just a tree, she an old friend.

  —Gladys Vaught

Tippecanoe Library’s vibrant makeover dazzles

December 31, 2015

By Katherine Keller

More than 1,600 people toured the renovated Tippecanoe Library when it reopened December 12. — PHOTO PAT A. ROBINSON

More than 1,600 people toured the renovated Tippecanoe Library when it reopened December 12.    — PHOTO PAT A. ROBINSON

After months of operating in temporary headquarters in the Copper Kitchen’s banquet hall, Tippecanoe Library re-opened December 12, when more than 1,600 patrons were ushered through its shiny new front doors. The dramatic renovation transformed the former 1969 interior, a claustrophobic cavern that was illuminated with limp fluorescent lighting, to a warm, open space that gleams with natural light and razzle-dazzle.



“An interesting thing is that it looks so much bigger, more spacious,” said District 13 Ald. Terry Witkowski, whose district includes Tippecanoe Library. “There are more windows on the north side. It’s brighter, more open, and reeks of newness.” Witkowski credits residents in the neighborhoods who shared their ideas and suggestions about what they wanted in the redesigned library. The library held meetings during the planning and design stages of the project to solicit residents’ input.

The $4.5 million renovation focused on a new interior design and upgrades to the infrastructure including mechanicals and HVAC. With the exception of modifications to the north wall and a new entrance on the southwest corner, the exterior structure remained intact.

More bike racks were added to better serve patrons. The new entryway features a canopy that shelters the sidewalk approach. — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

More bike racks were added to better serve patrons. The new entryway features a canopy that shelters the sidewalk approach. — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

The redesigned entryway features an automated book return, and there is another on the exterior of the building, on the south wall, that is accessible 24/7. Tippe now offers express self-check-out stations, like those found in other MPL branches and libraries in metro Milwaukee.

A new perk, sure to please, permits patrons to purchase restorative brews from a “high-end coffee machine.”

There is an independent study room, a unique area for teens to meet and socialize, and a children’s area with early learning materials. New bumped out windows were added along Howard Avenue to provide expanded reading and studying space. The windows flood the space and adjacent stacks with light.

The northwest corner of the library serves as a multi-purpose area. At times it is an open space with tables and chairs, plus some upholstered easy chairs. At others, it is a meeting or conference room, when two sets of sliding glass panels are unfolded to enclose the space.

The new interior design illuminates the library’s vaulted wood ceiling and the vibrant Guido Brink sculpture. — PHOTO PAT A. ROBINSON

The new interior design illuminates the library’s vaulted wood ceiling and the vibrant Guido Brink sculpture. — PHOTO PAT A. ROBINSON

New light fixtures illuminate the vaulted wood ceiling, drawing the eye to a vibrant sculpture that’s suspended from the ceiling. The Spirit of the Manitou was created by Guido Brink, a German émigré who taught at the Layton School of Art from 1955 to 1974. Later, he was instrumental in founding the Milwaukee School of Art and Design, where he served as its first president. The sculpture was removed, cleaned, and reinstalled on the ceiling.

During construction, the Tippecanoe Library staff placed a time capsule filled with historical and everyday library items in the walls of the new library. The time capsule is registered with the International Time Capsule Society at Oglethorpe University.

The land around the building was not ignored during the planning sessions for the renovation. A number of green landscaping elements were incorporated. Witkowski said many members of the newly formed Airport Gardens Neighborhood Association and Town of Lake Neighborhood Association took an active interest in expressing their support for the library and voicing their suggestions about its design, especially landscaping and green and sustainable components.

The bioswales, located in the center of the parking lot, will host a rain garden that will slow and filter parking lot runoff water. — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

The bioswales, located in the center of the parking lot, will host a rain garden that will slow and filter parking lot runoff water. — PHOTO KATHERINE KELLER

“There are bioswales and permeable pavers in the low spots of the parking lot to purify water, divert it to plants, and contribute to the reduction of pollutants flowing off the parking lot,” Witkowski said. “They kept the big trees by the parking lot.“

The bioswales, located in the center of the parking lot, will host a rain garden to slow and filter runoff water. There are also rain garden swales along the south side of the building. New trees and perennials were planted.

Raised beds for community gardens were made possible by private funding. A  secret garden was funded by Barbara Stein, a Milwaukee Public Library Foundation member, a tribute to Milwaukee Public Library Director Paula Kiely, who frequented Tippecanoe Library as a child.

Witkowski said that at the re-opening ceremony he watched people come and go and was impressed by how many arrived by bike, which he said was possible because of the unusually mild December weather. “More bike racks were installed with the renovation,” he said.

The project was funded by the City of Milwaukee capital projects fund. The Milwaukee Public Library Foundation funded additional features. A donor wall will be installed later this year to recognize those gifts.

Engberg Anderson designed the renovation project and the construction contractor was Creative Constructors.

The Tippecanoe collection contains over 50,000 items as well as full access to library materials from every member library of the Milwaukee County Federated Library System (MCFLS). The collection includes books, magazines, newspapers, DVDs, CDs and access to all library digital resources from free music and video streaming to e-books and digital magazines. More info:

The new building at 3912 S. Howell was opened for service November 17, 1969 and served the community until January 30, 2015, when it closed for renovation. During the renovation temporary quarters were established across the street at 3933 S. Howell, in the banquet hall of the Copper Kitchen restaurant.

The library’s name was derived from the area in which it is located. Research disputes any claim linking the Native American tribe or the famous historical battle of the same name to the local area. The most popular explanation of the name is offered in Paul Gauer’s book, The Gauer Story: A Chronicle of Bay View. According to Gauer, there was “…Tippecanoe where the Savelands and The Sandersons had a lake and the young swains of their day would go canoeing. That was how Tippecanoe got its name.” It would seem that the name Tippecanoe was derived from the fact the young men of the time could go “tippe” (canoeing) in the nearby lake.

The library boasts a large metal sculpture created by artist Guido Brink, which highlighted the modern industrial and computer technique of the late 1960s. The sculpture represents the ancient Indian god spirit Manitou as inspired by the Native American origins of the name Tippecanoe.

Guido Brink (1913-2003) settled in Milwaukee in 1953 following life and studies in Germany and Paris. He is known worldwide primarily for his metal sculptures, brightly colored abstract compositions of reds, yellows, dark blue and black, that decorate public and commercial buildings. Guido taught at the Layton School of Art from 1955-1974. He was instrumental in founding the Milwaukee School of Arts (now the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design), and served as its first president.

Source: Milwaukee Public Library brochure published in conjunction with the December 12, 2015 Grand Reopening

BOOK REVIEW — Finding Yourself in the Kitchen

November 30, 2015

Reviewed by Katherine Keller

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen Dana Velden Rodale Books, 24.95

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Dana Velden
Rodale Books, 24.95

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen Kitchen — Meditations and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook

Dana Velden’s new collection of essays has found its way into our culture amidst a cascade of cookbooks, blogs, podcasts, and television shows that accompany the Big Food Bang, the American food revolution that began in the 1960s.

Meditation began to make its way into our culture at the same time though it grew more slowly and with less glamor. The number of Americans exploring and practicing meditation has burgeoned, especially in the past 20 years.

As such, it seems a fitting time for the emergence of a book that teaches readers how to meld mediation with their experience in the kitchen.

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen — Kitchen Meditations and Inspired Recipes from a Mindful Cook is a collection short essays and 15 of the author’s personal recipes.

Velden, who grew up in Wauwatosa, is an Oakland-based food writer and Zen priest. She has written for the food blog The Kitchn since 2008, where her column, “Weekend Meditations,” has gained an enthusiastic following.

In the first essay, “On Why I Wrote This Book,” Velden spells out the theme that informs her essays. “There is a hunger today for a more considered life, one where our everyday circumstances are not a series of inconveniences to get through (or around) as quickly as possible but rather a source of our awakening and pleasure. …I wrote this book to take up this less examined side of cooking, to encourage and inspire a more deeply experienced life, and to help us discover that no matter what the circumstances, we all have the capacity to deeply nourish ourselves and those around us.”

The text is filled with Velden’s suggestions about how to practice mindfulness and receptivity in the kitchen, so as to open one’s self, as she explains, to intimacy.

For Velden, intimacy is openness to experience, an opportunity to “allow something (or everything!) to make contact with us, to touch and therefore change us, often in ways we cannot predict or control.”

There are benefits, she writes, to dropping one’s protectiveness and being available to something outside oneself and to new experiences and ways of perceiving and reacting.

Take the experience of a cup of tea. Velden starts her morning with a contemplative ritual. She spends about 10 minutes quietly sipping her tea, being present with that tea and those moments, watching whatever happens to wander into her mind, she says, rather than worrying about what needs to be done that day or ruminating on past hurts. Notice the light, she advises, the songbirds, the scents in the room.

“What burdens can be put down when we redirect our energies not toward the goal but into the process itself, into each moment along the way? What treasures are waiting there?” she writes.

Velden gently urges her readers to deepen their experience in the kitchen by illustrating the opportunities it offers for transformation. A deliberate, considered approach to kitchen tasks, she tells us, can develop deeper self-awareness and opportunities for personal growth as we navigate the banality, toil, frustration, skill, failure, triumph, discovery, and pleasure of the kitchen.

For me, one almost completely unfamiliar with the theory or practice of meditation, Finding Oneself in the Kitchen, is a series of lessons that provide an opportunity create devotional-like experiences as one works in the kitchen.

Along with Velden’s advice about using time in the kitchen for meditation and all that it confers are generous dollops of practical advice. Some of the fundamentals for happiness in the kitchen are, she says, a full pantry, pots of herbs, filling a basin with warm sudsy water as a preliminary to starting the steps called for in a recipe and washing utensils as one uses them, keeping knives sharp, a bowl full of lemons.

There was a question that niggled me as I read through Velden’s sagacious essays, and that was how would one practice these meditations with a toddler pulling at one’s apron? How would one find time to be alone in the kitchen, free of distractions of family members, their chirping and buzzing devices, of the natural needs and demands children have in what is often the dearth of time they have with a parent?

Velden’s easy, sophisticated prose comes with insight, great warmth, wisdom, chattiness, and good humor. As she reveals herself through the essays, one begins to feel this woman would be a most interesting dinner companion and probably a lot of fun to drink a little too much wine with.

Her recipes are appealing, straightforward, and uncomplicated. Following is one that is just right for this time when we move into the winter and relish the warmth of classic baking spices, especially when delivered in an easy-to-make cake.

Finding Yourself in the Kitchen
Dana Velden
Rodale Books, 24.95

Full Disclosure: Dana Velden and I were once colleagues at a children’s book publishing company in Milwaukee.

My Mother’s Spice Cake

My mother serves this with a classic cream cheese frosting but it is just as delicious, or maybe even more so, served plain with a sprinkle of powdered sugar. People who say they don’t like cake tend to like this one.

Makes two 8-inch round layers

Preheat the oven to 350°F

Butter and flour two 8” × 2” round cake pans

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened
2 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup sour cream

IN a medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger, nutmeg, cloves, and salt so that everything is incorporated.

IN a large bowl or using a stand mixer fitted with a paddle, beat the butter, brown sugar, and sugar until fluffy, scraping the bowl, as needed. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, followed by the vanilla and the sour cream.

ADD in the flour mixture, beating until just incorporated, scraping down the sides of the bowl, as needed.

POUR the batter into the prepared pans, dividing evenly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the cakes begin to pull away from the sides and the middle springs back when lightly touched. Cool for 10 minutes, then invert each layer onto a rack and let cool completely.

WRAP one cake in double layers of plastic wrap or waxed paper and freeze for up to 3 months. Be sure to label it with the date and contents. Wrap the other layer in waxed paper and store in an airtight tin for up to a week. It will improve with age.

Reprinted from Finding Yourself in the Kitchen by Dana Velden (Rodale Books).
Available wherever books are sold.

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