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From Rubbish To Resource: The Willy Street Tree

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

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

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

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

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

Gianofer Fields studies material culture at UW-Madison and is the curator of "It's a Material World" - a project funded by the Chipstone Foundation, a decorative arts foundation whose mission is preserving and interpreting their collection, as well as stimulating research and education in the decorative arts.

Original air date: 07/26/14

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Audrey is a producer, host and reporter for Lake Effect. She is involved with every aspect of the show — from conducting interviews, editing audio, posting web stories and mixing the show together.