Seeing your creation on display to the public is every budding artist's dream. For 13 Alverno students, that dream came true when their sculpture was permanently installed near Greenfield’s newly constructed City Hall Rain Garden.
"Many people were completely amazed by our finished product,” says Cecilia P. Castro (in center of photo), who was one of 13 Alverno students who worked on the project. “I was especially excited that I was able to help create a work of art that will be on permanent display and continue to bring awareness of environmental issues.”
The 8-foot steel milkweed plant sculpture is designed to capture rainwater and channel it toward the rain garden. The project began with a partnership among Alverno College, Stormwater Solutions Engineering LLC (SSE), Southeastern Wisconsin Watersheds Trust Inc. (SWWT), the Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (MMSD) and the City of Greenfield.
Alverno’s campus is one of the largest privately owned institutional green spaces on the Kinnickinnic River watershed area. SSE worked with students to study the amount of storm water runoff and how to reduce storm water runoff from the City of Greenfield onto the Alverno campus. Sommers helped students design and fabricate the sculpture, and they learned airbrushing techniques from artist Mario Gonzales. Marty Zabel, owner of Forest Home Auto Body and Glass, donated the painting and clear coating of the piece. Students were involved in all stages from planning to installation, and they had to problem solve using mathematical and technical skills.
“Our students were thrilled to be working on a site-specific sculpture, learning how to use new equipment, and learning different welding and shaping techniques while participating in a collaborative construction,” says Lynda Sommers, assistant professor in the Art Department-Sculpture/Ceramics. “This project gave them a great opportunity to put their skills to work in a way that will benefit the environment while adding something beautiful to the community.”
Not only did students create the sculpture, but thanks to a grant from Fund for Lake Michigan, students were able to work with SSE and SWWT to provide a Subwatershed and Stormwater Study. The study determined ways to reduce flood flows and improve water quality on Alverno property and downstream in the Kinnickinnic watershed. This included reaching out to residents in the neighborhood just west of the college campus to raise awareness of rain barrels and green infrastructure like rain gardens and to install them in the Greenfield neighborhood.
“This was a great learning experience, involving environmental consciousness and functional art. I developed strengths that will be of benefit to me in the future,” Castro says. “This project has given me confidence and shown me how art can be used for greater purposes, including environmentalism.”
Additional students involved in the project included Ashley Acker, Shavonne Alvarez, Keziah Bland, Samantha Bosanec, Tai Hardie, Ann Kwiatkowski, Carly Lustig, Sarah McCutcheon, Cassandra Pike, Michele Pruitt, Jessica Schiller and Theodora Thompson.