2013 Artist in Residence Finalist – Eddie Villanueva

Eddie Villanueva – Milwaukee, WI

Proposal: If you grant me the opportunity to become the next Pfister Hotel Artist in Residence, I will accomplish the following objectives.  I will develop a new body of acrylic and oil paintings based on my response to the bustling environment of the hotel, it’s lavish architecture, and it’s rich history. I will average approximately one painting a week which will vary in size between 11″x14″ and 36″x48″. While I will exhibit my paintings throughout the year, I will also use the space to curate challenging contemporary exhibitions of national and international emerging artists working in a range of critical practices.  Furthermore I will initiate a series of forums, visiting artist talks, and other community building programs that will offer a bridge between the hotel and the local, national and international art community.  If I am granted the position of Artist in Residence not only will I eagerly develop my own work, I will use the tools of my emerging professional practice to help develop the potential of this great opportunity and its relationship to the community at large.

Eddie’s work will be on display at Gallerie M in the InterContinental Hotel beginning on January 18th, 2013 through February 14th, 2013.  The public will be able to vote for Eddie & the other 2013 Artist in Residence finalists through the Pfister Hotel Facebook page beginning on 1.18.  Fans will be able to vote once per day through 2.14.  (Please note that the public vote only counts for one chair on the final selection committee).

Starting at Noon on January 18th, you can vote for your favorite artist by visiting the voting tab on Facebook right here.

You can find bios for the other finalists by clicking their names below:

John Kowalczyk
Pamela Anderson
Stephanie Barenz
Sue Lawton
Tonia Klein

 

A Pfister Take on “‘Twas The Night Before Christmas”

Each year, on the day after Thanksgiving, the Pfister Hotel holds its annual tree lighting ceremony.  Featuring cookies and crafts for the kids, the fabulous carols of the Bel Canto Chorus, and a special appearance by the jolly ol’ man himself, this year’s ceremony was as memorable as those past. But did you know about the work that goes into setting up our tree?  For hours prior to the ceremony – starting on Thanksgiving day, the tree is tirelessly assembled by a fantastic group of people.  And just to give them their due, we’ve captured all of that work in a minute and a half.

Twas the night of Thanksgiving
And all throughout the hotel
Holiday magic was happening
Compliments of Santa’s Secret Decorating Elves

The Pfister tree went up overnight
To the amazement of staff and guests
The elves were frantically working
Scurrying back and forth I can attest.

As Friday dawned bright and early
The lobby was full of holiday decorations
The garland, the bows, and the ornaments,
The last minute preparations.

For soon the lobby would be full
With children squealing in glee.
Santa would soon be arriving
To officially light the Pfister tree.

The Bel Canto Chorus began signing
Their voices in perfect tune
The carols they were lovely
And they helped set the right mood

The radio then buzzed
“JOE TO OMAR COME IN”
“OUR SPECIAL VIP HAS ARRIVED”
“WITH MILWAUKEE’S FINEST FIREMEN”

Omar than made the announcement,
The crowd hushed to hear him say
“BOYS AND GIRLS I HAVE A SANTA SIGHTING”
“AND HE’S COMING ON A FIREMAN’S SLEIGH”

The doors then burst open
Santa marched down the lobby aisle
Up to Omar he strode,
With a jolly laugh and big smile

“THIS TREE IS JUST LOVELY”
Santa said with a grin,
“BUT I THINK WE NEED TO LIGHT IT UP”
“TO LET THIS CELEBRATION BEGIN”

“10-9-8-7”
The crowd and Santa cheered with great glee.
“6-5-4-3-2-1”
“NOW LIGHT UP THAT TREE”

The she was aglow
As were many the faces
Santa visited with each child
Sticky hands and sticky faces

The day it was grand
The Pfister tree shines so bright
Merry Christmas to all
And to all a good night.

By Michelle McCarragher

Steampunk Society Invades the Pfister

Just in case you had any preconceived notions about the Pfister clientele, allow me to challenge those. First, watch this slideshow:



These are steampunkers. What is a steampunker? Good question – I was also unaware of this counterculture until the Steampunk Society Milwaukee held their first Maker’s Fair last Saturday at the Pfister, organized in part by the gregarious Timothy Westbrook, Pfister’s Artist in Residence.

The group emulates the culture and costumes of the late nineteenth century and Victorian era. There is also a fascination with sci-fi elements and gadgets. Most people I talked with couldn’t exactly explain what a steampunker was, but described what drew them in.

Allizarin Crimson a.k.a. Kristin Poehls is a new member whose goal was to make just one sale at the fair. Jim Best has been involved for two years and started going to events something to do in his free time. For him, it was something more productive to do than playing video games. He uses old watch pieces to create pins and jewelry.

Clinger, adorned in a metal top hat and metal tie, calls it “A classy looking way to rebel.” He rode 10 miles to get to the Pfister on his ordinary bicycle. It’s his primary mode of transportation when the weather is agreeable. Anna Rodriguez sees it as a way to express herself. She loves the creative element and the costuming that goes along with it.

Bridget Sharon started the society in Milwaukee after seeing many of the same people from Milwaukee at the Chicago events. “I saw a lot of potential in it,” she said. “We used to do ‘invasions’ where we’d all decide to go someplace and show up in costume. Now, we hold monthly events to get together and grab drinks or socialize.” There are no requirements to be a member. Events attract anywhere from 20-40 people, but there must have been at least 100 steampunkers at the Maker’s Fair.

Bridget encourages everyone to check out a Steampunk Society gathering. I agree, you have to see this for yourself. For more information, click here.

My Other Pen is a Hydro-cyclonic Ink Dispensing Thought Engine

I have never stopped going to the Pfister. I’m still there, buy cialis lurking among the new artists and writers and last night, I snuck in to lurk among the time-travelers and inventors. My confession is that I love the art/craft/clothing/mission/vision/literature that calls itself Steampunk. I’ve been known to lust after a pair of great goggles and as a renaissance faire actor in the summers, I’m no stranger to a good corset. I have long wished the hotel had airship parking.

So I dragged a friend out for a drink in the Lobby Bar—something she’s no stranger to as she was one of my partners in crime when I was the Pfister Narrator—and we looked at gears and hair fascinators and costumes. And we descended on the bar and had a Zaffiro’s cheese pizza, remembering my introduction to the family whose girls’ day out during the holidays included pizza in the lobby.

And there she was. I saw our new Narrator at the bar, watching the costumes stream out of the Steampunk party. She typed on her tablet, and I found that appropriate as Steampunk is about unique inventions and hodge podge creations and a tablet is the perfect contemporary hybrid to reflect that sensibility, even if it’s not from the Steam Age.

I’m curious if she spotted us, if she recognized me. I only knew her from her interview video and was happy to note that the energy that jumped off the screen and grabbed us in that conference room was pulling people toward her in the Lobby Bar last night as well.

The entire evening just reminded me (not that I needed reminding) that the Pfister captures more than just people. Seeing the turn of the century garb, met with visionary mechanical implements and jewelry, was surreal when the garb floated into the lobby. Our favorite may have been the gorgeous Victorian bustled dress with teal brocade that fit its bearer so perfectly we questioned whether her body, too, had traveled through time. My friend gasped when she looked up and saw the mistress being photographed by her captain on the glorious staircase. What better place to reconsider the turn of the century and the romantic lure of the past than a hotel that was created to capture the future the turn of the century would bring?

I’m so proud to be a part of the Pfister because the beauty and elegance of this place and its people lend themselves and open their doors to contemporary, unique events like the Steampunk ball. I was proud to see so many of the artists showcased at the event were not from Chicago, but rather right here in Milwaukee, proving again that we’re current, we’re cool and Milwaukee has its fair share of airship pirates.

If you pictured the art of Timothy Westbrook as textile manipulation and beautiful, you were correct. But if you’d never looked at his pieces in the gaslight of a Victorian evening or seen how their feel couples so wonderfully with an Oscillating Mechanical Stun Weapon particular to airships and rogue captains, the Pfister provided that for you. Again, I was amazed at how a place, rife with history and bursting with elegance is also a playful contemporary who is willing to embrace gears, gadgets and difference engines to prove how welcome we all are when we’re there.

Good luck, Jenna. I have not forgotten, nor abandoned my journey with time travel, facilitated by the Pfister and its staff; I crack the proverbial bottle of champagne over your airship for luck on your adventure.

Timothy’s 2nd Gallery Night + “Wedding” After Party

Photo Credit: Alison Barnick (who also happens to be a Pfister Employee)
http://www.flickr.com/photos/fotobug8/

Pfister Artist in Residence, Timothy Westbrook’s second gallery night took place on Friday, July 27th. With the intention of creating a piece that referenced Elizabethan, Timothy decided to tell a story with his second gallery night piece.  Using guides from the 1890s, he created a piece that reflects Queen Victoria’s popularizing of the color white in wedding gowns.

Much like his first piece, Timothy’s fiber art is composed of re-purposed materials, and this piece was no exception.  Utilizing white plastic bags, Timothy weaved a fantastic  Wedding dress – a dress that tied in surprisingly well with Art Milwaukee’s “Wedding”, a Gallery Night after event that was held in the Pfister. But don’t take our word for it, hear Timothy’s thoughts about his second Gallery Night and the privledge of being involved in the event in the video below.

Timothy also used the Gallery Night event as an opportunity to exhibit some of his dyed gowns from earlier in the summer with the help of some local models, and the help of Botique B’Lou.

After Gallery viewing ended at 9pm, the evening commenced upstairs with Art Milwaukee‘s “Wedding” in the Pfister’s Imperial Ballroom.

Artists from throughout the city were on hand to ‘live paint’ through the evening while mock wedding events occurred throughout.

“I have a Much larger sense of accomplishment…” 

Check out some of the great photos from the evening below (for a full gallery, visit us on Facebook)…

Joe, The Rookie

I’m not the first to find Joe as a subject. Katie Musolff also painted him outside on Wisconsin Avenue during a break.

“I’m going to be 22.”

That was Joe’s answer when I asked how old he was. His response was shared with a grin in that adorable way that only people up to a certain age are excited to tell you how old they’re going to be.

Joe started with the Pfister as a busser at the ripe young age of 18. After time spent cleaning tables Joe moved on to being a food runner and from there he has become a bartender. Joe bartends upstairs in Blu on occasion but most nights you can find him downstairs in the lobby lounge. This is where he prefers to spend his workday, as he prefers the relaxed vibe and the ability to spend time getting to know his customers.

To be fair; calling Joe a rookie isn’t entirely accurate. He has worked at the Pfister Hotel for 4 years.

The other day Joe and I were discussing houses. I just bought a fixer-upper in the Harambee neighborhood and Joe asked about my buying experience and challenges faced thus far in remodeling. Joe said that he’s thinking about buying a house. Maybe a single family, maybe a duplex. Something that a couple of handy buddies can move in and help him fix up in exchange for cheap rent. He gets that far-off glassy gaze while describing his house. “Somewhere that can be my own place with a pool table and a garden and I can make it my own.”

“How old are you anyway, Joe?” I finally asked him.  That’s when he told me he was going to be 22.

“How many 22 year olds who want to buy a house and put roots down?” I found myself thinking. This is the biggest reason I waffle on whether or not to call this guy a rookie.

Joe is the youngest bartender currently pouring drinks between the Pfister’s lobby lounge, Mason Street Grill, and Blu.

Possibly as a result of being a young he is interested in discovering new things. Joe is always quick with the best place to get a bite of food, try an innovative cocktail, or find an under-the-radar music venue. He knows who has the best hot wings, and where the burgers only cost a buck on Thursdays. He’s got his pulse on the city and it would be a traveler’s loss not to ask this young man his recommendation. I call Joe a rookie not because of a lack of experience, but because of the youthful excitement we all hope to keep fostering as we grow older.

It’s true that at 22 he may not yet be a walking recipe dictionary for every variety of fruit juicy martini, or ironically named shaker filled with frou frou creamy sweet shots. But his youthful manner is very much a boon to the young man. Joe doesn’t lean behind the bar with the sneer of a bartender who has “seen it all,” and as such hasn’t developed a bedraggled ambivalence to the world. Joe hasn’t seen it all. The world is still relatively new to him. He hasn’t heard it all, and he’s not developed the presumption to assume how your story is going to end when you’re in the middle of telling it. This guy is interested in hearing about your hometown, your last vacation, or an artist whose work he hasn’t previously been exposed to. Joe has the current experience which one cannot buy, the experience of being in the middle of one’s glorious youth. But for the mere cost of a glass of beer, you can enjoy Joe’s company. Which is almost as good as being young again yourself.

Patronage and the Everyman

 

The Campus Theater in Ripon, Wisconsin was the first business opened by company founder, Ben Marcus.

The Medici Family were bankers from Tuscany, Italy. Their initial family monies were made in the textile industry and they were influential in developing the double entry bookkeeping system. During the renaissance they owned Europe’s largest bank.

I’m sure their advances in bookkeeping are fascinating but that is not generally why the Medici name has survived throughout history. The Medicis were great patrons of the arts and sciences. Artists so highly regarded we don’t bother speaking their entire names; Masaccio, Donatello, Brunelleschi, da Vinci, and even Galileo.

The first time I saw a concert in Summerfest’s largest amphitheater I was 15. The headliners were Dave Matthews Band, Blues Traveler, and Ziggy Marley. I won two tickets by being the 14th caller though a radio giveaway. I took a friend from theater camp, and it was the first concert I was allowed to attend without any parents present to shepherd the teenage flock. As I think back, oddly enough, I worked at a Marcus owned KFC at the time.

Yesterday evening the Marcus Corporation kicked off their UPAF fundraising campaign at the Pfister. It was a night of camaraderie, speeches, prizes, and fantastic food and drink. Employees were encouraged to donate to the United Performing Arts Fund, an entity of which the Marcus Family have been patrons for many years. UPAF’s current tagline is, simply, “Life’s better with the arts.”

Mr. Marcus spoke at the event last night. I type this with a bit of a chuckle because their have been three Mr. Marcus’ over the years. Ben Marcus started his company in 1935 by opening a movie theater in Ripon, Wisconsin. His son Steve took the company helm in 1988. In the past few years grandson Greg has taken over as CEO.

Greg Marcus referenced Oklahoma City, where the company operates a lovely historic property called the Skirvin Hotel. He said Oklahoma City recently invested a great deal in their infrastructure and arts and culture community. Mr. Marcus added that this was met with some grousing by the city’s long-time and retired residents. They didn’t view the expenditure as important as they weren’t certain if they’d see the fruits of their monetary seeds. During this dialogue within their city someone asked, in response, if those folks would like to see their grandchildren. The question was met with shrugging and head scratching. Greg explained that, “If you want to see your grandchildren a city needs to be somewhere your children can be gainfully employed and not desire to move to another city. But we can’t have jobs alone, a city requires an active culture worthwhile for residents spread their earnings throughout the community. So, if you don’t want to have to drive to Tulsa, or Dallas, or any other city to see your grandchildren, Oklahoma City needs to be the place your kids want to keep living.”

This type of conversation crosses my mind when I’m at Milwaukee’s Lakefront, one of it’s festivals, or one of our many county parks. These places don’t exist on accident, and we don’t have free and public beaches because the real estate is undesirable. Decades ago, centuries even, people decided that those areas were worthwhile to keep public to increase our collective quality of life. The idea of shared park space was relatively new, as European royalty often enjoyed exclusively any desirable land. Ken Burns’ documentary on the topic was titled, succinctly, The National Parks: America’s Best Idea.

I may be getting a little off the direct topic, but I see a parallel between patronage toward the arts and the coexistence of natural spaces for us to share. They both require the conclusion, whether by one person or many, that,

“This has value to me.”

Over the last six months, I’ve been able to gather the stories of people traveling through Milwaukee, native Milwaukeeans, and everyone in between. But years before that a few people got together and decided that there is a history, a contemporary living history, that is worth documenting. They decided that Milwaukee and the Pfister Hotel are worth it, and they’ve invited artists and writers in to actively chronicle our contemporary lives within this cream-bricked city. I’ve been lucky to capture a few of these stories, reassemble them, and hand the bouquet back over for you to experience. Whether you’ve been a reader, a hotel guest, a new friend with a story, a conscientious employee…you’ve all acted as patrons.

I look out from Blu’s 23rd floor windows. Summerfest is visible and far to the south in white lettering across a blue background reads The Marcus Amphitheater. The venue in which I saw that first concert the summer before my junior year in high school. Summerfest; that musical playground of my teenage summers. Which someone built just for me and everybody else.

Service Regardless of the Situation

 

Picture this:

You work at a hotel. A man checks in to the hotel with arms in plaster casts sticking straight out from his body. Later in the day the man calls down to your desk and explains that he’s not certain how to get himself dressed for the day.

What do you do?

Concierge Roc tells the story of how he teamed up with Annie, the Pfister’s Head of Housekeeping, to satisfy the needs of a guest in a whimsically compromising situation. No matter the job at hand, they’re always glad to serve.

Click Play below or Download to listen to this brief chuckle of a story.

 

Generations Dance

 

The Pfister specializes in weddings. They seem to happen here every weekend, sometimes a few concurrently. Here’s a poem about something we’ve all seen at weddings: The Generations Dance. You know, the one where all the married couples get up and gradually leave as the number of years they’ve been married are ticked away by the announcer.

 

* If you’d like to hear a spoken recording of this poem, please scroll to the bottom to listen or download *

 

Without further ado…

 

After the bride and groom

danced

their first as

man and wife

the disc jockey invited

all married couples

to the dance floor

 

Ok couples,

please exit the floor

if you’ve been married for…

 

Just One Day!

 

The crowd chuckled and applauded

as the newlyweds retreated

to greet family

and acquaintance alike

 

One year!

 

The groom’s sister

left with her husband

 

Two years!

 

A few young couples walked off

and joined at the bar

for a round of tequila shots

 

Five years!

 

Brought a sea of

first-time parents

and experienced

uncles, aunts, and coworkers

working on their second,

third, or fourth

pair of rings.

 

at

Ten years!

 

There was a mass migration

and children started to applaud

as their parents returned

to the round table.

 

After

Fifteen years!

 

A woman shouted

“Oh no fella-

you’re not going anywhere yet!”

 

By

Twenty years!

 

Their kids were off paying

nervous attention to their dates,

trying to disregard

that their parents were

“Oh My Gosh I can’t believe

my mom and dad are out

on the dance floor doing that.”

 

The folks at thirty years

left the dance floor

with more deliberation,

searching to place their feet

beyond the exact place

the parquet floor ended

and the carpet began

 

at thirty five years

the couples walked off

pressing their weight

against one another’s

clasped hands.

 

By the time

 

Forty years!

 

Rolled around

four couples remained

and they weren’t paying attention

to anything except

the sway of the song

and the partner in their hands

 

When

 

Fifty years,

ladies and gentlemen!

 

arrived

two couples remained

and they shared

sidelong chuckling glances at

their competition

 

Finally after

 

51 years

 

52 years

 

53 years

 

54 years

 

ladies and gentlemen

only one couple remained on the floor

and the husband then took hold of his wife

in the most deliberate

and delicately graceful

dance lead

I’ve ever seen,

 

his grasp so absolute

her response

near telepathic

I wondered

if anyone

could know anything

as well as they knew

one another

Milwaukee: The Best Deal In Chicago

The view from the 7th floor East on Wisconsin Avenue.

Ah, big brother Chicago. Just two hundred years ago we were part of the same Illinois territory.

People come to Milwaukee for many reasons. Business. Dinner. Conventions. Celebrations. Sporting events. Art openings. Museums.

Visitors ask certain key questions which lead me to conclude they’re not from Milwaukee. This line of conversation usually takes place after someone says, “So how do I get a cab around here?” or “This place is great, where else should I visit?” Or they call the water drinking oasis a fountain instead of a bubbler.

I’ve noticed a trend of Chicagoans visiting us just for fun. Upon discovering this I always ask what their impressions are. Being a life-long Milwaukeean I’m curious to hear how our city is perceived.

Below are some of the most common observations of Milwaukee followed by explanations I’ve been able to piece together.

* “It’s so inexpensive here.”

That’s true, part of the reason is the sales tax “Down South” is 9.5%, compared with our 5.6%. But also being a smaller city things are just cheaper in Milwaukee. Smaller population=more resources to go around.

* “That art museum on the lake is incredible!”

You’re right, we are lucky to have had our most recent addition to the Milwaukee Art Museum designed and built by Santiago Calatrava. But years before that the art museum has an interesting story. The core of the museum’s pieces were donated by Frederick Layton, also the namesake of Milwaukee’s Layton Boulevard. Mr. Layton, along with John Plankinton, their fortunes in cattle and pigs. The Layton School of Art was started shortly after his death and when closed in 1974 was listed in the country’s top 5 art schools.

Just to the North of the Calatrava addition is what Milwaukee residents refer to as the War Memorial. After World War II an architect from Finland named Eliel Saarinen was commissioned to build a Veteran’s Memorial. Despite Eliel’s passing in 1950, his son Eero took over to complete the project on Milwaukee’s Lakefront. With construction supervision by Milwaukee architect Maynard W. Meyer and Associates, this floating building was created. The building appears to hover above Mason Street on geometric legs of reinforced concrete.

Completed in 2001 Santiago Calatrava’s addition comprises a few different areas including the Quadracci Pavilion which regularly holds weddings, openings, and other special events. Windover Hall looks out toward the lake as though one is inside a glass wrapped ship hull. Atop Windover Hall is the incredible moving sculpture known as the Burke Brise Soleil whose wings literally open at 10am, close and reopen daily at noon, then close for the evening when museum locks up.

The Milwaukee Art Museum is a four block walk from the Pfister Hotel.

* “Everyone here is so nice to us!”

Oh well gee shucks, ma’am. That’s really kind of you to say. But you should meet my cousin John. He’s a really, really nice guy. Are you hungry? I just made this pie for you…

* “That brewery tour was so much fun.”

What made Milwaukee famous… 

It’s true we are a beer city. Prohibition was more than a small stumbling block to the city’s industry but brewing culture is thriving in Milwaukee. So much that we named our baseball team after the people who make beer. Although Pabst, Schlitz, and Blatz are no longer producing themselves, many brewers have taken up the cause. Visitors are able to tour Miller which has existed in the Valley for well over 150 years. If something smaller is your flavor we’ve got many options including (but not limited to) Sprecher, Lakefront, Milwaukee Brewing Company. Tours also take place at the Best Place; the bar, gift shop, and former board room inside the Pabst Brewery complex. With all the talk of beer it’s easy to forget craft distillers just past the Harley Davidson Museum, Great Lakes Distillery, who are on the cutting edge of producing rum, absinthe, vodka, and many other liquors.

* “Dinner was great last night, we’re trying to decide between our options tonight. Which would you recommend?”

Our restaurants are a bit of a great secret around here. According to Zagat we have 3 of the country’s top 30 restaurants in the area. I love getting dinner at Mason Street Grill, and they have a spectacular happy hour.

* “It’s so easy to get around this city, there’s hardly any traffic ~or~ We took the train here, it’s been such an easy trip; an hour here, an hour back. ”

This makes sense, Milwaukee’s metro area has about one fifth the population of Chicago and it’s suburban outskirts. Milwaukee also has a growing bicycle population and network of bike specific trails which cuts down on four-wheeled commuters. In addition our bus system has been revised recently and ridership is up. Milwaukee is also fairly spread out, our population isn’t too densely packed into any one area.

* (and probably the biggest compliment) “We’d both rather live here but then we’d have to commute every day to our offices in Chicago.”

Even if you don’t drive it is surprisingly easy to get between Chicago and Milwaukee. There are several bus options. The Amtrak Hiawatha route from ‘The Windy terminates in downtown Milwaukee a mere 12 blocks from your favorite hotel.

For all these reasons and more our Illini brethren are discovering that a mere 90 miles to the north Milwaukee might just be the best deal in Chicago.