Milwaukee: Faith Purvey’s “Refoundation,” Summer 2012

Artist Faith Purvey has been working between Los Angeles, Minneapolis and Milwaukee for the past year. Last summer she produced “Refoundation,” a temporary fort village created by kids in their Milwaukee neighborhood park at 29th and Melvina (WI, 53216). After a year out of town doing residencies in Nevada and Los Angeles, Purvey was drawn back to work on the project for another summer in the the park and to work on an All City Parade float.

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How is “Refoundation” made?

Tuesday, Wednesday and Saturday from 11:00-4:00 Purvey and her intern conduct a public workshop where neighborhood kids talk about, interview neighbors, draw, and model their dream homes and plan a dream neighborhood. This year alongside the church, salons, stores, and schools, the kids have included a petting zoo, a watery slip and slide, a paint and a water dispenser. While the kids work with paint, photographs and text to  create wooden facades  they articulate in words and images the characteristics and elements of home that they most value.

Spend an afternoon learning and helping:

The workshop is open to participants that can lend a hand as the temporary installation takes form in the weeks leading up to its culmination in a neighborhood gathering, cookout and installation exhibition in the park August 11th from noon to 3:00pm. During the cookout this whimsical collaborative installation will be a stage for the  kids and their parents and neighbors to share their talents. Last summer the kids put on a play and neighbors offered informal presentations of poetry and song. Attend the cookout an be part of the audience.  Contact Purvey ( if you would like to add your talent to the program. Just show up and help out if you want to see how a project like this works.

Watching this project organically unfold over the two summers I am uncertain how to approach it as a critic. “Refoundation” is temporary cardboard fantasy city that is alive with the hands of children and with the sweat of an artist laboring for hours under the hot sun. Very different from the ironic aesthetic gestures of artists who use similar materials in gallery installations as  critical social commentary, Purvey’s park installation aims to activate and power up channels for thinking, dreaming, and making which penetrate the foundation of her young collaborators’ perspectives on life.  Although she opens herself up for criticism with her ephemeral artworks that  can’t hope to solve the problems that the people who live in this economically depressed urban neighborhood face, Purvey nevertheless offers her time as well has her ingenious model of creative playfulness as a renewable resource.

“Refoundation” at Jazz Gallery

August 18th from 5-8 pm, Purvey will convene a workshop at Jazz Gallery located at 926 E Center Street in Milwaukee’s Riverwest neighborhood. Here, the temporary fort village from the 29th Street / Melvina park will be re-formulated in the gallery by Purvey and the  park kids, together with artists and participants from Riverwest.

How do project like this happen?

They require lots of community partnerships and support.  Last summer “Refoundation” was an IN:SITE temporary public art project supported by the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation, Crime Prevention through Environmental Design, and Melvina Neighborhood Association.  This year it operates in collaboration with the Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation and Melvina Neighborhood Association along with Milwaukee Public Theatre and the Riverwest Artists Association.

Purvey is a committed artist working with free or inexpensive materials, ingenuity, and a great deal of heart. And even though her focus is the process of making rather than the final piece, the constructions she and her collaborators create are alway delightful and surprising.

About Patricia Briggs
Patricia Briggs is the director of galleries and curator of exhibitions at Jamestown Community College in Western New York. She writes the blog "Scene Unseen: Viewing Notes" about visual art in her community.

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