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Unique Design Wins Commission for East Library Public Art

The Milwaukee Public Library has selected UW-Milwaukee lecturer and longtime resident Ray Chi to design and implement a public art installation outside the new East Branch of the library, which is under construction at North Ave. and Cramer St.

Chi’s art proposal will invigorate the space with three separate and distinct features—rack, serpent and boulder—which offer a unique take on three overlooked and under-loved elements of the urban landscape: the bike rack, the strip of grass by the street curb and the concrete that makes up streets and sidewalks.

“I have always considered the East Library to be ‘my library,’” Chi said. “I feel a special sense of duty to give back to this place that has given so much to my family and me over the years. It is my hope that this artwork will help rekindle a sense of wonder in all of us, and open our eyes and minds to the potential for beauty to reveal itself in every aspect of our daily lives.”

Chi is a 2013 Mary L. Nohl Fellowship recipient in the established art category. His work varies greatly from furniture and film to public art. He is currently an associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. You can learn more at

Alderman Kovac served as a member of the committee that selected Chi’s proposal, and serves on the Library Board of Trustees. He offered high praise for the winning design.

“Ray Chi’s idea is deceptively simple,” Alderman Kovac said. “The mundane objects we walk around, between and upon will suddenly—but also forever—come alive on the northeast corner of Cramer and North. The bike racks will dance, the grassy tree borders will buck, and the sidewalk will rise.”

Chi was also the community favorite. MPL sent out a “Call for Artists” in November 2013 and received 22 submissions. The Public Art Selection Committee selected four finalists, and, through a survey, invited community feedback. Respondents overwhelmingly favored Chi’s proposal.

MPL has also announced the details of two public art installations inside the new East Branch. The commissions were awarded to local artists Santiago Cucullu and kathryn e. martin. The request for qualifications for both the external and internal public art projects and artists’ conceptual proposals can be found at

The public art project for the East Branch is funded in part by grants received from the Greater Milwaukee Foundation’s Mary L. Nohl Fund, Marvin W. Haesle Fund for the Arts and the Jean Hutchinson Fund, the Milwaukee Arts Board and from the sale of the former East Library Eames furnishings. The library has budgeted $25,000 for the external art installation and $15,000 each for the two internal art installations.

Construction of the Standard @ East Library, the development that will house the new East Branch, is well underway. MPL’s Facebook page www.facebook/milwaukee.public.library features a photo gallery of construction progress. The library will take possession of the space in early spring, and construction is expected to be completed in the fall of 2014.