Placemaking in Stevens Point: a day with Gil Penalosa and Mayor Wiza
Susan and Gil smile in front of the Portage County Annex building.
In early May, AARP Wisconsin hosted an all-day workshop with the one and only Gil Penalosa, founder of 8 80 Cities and expert in parks, placemaking, livability, and public spaces. The in-person presentation was held in Stevens Point, a Green Tier Legacy Community that has invested in placemaking efforts such as a city-wide bike trail and public art in the downtown area. After the workshop, participants were invited to take a walking tour of downtown with Mayor Mike Wiza. What follows is just a sample of what we saw.
We passed by many artists rendering images on public trash cans. The "trash can-vas" (get it?!) combines function with aesthetic.
Many large murals grace the sides of brick buildings. Some, like the first one pictured here, are simply quite beautiful. Others carry a message. The second image is a picture of two foxes and reads "What the lion cannot manage, the fox can," which presumably indicates that it pays to be clever. The most striking mural was a portrait of Ruth Bader Ginsberg wearing an iconic dissent collar with the quote "Women belong in all places where decisions are being made" and a crown in the shape of protesters.
The park along the Plover River is home to several incredible sculptures, known as the Cultural Commons. Pictured first is "Umbrella Man," a bent lamp post designed to look like someone holding an umbrella. A path leading to the middle of the park winds around a group of sculptures that were part of an exchange with three sister cities around the world. The canoe, eagle, and stalks of wheat fashioned from iron came from Glucz, Poland; the rock sculpture was created in the mountains of Esteli, Nicaragua; the bell and public chess set were a gift from Rostov Veliky, Russia.
Ending on a playful note, we visited the Silly Crosswalk, which garnered a lot of media attention when it was unveiled in 2016. (For those unfamiliar with the Monty Python Flying Circus skit Ministry of Silly Walks, take a few minutes to watch here!)
Mayor Wiza and Gail Sumi of the League of Municipalities more than happy to give us a demonstration!
There is so much more to see in downtown Stevens Point!
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