Sculptures & Stories meets Big Brothers Big Sisters for an afternoon full of art and storytelling! 

Sculptures & Stories welcomed Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metro Milwaukee on the last day of tours. BBBS is good at the good that they do. They’ve been matching young people in challenging circumstances with adult mentors since 1975. Ex Fabula has been “strengthening community bonds through storytelling” since 2009, and they’re pretty good at that.

These powerhouses teamed up July 28th to provide a special Sculptures and Stories walk along Wisconsin Avenue for adult mentors – “Bigs” – and their matches – “Littles”. The group visited six works installed along the avenue by Sculpture Milwaukee. Ex Fabula’s standout volunteer and storyteller Elaine Maly and her grandsons Noah and Ezra primed the sharing-and-telling pump by jointly telling family tales sparked by each work.

A sculptural telescope points to the harbor…

Where the lake schooner Dennis Sullivanis docked. Now, in a pre-walk icebreaker, Elaine said if she could have a superpower, she’d be a “super grandma”. Actually, she already is. A couple of years ago, when her out-of-town grandson’s family was coming to visit, she wanted to plan an outing that would create wonderful memories. She booked a family cruise on the Dennis Sullivan.

The day of the much-anticipated cruise was intensely hot. And windless. As in, sails were useless, the motor was called into service and people walking on the beach were moving faster than their craft. Elaine faced facts. When it was finally over, she said: well this sucked.  Noah was relieved! Glad you said it first.­ This “outing fail” is part of family lore, because it was memorable. Agreeing that it sucked strengthened family bonds!

The ”Holiday House” installation a few steps away sparked another Maly family memory.

Elaine and Noah went to the family cabin up north early once – just grandma and eldest grandson. Again, Elaine arranged an activity that would be “unforgettable”. The whitewater rafting trip exceeded that expectation when Elaine was thrown from the raft, nearly drowned, was retrieved by the guide and flopped face down into the raft…with her swimsuit around her ankles.

Noah knew just what to say: Everyone has a butt, Grandma…

Next on the Sculptures & Stories tour Ex Fabula volunteer Jill Haas’s “little”, Sharmia told about a water recreation mishap at Camp Whitcomb Mason that didn’t turn out so comically. A counselor was flipped out of a boat-drawn tube hard enough to be knocked unconscious!

Then we walked to “The Kitchen Tree”, where Ezra told us how he became interested in cooking by watching Gordon Ramsay and other chef shows. Ezra doesn’t play in the kitchen! He’s cooked scallops, Crème Brulee, chocolate lava cake and Beef Wellington. Not everything has gone smoothly. Ezra gave advice many of us could use: read the instructions FIRST, and make adjustments if necessary.

That primed the pump! Seems almost everyone has a cooking story. “Little” Jay and her Big don’t like kitchen work but they enjoyed splitting firewood and making a campfire to fix a tortilla pizza. During the winter, they used the fireplace to make hotdogs. Ex Fabula event producer Kennita Hickman shared a story of a pumpkin pie gone wrong. She and the date she’d hoped to impress ended up at Bakers Square. Sharmia and Jill had a crumbling pound cake story. Then we moved on to the “Magical Thinking” sculpture.

At “Magical Thinking”, a rabbit pokes its head out of a gigantic top hat. Long-haired Ezra told us how he got called up on stage by the magician at a show once. The magician performed a trick “meant for a girl”, not realizing that Ezra wasn’t. The magician felt bad when his error was pointed out, and set up a trick which put $10 in Ezra’s hand.

Ezra’s developed a thick skin. He no longer cares if people take him for a girl, though he prefers California to Wisconsin, because no one in Cali seems to care! Sharmia told about a series of substitute social studies teachers who thought she was a boy when she wore her hair a certain way. Called her “sir”… Sharmia doesn’t fuss over mistakes like that either.

The Max Ernst statue “Seraphine” has a weighty art-history pedigree, but the Maly grandsons were captivated by the Sponge Bob shape of its behind! When their out-of-town cousin visited, they all noticed this resemblance on the way home from a (more ordinary) trip to Discovery World. They discussed the statue’s resemblance to the cartoon character, then observed that grandpa was shaped like that too! The matter had to be settled, and Bronson got right on it. Soon as they got home, he said Grandpa, show me your butt! Don’t take down your pants…just show us”

So. Everyone has a butt. Everyone has a story. Magical things happen when mentors, family, and friends of all ages spend an afternoon walking, looking, talking and sharing. Ex Fabula and Big Brothers Big Sisters hope to make more opportunities for just that.

Thank you to Sculpture MKE for making downtown Milwaukee a little more artsy with their outdoor gallery and inspiring Sculptures & Stories!