Client: Friends of the Hank Aaron State Trail
Location: Milwaukee, WI, United States
Completion date: 2019
Artwork budget: $200,000
Friends of Hank Aaron State Trail
A monument to the Milwaukee Road Railroad, “People of the Road” is a 5 sculpture grouping paying tribute to those who worked on this iconic railroad. I spent much time researching and used photographs from the railroad’s history to create the silhouettes of actual workers seen atop the sculptures. Various historical details are included, such as the dates of service, a map of the states covered by the service, and images of locomotives from the over 100 year history. The monument stands on the site of the railroad yards in Milwaukee’s Menomonee Valley.
My personal goal was to make this a monument to the railroad workers, so they are the prominent feature as seen in their life-size silhouettes. Another goal was to make the composition and language accessible to the public, which is why the shapes and elements are all recognizable references to the actual railroad. The monument was also designed to be as maintenance-free as possible, so corten steel was used. The rusted steel makes reference to an abundance of rust found in any railroad yard on tracks and undercarriages of rail cars.
I worked with an art committee after presenting my initial design to come up with a vision that pleased all of us. They were aware of the time I spent researching the history in the railroad archives, and were pleased that I focused on the people of the road, not just the physical aspects of the railroad. There were modifications made to my design which took into account feedback from the committee and from former employees of the railroad.
I have had a lot of praise since completing this project. The most heartening of this promise has come from former railroad workers, who are proud to have a monument to their past.