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Creating a Buzz on the Milwaukee Riverwalk

BookCrossing Meets Experience Art for a Release Event
by aimlesst
July 20, 2005
Our local BookCrossing group meets regularly, but it seemed to me that we were in a bit of a rut: meet at Borders, have some coffee, trade some books, enjoy talking books and release techniques with other BCers. Not that there is anything wrong with this and I really look forward to the meetings, but it seemed to me that it would be nice to try for something to get us out of the coffee shop. I teach at Milwaukee’s High School of the Arts. My school, like so many others, has been caught in budget crunches. Given that we are the High School of the Arts, you know what programs are NOT going to be cut. To try and raise money to support the arts programs, my school held a fund raiser this spring, “Experience Art” on the Milwaukee Riverwalk. This seemed to me to be a golden opportunity for a BookCrossing event.

We met early on a warm, sunny Saturday morning at the downtown Borders coffee shop, but we didn’t stay there long. We started walking along the river, releasing as we went. The Riverwalk had a number of art pieces installed along the walkway on both sides of the river, which just called out to us to leave books with them. Gertie the Duck was written about a duck building her nest on a post in the Milwaukee River. Her statue was given a book, as were statues of her ducklings. We were really thankful for the bags from the Supply Store -- several of the duck statues were right along the bridges and we would not have been able to leave books without water damage if we hadn’t had the bags with us! We stopped and looked at another sculpture for a while, circling it and trying to decide the meaning before decorating it with books and moving further along the river. (The sculpture is entitled Acqua Grylli and is meant to be a gateway and guardian to the river is what I found out later.)

There were also many performers scattered along the way who we were able to listen to as we were releasing. We stopped to listen to a jazz combo at one stage, which I was proud to point out featured two students from my classes. There was a fountain that had not been filled yet. We pondered the possibility of using Skyring’s method of double bagging a book and floating it in the fountain later in the summer once it is filled. Across the street we heard another of my students performing a piece by Beethoven on the piano. We stopped after this and found something to eat, and this is where we first heard some buzz about the releases we had made. My alderman, who is also one of my neighbors, stopped to ask me a question about the event, and followed up with, “Oh, you’re the people with the books all over the place.” We looped one end of the Riverwalk and started retracing our steps and checking on places where we had left books. We thought that if one book had been picked up in a location, it was a good location and released more in the same spots. At Acqua Grylli we met one of my fellow teachers from the high school sitting on a bench with an exchange student she is hosting and listening to a trio play. The teacher looked at us and said, “It’s the book people!” The exchange student was holding one of our books and told us that she plans to take it back to Thailand to release! (Alas, no journal entry yet.)

Further along the Riverwalk we saw performances from a dance group and students from the theater department presenting scenes from a variety of plays. Winding back along the river we again passed places where we had released books and they were gone. I passed an outdoor seating area for a restaurant and saw a young man swinging one of the bags with a book in it. There may be cause for hope for other BookCrossers in what we saw at the event. Even though most of our books have not been journaled, we know that they were picked up and taken by people and seem to have found good homes. All in all, this was a fun event. It was nice to get out and walk and see the sights, and I think that we all had a fun time with the releases. I’m looking forward to planning another event. The journal that we created for the event can be found here.

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