While waiting for my flight at General Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee last week, I walked my usual multiple laps around the terminal to get my circulation going. I find most (not all) U.S. airports boring, usually offering nothing more exciting than tacky local souvenirs and mini-versions of every chain restaurant you can possibly imagine. But on my first lap of Terminal D at General Mitchell, I saw this clay art on the wall:
And I stopped to take some photos with my phone and read the accompanying sign:
I spent about half an hour at the display, looking at every section of the mural and the wonderful 1989 photos of the clay stomp in both countries. Here’s the history of the mural from artist Joel Pfeiffer’s website. (You can see a photo of the entire wall here as well.)
On June 11, l989, over 5000 people came together to mix 8 tons of clay for the creation of a 9 ft. x 38 ft. ceramic mural. The theme was “Clay: A Healing Way”, impressions of peace and friendship. The mural was then fired and finished at Rockdale Union Stoneware in Cambridge, Wisconsin. In August of l989 a group of 30, including members of Milwaukee’s PBS film crew, flew our mural to Leningrad, Russia. In August, at the St. Peter & Paul Fortress on the Neva River, several thousand Russians stomped 6 tons of clay, creating a ceramic mural for the people of Milwaukee. In the fall of 1990, both murals were installed. The Russian mural is permanently installed at Mitchell International Airport in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. The American mural was installed at the Port of St. Petersburg. The 30-minute PBS documentary won a National Gabriel Award in l990.
I tried to find a photo of the mural in Leningrad online, but no luck. I did, however, find a newspaper article from June 4, 1989. Political change was in the air in the Eastern Bloc during that time…to put the date in perspective, note that the Berlin Wall fell on November 9, 1989.
Thanks, Milwaukee, for the fascinating display in Terminal D! I’d love to see more U.S. airports incorporating history into their wall decor. What a great way to kill time while waiting for a flight.