Beasties of a different color

Angela Hayes, Atwater art teacher, repainted the school’s Beastie sculptures with the help of elementary students this summer. Built approximately 20 years ago by Atwater’s artist in residence, Dennis Pearson, the sculptures are among popular in public places across America, as well as in Belgium, Israel, New Zealand and Mexico, according to

According to Hayes, the Beasties were in need of a renovation.

“They were neglected to the point where there were holes and cracks in them,” Hayes said. “I was concerned that if they were neglected any longer that they would just fall apart. I wanted to keep the art healthy here and engage the students so that we could continue to have this asset.”

“The thing about outdoor [art] is it’s going to have to be restored and taken care of over time because you can only do so much to protect it from UV rays and precipitation,” Hayes said.

To rehabilitate the Beasties, Hayes fed off of ideas generated by the community.

“I created handouts and students submitted designs of how they would like to see them repainted. Then in May at Atwater’s annual art night, I had people vote for their favorite design,” Hayes said.

Leah Rodriguez, 4th grader, one of the design winners, helped paint the two Beasties with some of her peers, as well as her mother, sister and Hayes.

“I like art because I like putting your own opinions and creativity into it,” Rodriguez said. “If I could give other young artists advice, it would be to keep on doing it, because waiting until you’re older isn’t going to make you better; you’ll just keep getting older.”

Hayes said that the majority of the deterioration on the Beasties was not in places where kids climbed on them.

“I think it is great that the sculptures provide an opportunity for children to interact with a three-dimensional piece of art and because they participated in this beautification process from designing to painting, they can take ownership and treat them respectfully for future generations,” Hayes said

Atwater alumni have fond memories with the Beasties.

“I would climb around on those all the time with my mom before and after school,” said Owen Moran, senior. “I remember seeing them kind of deteriorate as I got older, so I was glad to see that it saw some restoration.”

In the summer of 2002, Milwaukee’s businesses and individuals sponsored several other Beasties to be placed around Milwaukee in the public arts project known as “Beastie Beats.”

Morgan Ricard, senior, remembers this movement clearly.

“When the Beasties came to Milwaukee, my aunt brought my little cousin and I all around downtown looking for them. We had a little map and found each and every one, like a treasure hunt of Beasties … Ever since then, every time I see the Beasties at Atwater it’s a reminder of a really great day,” Ricard said.

by Helena Rose

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