Do you recognize these Tula Erskine works?
Do you recognize these Tula Erskine works?

Tula Erskine works identified!

In January 2016, I received a note from landscape architect Nancy Aten, who was scanning works by Milwaukee artist Gertrude Kundman Erskine to be included in Erskine’s archive, when she came upon 8x10 photographs of a series of six works that especially caught her attention.

"They look like paintings on canvas," she said. "They look like they might be murals for a school."

I then posted this article on Jan. 11, 2016 asking readers if they could identify the location of the works. Just yesterday, Sept. 21, Aten wrote to let me know the works had been identified. Therefore, I've adapted this post to reflect the new scholarship, so read on to find out where they were located...

In 1955, the Milwaukee Sentinel called Erskine – whose nickname was Tula – a, "versatile, purposeful, slender, red-haired Milwaukee artist who is intensely meticulous and thorough in everything she does whether it be housekeeping (!), painting, sculptoring, doing research into art techniques and media or into botany, sewing her own clothes, carrying out her duties as board member for the Wisconsin Painters and Sculptors Society and as publicity chairman for the Audubon Society of Wisconsin."

Erskine, a Washington High School grad, had regularly shown her work at the Milwaukee Art Institute, art competitions at the Wisconsin Salon and State Fair and at art museums as far-flung as Syracuse, N.Y.

There were no notes attached that would identify the works Aten found – which are owned by the Urban Ecology Center – nor where they might have been painted, nor their dimensions.

"They were tucked in an old portfolio, and have glue marks on the back like they were once pasted in," she said. "The portfolio is really loosely arranged, so it's hard to attribute chronology, but they were with other items that I would guess makes them circa 1930s or early ‘40s."

Aten believed the style of the works also fits with that time frame based on what she knows about the timeline of Erskine’s caree…

A crashing wave got me good on my lakefront run today.

A Lake Week communion

Every Milwaukeean has a Lake Michigan story and for the next seven days OnMilwaukee will share as many as possible during "MKE Lake Week," sponsored by the Harbor District. Love our lake? You're in the right place.

In honor of OnMilwaukee's Lake Week this week, I decided to commune with Lake Michigan the best way I know how these days: I went for a run.

I run wherever I can. Whatever is convenient each day. It might be near home, or near work, or near the school my kids attend, near my hotel if I'm traveling. But my favorite route is any one that includes a view of Lake Michigan.

Despite what my kids say – based on my dislike or disinterest in waterpark tube slides – I am, in fact, a beach and water person. I spent the first 17 years of my life living fewer than three miles from the Atlantic Ocean.

Some of my fondest childhood memories are of the crowded Manhattan and Brighton Beaches on a summer Sunday, the Mets game or Paul McCartney & Wings blaring from transistor radios, the sound of the surf, that sandy, sunburned, salt-air-whipped feeling on your entire body.

Now, at just under seven miles from Lake Michigan, my current home is the farthest I've ever lived from an ocean or the inland sea that is our engulfing eastern neighbor. Luckily, I find myself at or near the lake nearly every day anyway.

Today, the next-to-last day of summer before autumn's arrival Friday was a gorgeous day to run at the lake, so I did. It was warm but breezy, the sun's rays tempered by the wind.

There was a smell of fish in the air, the caw of the lake gulls – some of whom were diving to peck away at an impressive catch on the wharf – and, while I was out on the breakwater, the sound of waves crashing up onto the wall.

In fact, I got nearly to the end of the jetty when one of those waves leaped up from behind the barricades and surprised me, giving me a good soak. That turned me around, feeling a little shocked and more than a little reinvigorated, helping spark me…

Webster Secondary School is now once again Webster Middle School.
Webster Secondary School is now once again Webster Middle School. (Photo: Edgar Mendez, Milwaukee Neighborhood News Service)

Webster returns to its former status as a traditional middle school

After considering closing Daniel Webster Secondary School altogether, just a couple weeks after starting its first school year, the Milwaukee Board of School Directors voted last Thursday to "reconfigure" the program as a traditional middle school.

Webster, 6850 N. 53rd St., had been a middle school until 2007, when it closed. Most recently, the building was leased to Universal Academy for the College Bound, run by a Philadelphia charter operator launched by former Philly soul pioneer Kenny Gamble.

Universal abruptly closed the grades 6-10 program in April and the building was returned to the district – just months after it returned two other buildings to MPS – which re-opened Webster as a program for students in grades 6-11. (Grade 12 was to be added next year.)

At the time, enrollment was about 650. But, this year, enrollment was low – reportedly at just 40 percent of projections as of last week – and the district moved to close it, saying it couldn't provide the resources necessary to run the school with such a low enrollment.

"MPS is committed to ensuring that all children have the highest quality education possible and every chance for success," said MPS Superintendent Dr. Darienne Driver, in a statement. "Webster’s enrollment was not sufficient enough to provide the robust academic programs every student in Milwaukee Public Schools deserves. This was a difficult, but necessary decision."

The school board disagreed, however, and voted, 9-0, to keep the school open, but as a traditional middle school. All enrolled students in grades 6-8 were told they could remain at the school or select a new school, while 9-11 graders were alerted that they must enroll in another high school program.

"MPS will ensure that students have the best educational option and will work with families to select the most appropriate school available," the district said in a statement.

"The district will continue dialogue with families and the school community to get fe…