RACINE - A sculpture created from the ruin of Hurricane Ike has arrived to try to help revitalize Uptown.
Contractors on Tuesday installed "The Last of Ike" near the railroad tracks on the eastern edge of Washington Avenue. It is a winding candy-red statue which artist Nic Noblique made from the useable parts of five or so sculptures that Hurricane Ike had otherwise destroyed.
The work, which Noblique and city officials hope will attract new artists and other visitors to the neighborhood, cost the city $40,000 via a federal Community Development Block Grant, said City Development Director Brian O'Connell.
Noblique, who lived in Galveston, Texas when Ike hit in September 2008, called it "The Last of Ike" because he made it with the surviving pieces of some of his ruined works. Noblique described the piece as "very representative of the chaos that was going on in my life."
Noblique had agreed to become Uptown's first residing artist as part of the Uptown Artist Relocation Program, but he said Tuesday that he left after finding out that then-Mayor Gary Becker had been charged with soliciting sex from what he believed to be 14-year-old girl. Noblique said that his close association with Becker before the scandal led his public relations advisors to tell him that he shouldn't stay in Racine.
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"I was at his house a week before he got busted," Noblique said. "We used to drive around and smoke cigs," he added.
Becker pushed for the program - based on a similar one in Paducah, Ky. - to bring artists into Uptown to help revitalize the neighborhood and make it trendy, said Community Development Manager Kristin Niemiec.
Noblique also said he was upset with the $400,000 residence at 1526 Washington Ave. that the city had offered to sell him, saying that the city hadn't followed through on a promise to make the building live-in ready.
The building didn't have flooring, electricity or plumbing. "Donald Trump wouldn't have bought that building under any circumstances," Noblique said.
Niemiec, however, said that the city hadn't planned to renovate the building. "That was never our intention," she said.
The sculpture is nine feet tall and weighs 1600 pounds. The city spent $15,000 of Tax Incremental District money for the statue's concrete base.