Watertower (Fruin)

Last updated
Artist Tom Fruin
Year 2017
Type Plexiglas and steel
Dimensions 610 cm× 610 cm(240 in× 240 in)
Location Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Coordinates 400 S. 2nd St.
Owner Coakley Brothers Company

Watertower is a public art work by artist Tom Fruin. It is located just south of downtown Milwaukee, Wisconsin on top of the seven-story Coakley Brothers Company warehouse in the Walker's Point neighborhood.

Public art is art in any media that has been planned and executed with the intention of being staged in the physical public domain, usually outside and accessible to all. Public art is significant within the art world, amongst curators, commissioning bodies and practitioners of public art, to whom it signifies a working practice of site specificity, community involvement and collaboration. Public art may include any art which is exhibited in a public space including publicly accessible buildings, but often it is not that simple. Rather, the relationship between the content and audience, what the art is saying and to whom, is just as important if not more important than its physical location.

Tom Fruin

Tom Fruin is a contemporary American sculptor. He currently lives and works in Brooklyn, New York City. Fruin graduated from University of California, Santa Barbara with a BA in 1996.

Milwaukee Largest city in Wisconsin

Milwaukee is the largest city in the state of Wisconsin and the fifth-largest city in the Midwestern United States. The seat of the eponymous county, it is on Lake Michigan's western shore. Ranked by its estimated 2014 population, Milwaukee was the 31st largest city in the United States. The city's estimated population in 2017 was 595,351. Milwaukee is the main cultural and economic center of the Milwaukee metropolitan area which had a population of 2,043,904 in the 2014 census estimate. It is the second-most densely populated metropolitan area in the Midwest, surpassed only by Chicago. Milwaukee is considered a Gamma global city as categorized by the Globalization and World Cities Research Network with a regional GDP of over $105 billion.



Watertower is a sculpture made of multicolored Plexiglas panels that have been cut and assembled with welded steel in the form of a water tower. The sculpture's form references the once common rooftop water tanks, most of which were removed decades ago. [1] Sunlight illuminates the artwork by day, and interior lights make it highly visible at night. Fruin salvages the Plexiglas used in his sculptures. [2]

Water tower elevated structure supporting a water tank

A water tower is an elevated structure supporting a water tank constructed at a height sufficient to pressurize a water supply system for the distribution of potable water, and to provide emergency storage for fire protection. In some places, the term standpipe is used interchangeably to refer to a water tower. Water towers often operate in conjunction with underground or surface service reservoirs, which store treated water close to where it will be used. Other types of water towers may only store raw (non-potable) water for fire protection or industrial purposes, and may not necessarily be connected to a public water supply.

Commissioning process

Coakley Brothers CEO Peggy Coakley commissioned the artwork for the rooftop of her family business after viewing a similar work by Fruin during a visit to New York. This is the artist's sixth water tower. [3] The artwork is part of a $6 million renovation of the Coakley warehouse. [4] According to a statement by Coakley, her goal with the commission is that "the public will see the sculpture as a symbol of pride for the city's diverse and vibrant citizens and a symbol of how neighborhoods and cities can be progressive and forward-thinking, while still being true to their roots." [5]

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  1. Nelson, James (21 September 2017). "Massive water tower sculpture lifted to the top of Coakley building in Walker's Point". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  2. Tanzilo, Bobby (6 September 2017). "Coakley unveils rooftop art for renovated Walker's Point headquarters". OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  3. Nelson, James (6 September 2017). "Coakley wants water tower sculpture to be a colorful 'beacon' on Walker's Point". Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  4. Jannene, Jeramey (21 September 2017). "Coakley Installs Artistic Water Tower". Urban Milwaukee. Retrieved 31 October 2017.
  5. Tanzilo, Bobby (6 September 2017). "Coakley unveils rooftop art for renovated Walker's Point headquarters". OnMilwaukee.com. Retrieved 31 October 2017.