MILWAUKEE — Walking through Summerfest you might see something that looks like a bronze statue of Amelia Earhart. As you get closer and closer you realize it is a statue of Amelia Earhart. And finally when you are in arms reach, the statue extends its arm to give you a fist bump. It's not a statue, it's a person.
Michelle Hackett, is a human statue. She plays the role of The Bronze Amelia Earhart at Summerfest. You can find her all over the festival grounds standing still for hours on end. Michelle said she loves the one-on-one connection she gets to make with people as they pass her by.
"I just watch people as they go by, and I give them a very simple intimate connection of an eye wink or a smile or just kind of a turned head as they walk by," she said.
The role of human statue is simple enough. Stand still and engage with the audience every once in a while. But it can be difficult. It takes two hours to get four layers of make up and her entire costume on. That gets to be pretty hot during the warmer months. Plus sometimes she has to deal with hecklers.
"People have done some very inappropriate things which is why we have security guards," she said.
The security guards tend to come out at night when crowds get bigger and potentially more unruly.
While the job of a human statue is to stand still, Michelle does move around sometimes whether its voluntary or involuntary.
“Sometimes people will catch me, and I’ll do something like sneeze, and a lot of people will be like, ‘oh my god she’s a person.’ Cause I sneezed.”
Occasionally, she will hop off her box and follow someone. Usually it's someone in a group of friends who is too preoccupied to notice. The group of friends gets a kick out of the situation since that person has no idea this Bronze Amelia Earhart is following them.
She will also give you a fist bump if you give her a tip, which is incredibly important to these street performers. They aren't paid by Summerfest to be there.
"We do this out of pleasure and art and everything like that, but it really is the crowds and the people putting money in our tip jar that make it so that we can take the time to be able to do this," she said.
There is more to Michelle's performance than what meets the eyes too.
"What I do is I create human statues that represent woman in history to help keep those women in the kind of mind’s eye of what’s going on in the world."
The goal is to keep the conversation alive about these historical figures. She also dresses up as Marilyn Monroe and as a female pirate.
"(The pirate) represents all the different female pirates that actually existed in history."
She isn't just a human statue. She is an interactive art exhibit.