Local artist wants you to find his 3D-printed mini state Capitols

Ken Fager's has been hiding 'Mini WIs' around town to spread some joy.
Miniwi1
Photo by Ken Fager

If you happen to come across a small, plastic Wisconsin State Capitol building underneath a bench, in the corner of a storefront or hidden beneath the bushes around town, you’re the lucky new owner of a Mini WI. The 3D-printed miniature models of the Capitol are created by local artist Ken Fager, who started this random act of kindness project after he bought a 3D printer with one of his stimulus checks.

“As someone who thrives on being socially engaged around town, this pandemic has forced me to focus more on creative endeavors that can be done at home,” Fager says. After programming an entire horse racing simulator video game from scratch, he needed a new challenge. Fager, who’s also a photographer, put his 3D printer to use right away, first to fabricate customized camera parts. He soon got the idea for a mini model of one of his frequent photography subjects — the state Capitol. Ideas started swirling between Christmas and New Year’s for a project that would help others get out of the house, engage with the community and be entertained, he says.

“I was reminded of the time before the pandemic when groups of people would roam downtown playing Pokemon Go,” Fager says. “People like finding little surprises, so that planted the seed.”

He’s distributed Mini WIs somewhere in the 100 range, hiding about a dozen at a time. It takes about 70 minutes to create a single Mini WI model. They’ve shown up around the Square, Tenney Park Lock and Dam and as far as Middleton. “Who knows how far the ones I have left on Metro buses have gone?” Fager says. He’s already done a special edition version for Valentine’s Day. “People braved negative windchills that weekend to go out and search for the special pink and red ones,” he says.

Miniwi2

Photo by Ken Fager

He enjoys finding Reddit and Instagram posts from discoverers. “The most touching message was from a person that works at the mens’ shelter on the Square. They said that the people that make use of their services have shared their joy with discovering the Mini WI during the day.”

“To enjoy art is a luxury activity,” he says. “However minute, I am glad to provide a sliver of that escape.”

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