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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Milwaukee Downtown searches for artist

The mural will be located outside the Dunkin’ Donuts at the corner of James Lovell Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Photo courtesy of Milwaukee Downtown, BID No. 21

Last week, Milwaukee Downtown announced it is seeking an artist to paint an 80-by-50-foot mural at 622 W. Wisconsin Ave., at the corner of James Lovell Street and Wisconsin Avenue. Known as the Gateway Mural, the project will be created in a partnership between Milwaukee Downtown, Business Improvement District No. 21, the Downtown Placemaking Task Force, City of Milwaukee and Westown Association.

There are 51 BIDs in the city of Milwaukee. Each one takes a portion of property owners’ taxes to put towards improving the area, Stacie Callies, the executive director of Westown, BID No. 5, said.

The mural will be on the west-facing wall of the building, which holds a Dunkin’ Donuts, a laundromat and the Grand Avenue Market.

The Gateway Mural will serve both as an entrance from the west into the heart of downtown Milwaukee and express the new changes occuring in the Westown neighborhood, Callies and Gabriel Yeager, the Downtown Environment Specialist for Milwaukee BID No. 21, said.

“We feel that one, it can become a gateway, (and it) can become this really nice entry point into downtown Milwaukee,”  Yeager said. “But two, it’s just this new sense of arrival, like once you see this mural, I think we want it to reflect what’s happening in Westown; there’s a lot of activity … from the (Milwaukee Symphonic Orchestra) project, to the Avenue … to Fiserv Forum. There’s a lot of big projects underway in Westown, and this mural really wants to embody the new energy that we have going, and kind of continue to move that forward.”

Callies expressed similar thoughts.

“It really is the gateway into the downtown, when you’re coming from the west,” Callies said. “And you know there’s just so much activity and redevelopment going on on West Wisconsin Avenue that this is kind of a great sort of connecting point to that activity.”

Yeager’s position as downtown environment specialist — a new position that began in May 2018 — involves administrative support for the Downtown Placemaking Task Force, an 18-person volunteer group established in 2017 that works to enhance public spaces in downtown Milwaukee. Since its creation, Yeager has worked with the task force on two other public art installments: the Utility Box Murals — a series of paintings on 10 utility boxes located along Wisconsin Avenue, completed in 2017 — and the Jefferson Street pedestrian tunnel “Migration” mural, completed in November 2018. Among other projects, the Downtown Placemaking Task Force is also responsible for Sculpture Milwaukee, the now-annual showcase of art along Wisconsin Avenue from June to October.

Callies said Westown Association’s role in the mural’s development includes working with the property owner, Wisconsin Avenue Property LLC, making financial contributions and being involved with the panel selecting the muralist. Directly east of Marquette’s campus, Westown spans from Interstate 43 on the west to the Milwaukee River on the east, and from St. Paul Avenue on the south and McKinley Avenue on the north. Paired with East Town, which lies between the Milwaukee River on the west and Lake Michigan on the east, the two neighborhoods make up Milwaukee’s downtown.

While the plans for the mural were just announced to the public this week, the Gateway Mural project’s development and fundraising began in January, Yeager said.

Karmen Rosiles, a sophomore in the College of Arts & Sciences, said that living in Straz Tower, she ventures into downtown Milwaukee to the west of campus “almost every single day.”

Rosiles said she goes to the Dunkin’ Donuts at least once a week, and she thinks the mural will make a good addition to the area.

“I think it adds a lot of color and just makes the community prettier, like in general … I feel like downtown there isn’t much, unless you go deep into downtown, like art, and I feel like this is just, like, the border,” she said.

Since Milwaukee Downtown’s recent increase of public art projects, interest has been increasing. Yeager said the Utility Box Mural paintings received 15 applicants from around the country, and the Migration Mural doubled that number with about 30. Since the announcement was made last week, Yeager said Milwaukee Downtown has received about 50 to 75 emails from artists expressing interest in the Gateway Mural project.

The Gateway Mural will involve neighborhood engagement, Yeager said. Artist applications are due to Yeager —[email protected] — by April 19 at 5 p.m., and the decision of an artist selection panel that includes members of the Downtown Placemaking Task Force will be announced in May. Muralist applications will include an early concept and proposal that then may be altered by community input, and the mural is then planned to be completed in June, Yeager said.

“Once they select the artist, the artist will be required to do some sort of neighborhood engagement in Westown. And this would really start influencing the answers and what we hear from the neighborhood residents,” Yeager said. “And residents could include students, employees, visitors and residents — so anyone who works and lives and plays and learns in Westown will be invited to offer some input, and that will start influencing the final design of the mural.”

The Gateway Mural is one of four public space projects in development. The others will likely be announced in May, Yeager said.

“I think that in general, these sort of public art projects are critical to the revitalization process that (is) going on … it creates a positive feeling for people that are coming into downtown,” Callies said.

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