Michael Holloway

East Side Art Lot Returns for Summer

East Side BID will pay 10 local artists to paint picnic tables for a unique public space.

By - Apr 30th, 2021 10:43 am
East Side Art Lot. Photo courtesy of The East Side Business

East Side Art Lot. Photo courtesy of The East Side Business Improvement District.

Frank Zappa was once quoted as saying, “Art is making something out nothing, and selling it.”

The East Side BID’s Elizabeth Brodek must have had a similar thought pop into her head last year as she fixated upon the often-vacant parking lot located between Von Trier and Beans & Barley on North Ave. With the pandemic in full swing, Brodek suddenly had the idea to transform that lonely parking lot at 1915 E. North Ave. into the East Side Art Lot, a public hang-out space featuring picnic tables painted by local artists. With the help of ten local artists and some generous sponsors, she made it happen, and the inaugural Art Lot ran from August 21st to November 15th.

The project was a major success, and now the Art Lot will return for a second run in 2021. It will once again be used by people enjoying takeout from nearby business and as the site of locally curated events.

“It is the best project I’ve ever worked on in my professional career,” says Brodek. “This is just a new innovative project that brought even more art to the district. We kind of answered a lot of questions that we didn’t even know we or the community was asking.”

The BID is once again calling for 10 local artists to leave their marks on picnic tables.  Artists will be granted a $500 commission for the completed piece, and paint, sealant, brushes, tarps, water and sunscreen will be provided on site. This time around, each picnic table will have an artist tag listing the name of the artist, their social media handles or websites and a scannable QR code containing Art Lot specials offered by nearby businesses. There is no submission fee, and the deadline for submissions is May 12th by 11:59 p.m.

Another development at the Art Lot this year is the donation of three large murals by Thermo Fischer Scientific. The company, a manufacturer of scientific instruments, is located just a short distance away at 2202 N. Bartlett Ave. Those murals will be on temporary panels that will be removed at the end of the project, with one being donated to Dogtopia, a dog daycare business taking over the former Subway space located at 2219 N. Farwell Ave.

“It’s awesome to see how this is exploding and taking on a life of its own,” Brodek says.

As for programming, the Milwaukee Maker’s Market, a monthly art, craft and maker fair and winner of Shepherd Express’ 2020 “Best Art & Craft Fair/Makers Market” award, will return every second and fourth weekend from June through September. On the first and third weekends, a yoga series will be held, putting an emphasis on the Art Lot’s 2021 theme of different forms of creative expression. There will even be some live music — sort of. Local acts will perform at the lot, and guests will listen via headsets, similar to the “silent raves” that have become popular in recent years.

The East Side BID is still in need of sponsors for eight of its picnic tables. Sponsoring a picnic table will cost $500, with all money being donated to the artist that painted it. And on top of helping out a local artist, sponsors get to take home the table. The McDonald’s on 1614 E. North Ave. is one of the first sponsors this year, and their picnic table will likely be used for its upcoming new outdoor seating area. The Murray Hill Neighborhood Association is also sponsoring a table this year.

“I heavily believe in the importance of localism, and I think the East Side is such a perfect microcosm of that in Milwaukee,” says. Brodek.

The current anticipated opening date for the East Side Art Lot is Friday, June 11. For more information on artist submissions, sponsoring a picnic table or donating, visit the BID’s Art Lot webpage.

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