Jeramey Jannene
Eyes on Milwaukee

Will New Art Jumpstart Downtown?

Milwaukee Downtown hoping art draws people back to the heart of city.

By - May 28th, 2021 05:35 pm
Tatays Truck. Photo from Milwaukee Downtown.

Tatay’s Truck. Photo from Milwaukee Downtown.

A new effort by the downtown business improvement district aims to use public art to draw people back Downtown as COVID-19’s spread slows this summer.

“It’s time to jumpstart our economy,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown Business Improvement District #21, in a statement. “Our new arts and culture initiatives offer something for everyone to safely experience everything Downtown has to offer this summer. Meanwhile, we’re thrilled to be able to put our local creatives back to work.”

Dubbed “Jumpst(ART),” the campaign includes new murals, sculpture installations and mobile pieces.

Nationally-recognized artist Kelsey Montague, famous for his selfie-friendly murals with wings, will paint a new piece on the north side of the UW-Milwaukee Panther Arena. The piece, “What Lifts You,” is being done in partnership with the Wisconsin Center District. As part of the effort, streetcar station shelters will also receive original artwork from local artists.

A new, art-covered food truck Tatay’s Truck, operated by Meat on the Street, started serving Filipino food earlier this week. It’s wrapped in a mural painted by Emma Daisy Gertel that features symbols found in Filipino culture and a bright, floral pattern that can also be seen in Daisy Gertel’s “Westown in Bloom” mural. Tatay in the Tagalog language means “father,” a nod to the family from the brother and sister team that started the restaurant. You can find the truck via its website or Facebook page.

The “Massimals MKE” sculpture, a series of five life-sized bears, will see its white color scheme replaced with a rainbow one in recognition of the LGBTQ+-focused Pride Month. The pieces will be reinstalled in Cathedral Square Park by Jason Scroggin in time for Pride Month in June and will stay on display through September. The installation is sponsored by the Wisconsin LGBT Chamber of Commerce and Milwaukee Pride, Inc.

A second Pride Month-themed piece, “True Color,” will see the Milwaukee RiverWalk boat landing between E. Kilbourn Ave. and E. State St. (behind the Marcus Performing Arts Center) receive a colorful spray chalk mural from artist Josephine Rice. The installation is being sponsored by Northwestern Mutual.

A series of local artists will be commissioned to perform live canvas painting and chalk mural installations in Red Arrow Park starting in July as part of a new “Art in the Park” event. Applicants for the paid positions are being sought via the BID’s website.

The previously announced mural for Schlitz Park, which will be the largest ever done in Downtown, will also be completed in June, joining a series of other murals Milwaukee Downtown has commissioned in recent years. Installation for Sculpture Milwaukee’s annual exhibit is also underway.

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One thought on “Eyes on Milwaukee: Will New Art Jumpstart Downtown?”

  1. Polaris says:

    Jeramey, your article sent me on a search to find out what the boundaries of BID 21 are, and I came across this great catalog of its projects. Impressive to see it all in one place and I can’t wait to get back up to see some of the new projects and Sculpture MKE this year!

    That said, Milwaukee is not alone in using art to attract people downtown and generally create a better quality of life–even increase property values.

    I would love to see the downtown Milwaukee really go all out and saturate itself with very good to excellent art. Think a modern-day Venice. Why not? Milwaukee can and should distinguish itself in the public art space. Imagine 10-12 truly awesome pieces and hundreds of more intimate pieces that inspire curiosity and conversation. Friends and families proudly taking visitors downtown for a day or two of art exploration. Wonderful breaks for downtown workers and conventioneers. Guided and self-guided walking, bike and Hop tours day and night. And, what a fabulous place to call home–art at my doorstep and everywhere I turn…

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