Take a stroll around the city of Milwaukee to find some of these stunning murals that will make you proud to be a Milwaukee resident.
It seems that everywhere you turn, public spaces have been transformed from blank canvases into beautiful works of art by local artists. For some of these, you don’t even have to get out of the car to have a great time admiring them (though we do recommend it!).
If you’re looking for more beautiful and inspiring murals, be sure to check out mkemuralmap.com.
1. SafeHouse (NEW!)
Artist: Fred Kaems
Location: On a wall facing Front St., near the entrance to a certain super-secret spy hideout.
In 2021, the owners of SafeHouse commissioned artist Fred Kaems to paint the 42-foot wall near the spy-themed restaurant.
The mostly monochromatic mural is a nod to espionage but doesn’t include the word “SafeHouse.” It’s meant to hint at the restaurant’s secret location rather than give it away entirely. The left section resembles panels of a comic book, and the right section is a riff on the iconic opening sequence of many James Bond movies.
Stand in the middle of the spiral and strike your best 007 pose for a #stealthyselfie.
Have your kids look for the little pops of red included in the otherwise monochromatic mural. Kaems also added a little yellow in his representation of an iconic Milwaukee structure – the Hoan Bridge.
Location: On the Milwaukee County Transit Bus Depot – Mitchell St./1st St./Kinnickinnic Ave. intersection
Painted in the late 1980s, just a few years after the death of Father James Groppi by Milwaukee’s NAACP Youth Council, this mural features local and world peacemakers, including Nelson Mandela, Shaka Zulu, Vang Pao (Hmong refugee community leader), Buddha, a Laotian dancer, Miguel Hidalgo, Adelita (a Mexican revolutionary symbol), Jose Marti, Lolita Lebron, Pedroa Campos, Chief Joseph, Rosa Parks, Aurora Weier, Father James Groppi and others.
Friends and family of the painters are painted as silhouettes at the bottom of the mural. Richard Oulahan, former head of Esperanza Unida, is one those painted on the bottom, and the silhouettes of Father Groppi’s wife and children stand beneath his figure.
Ask your kids if they’ve learned about any of these heroes in school. What do they know about them? What other peacemakers could be on this mural? Invite your child the think of ways we can help make peace right now.
3. “Mural of Peace”
Artist: Renaldo Hernandez
Location: Esperanza Unida International Building (611 W. National Ave.)
The Mural of Peace was originally painted in 1993 on wood panels by artist Renaldo Hernandez, but a storm knocked it down in 1999. Joe Kovacich, then vice president of Miller Compressing, lead a campaign to replace it.
Numerous local groups, businesses, schools, and churches contributed, and together the neighborhood was able to fund its restoration.
What do you see in the mural? Where do you think the artist got his idea for the striped colorful lines? Do you see any flags? Why do you think it was so important to restore the mural after the storm knocked it down?
4. “Bay View Neighborhood”
Location: North side of Maytag Laundromat (2510 S. Kinnickinnic Avenue)
This mural, painted in December of 2016, was commissioned by the Bay View Historical Society after they were inspired by the Walker’s Point entryway mural on 2nd Street.
It depicts Bay View historic landmarks that may be familiar. For example, the copper beech tree on the left panel depicts the largest copper beech tree in the state, located in South Shore Park. Also in the mural are Beulah Brinton House, Bay View United Methodist Church, Groppi’s Grocery, South Shore Park Pavilion, Delaware House, Avalon Theater, and more.
Can your child find each location listed above? If you also visit the Walker’s Point welcome mural, what similarities and differences do you notice?
5. “Anything For SELENA”
Artist: Mauricio Ramirez
Location: On South 5th Street just south of Bruce St.
Mural artist Mauricio Ramirez painted this piece in July 2017. It’s a stylized painting of the Tex-Mex singer Selena, who was very popular in the 1990s. Ramirez’s work typically depict images made up of geometric shapes in colorful shades.
Ask your child what shapes they see in Selena’s face and arms, and in the background. Has your family ever listened to Selena’s songs together? Try some of her most popular songs like “Bidi Bidi Bom Bom,” “Dreaming of You,” and “Como La Flor.”
Artist: Stacey Williams-Ng
Location: North wall of Kashou Carpets
In October 2016, the owner of Kashou Carpets was inspired by the murals in Black Cat Alley (behind the Oriental Theatre) and asked the artist, Stacey Williams-Ng, to paint a mural on his shop. The mural was inspired by the animal prints on rugs inside the shop.
Ask your child what they think the leopard is doing in this mural? Have they ever seen a leopard in real life? The mural was inspired by the rugs inside this rug shop. Ask your child if they’d like to have a rug with a leopard print on it. What would they put on a giant rug in your house if they could choose anything?
7. Black Cat Alley
Location: Black Cat Alley is located behind the historic Oriental Theater at the intersection of North Avenue and Ivanhoe Place on Milwaukee’s East Side. You can enter the Alley from Prospect Avenue near the Axe Bar (AXE MKE) or from Ivanhoe near Milwaukee’s only cat café (Sip ‘n Purr). Please note: the Ivanhoe entry is the only accessible entry, as the Prospect entryway has a staircase.
The Black Cat Alley is an outdoor art gallery located in a private alley on Milwaukee’s East Side.
This unique street art destination was developed by a group of community members and artists back in 2015-2016 in partnership with Wallpapered City, LLC, and sponsored by the East Side Business Improvement District.
It now contains 21 murals by 24 artists from Milwaukee, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Columbus and even Berlin. Their website is blackcatmke.com
There’s a large variety of murals in Black Cat Alley. Which is your favorite? Why?
8. “Sherman Park Rising“
Location: 4715 W. Center St.
This 56-foot-long mural was a community effort, traced by artist Tia Richardson and painted by individuals in a paint-by-number style. It depicts the challenges faced by the community and the perseverance of the residents who live there.
What are each of the people in this mural doing? What do you think the flowers and vines represent?
9. “Fear The Deer”
Artist: David Zimmerman, Bigshot Robot
Location: Rear of the parking garage of the Brix Apartment Lofts at 408 W. Florida St. Best viewed from W. Freshwater Way in the Reed Street Yards or the S. 6th St. bridge.
The Milwaukee Bucks are the reigning NBA champions, so Bucks fever is at an all-time high. This mural depicts Milwaukee’s love for its hometown basketball team.
What natural elements can you see in this mural? How do they represent Milwaukee?
10. “Heart & Sol”
Artist: Mauricio Ramirez
Location: 728 N. James Lovell St.
“Heart & Sol potrays optimism for our city’s future through its illustration of two young female figures, symbolizing unity and strength.” It’s the largest mural in downtown Milwaukee!
How is this mural similar to “Anything for Selena” (#5) by the same artist? How are they different?
11. “Gild the Lily (Caribbean Hybrid I, II, III)“
Artist: Carlos Rolón
Location: Chase Bank building is at the intersection of North Water Street and East Wisconsin Avenue
Artist Carlos Rolón, who has other large-scale pieces in Miami Beach and the Netherlands, transformed the entire lobby of a financial hub (Chase Bank) into a beautiful floral escape in the middle of downtown Milwaukee.
The exterior glass is wrapped with a translucent array of tropical flowers, and it’s even more stunning after dark when the lobby illuminates the vibrant colors.
Rolón’s piece was installed as part of Sculpture Milwaukee 2019. In April 2021, the building’s owners announced that the installation would remain for at least another year.
Have your kids try to count the rectangular windows on the building. Ask them what colors they see in the mural, and have them try to find their favorite color.
Milwaukee is filled with beautiful and inspiring murals. We recommend checking out mkemuralmap.com for more!
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