For Milwaukee’s street artists, the city’s walls are their canvas, the avenues and boulevards their gallery. And recently, whether it be Business Improvement District-sanctioned projects or artists working incognito, Milwaukee’s street art has seen something of a resurgence or, at the very least, a metamorphosis, what with Black Cat Alley and multiple installations on Wisconsin Avenue.
With new murals and sculptures added each month, it can be hard to keep up with Milwaukee’s nascent, but growing, street art movement. While it’s by no means exhaustive, this guide will lead you through both hot spots and lesser-known gems, so strap on your shoes or hop on your bike and prepare to explore.
Map of Milwaukee Street Art
“Orange Octopus” Mural
Located on the back of Collector’s Comics on the corner of Lafayette and Farwell, this striking mural depicts a bright orange octopus, a saltwater creature far out of place so close to Lake Michigan.
Artist: Fred Franczak
It’s pretty much impossible to write about street art in Milwaukee without at least mentioning Black Cat Alley, the ambitious mural project installed behind the Oriental Theater in 2016. The project features murals from 11 national and international artists, including the famed but reclusive MTO, the hand behind the frog mural that quickly became a Milwaukee staple.
Artists: MTO, CERA, John Kowalcyzk, Jenny Jo Kristan, Renee Aless Martinez, Ian McGibbon, Brandon Minga, Jeff Redmon, Bunnie Reiss, Tia Richardson, Adam James Stoner
Kashou Carpets Leopard Mural
The mastermind behind the Black Cat Alley project, Stacey Williams-Ng, recently painted a leopard mural just blocks away from Black Cat Alley on the brick wall outside Kashou Carpets. Come to see the art, stay to take photos for Instagram of yourself with the leopard.
Artist: Stacey Williams-Ng
“Milwaukee Monster” Mural
On your way to get ice cream at Purple Door, be sure to stop at the “Milwaukee Monster” mural, located just a block away. Don’t be afraid – the mural features interpretations of masks from indigenous cultures, not fearsome creatures.
Artists: Alex and Chris Couto
“Bienvenidos a Walker’s Point”
Lead by Chacho Lopez, this mural was painted entirely by spray paint in 2016 by a group of local artists. Surrounding the words “Bienvenidos a Walker’s Point” are depictions of famous neighborhood landmarks, like the Allen-Bradley clock tower and the Hoan Bridge.
Artists: Chacho Lopez, Joshy Ebert, Tom Aldana, Jon Bartels, Mike D, Ben Stark, Julian Correa and Adam Correa
“Mural of Peace”
Prominently displaying an eagle and a dove, this iconic Walker’s Point mural has been restored twice – and for good reason. When asked about the best street art in Milwaukee, most city-goers would, at the very least, mention the Mural of Peace.
Artist: Reynaldo Hernandez
Spearheaded by Ramiro Sandoval Arguta of Rebel Ink, this mural is meant to celebrate life by prominently featuring a hummingbird, woman and heart, all surrounded by flowers.
Artist: Ramiro Sandoval Arguta
— Milwaukee NNS (@milwaukeenns) October 3, 2014
“Wonders of Latin America”
Scenes from various parts of Latin America are depicted throughout the parking lot on the corner of 6th Street and Washington Street. Painted in 2002, the murals won a Mayor’s Design Award and were painted by five local artists with the help of the neighborhood’s youth.
Artists: Juan Flores, Robert Cisneros, José Augusto Paradisi and Raoul Deal
Milwaukee River Near Locust Street
You can see a myriad of street art on bridges and tunnels along the Milwaukee River, but the area near Locust Street has a particular breadth of art. Though it’s constantly changing, some of the street art along the river centers around social justice issues.
The koi painted by Milwaukee’s previously mysterious artist Jeremy Novy can be seen in unexpected spots throughout the city, from sidewalks on Wisconsin Avenue to the street outside the Riverwest Public House. A few koi can even be seen in Black Cat Alley.
Artist: Jeremy Novy
This West End mural shows a red-gold phoenix rising from the proverbial ashes, symbolizing the rebirth of the neighborhood. Located on the corner of State and 27th, the mural’s commissioner, Charles Hausmann, meant for it to serve as a sign of hope for those going through hard times.
Artists: Kate Madigan (lead artist), Faythe Levine, Mary Aimes, Vicki Just, Isabella Gargiulo and Josh Madigan
“Valley Passage Mural”
This colorful mural situated on the tunnel bridge between Pierce Street and Canal Street on the Hank Aaron State Trail celebrates the trail’s entrance into the Silver City neighborhood. Artist Chad Brady beat out other designers in 2010 after a national request asked for a mural to be installed in this tunnel.
Artist: Chad Brady
Under the I-43 exit near Fond Du Lac Avenue is a mural of figures who used Milwaukee’s underground railroad, like Joshua Glover, a man enslaved in Missouri who escaped to Milwaukee County, only to be put in jail. Abolitionists later helped Glover escape to Canada.
Artist: Ras’ Ammar Nsoroma
Day 2. #BHMMKE The mural of Joshua Glover (designed by Ammar Nsoroma). Joshua was enslaved in St. Louis, MS until the mid 1850s when he escaped north and found refuge in Racine, WI. He then lived a free life until the Fugitive Slave Act called for all runaway slaves to be captured returned to their masters. Benammi Garland, Joshua’s slave master, managed to find him with the help of other slave catchers and take him to jail in Milwaukee. While prisoner, a group of abolitionists led by Sherman Booth rescued Joshua from captivity and set him on his way to freedom. Afraid, he spent about 40 days traveling to Canada onboard a steamer. When he reached Canada he was a free man, he found a job and later started a family. Fon Du Lac Avenue is one of the Underground Railroad routes. Located underneath I-43 and Fon Du Lac Ave.
This haven for local poets reserves its exterior walls for a mural, which changes every few years. The current mural features poems, many from Milwaukee, among Wisconsin grassland.
Wisconsin Avenue is now basically an outdoor art gallery. June 1 marked the beginning of Sculpture Milwaukee, a public art project installing 22 sculptures by 21 national and international artists from I-43 to the art museum. Mauricio Ramirez has also painted historical scenes on utility boxes all along the busy street. And Milwaukeeans (or at least those on social media) are enthusiastic about these new developments.