Milwaukee’s Under-the-Radar Public Art

There’s an unbelievable amount of public art in the city, much of it overlooked. Here are five sculptures ripe for (re)discovery and conversation.

Map of Under-the-Radar Public Art in Milwaukee

1) Acqua Grylli

Year: 2001
By: Beth Sahagian
Where: on the western Riverwalk between Wells St. and Kilbourn Ave.

Acqua Grylli

This is gnarly. Shapes on the structure play off ideas of time and “abracadabra,” and the crested mythological figure looks like it’s arcing out of the Milwaukee River.

Beth Sahagian is a Milwaukeean and partner in Vanguard Sculpture Services, and her work is generally terrific. Once a year, she gives the sculpture made of bronze, stainless steel and stone a cleaning and waxing.

2) Letter Carriers’ Monument

Year: 1989
By: Elliot Offner
Where: intersection of N. Second St., N. Plankinton Ave. and W. Wells St.

Letter Carriers’ Monument

Few cities need one of these as badly as we do, and every winter there’s more evidence. The monument shows three carriers, a woman and two men, including an African American man wearing a 1939 uniform.

The National Association of Letter Carriers commissioned the monument, which was cast in New York and shipped to Milwaukee, because it was founded in a nearby tavern (now defunct) in 1889.

3) Oops, Missed

Year: 1987
By: Bernard Peck
Where: 1515 W. Canal St.

Oops, Missed

O what can it mean? The key to unraveling Oops, Missed is on top of the brick wall, a missed lightning rod.

Oops is part of the unlikely Cargill Sculpture Park, brainchild of Bernard Peck (also brain-birther of the sculpture), former vice-president of the Peck Meat Packing Corp. The park is in an odd, out-of-the-way place in the Menomonee Valley, just east of the power plant, but a great home for the curiosity described below.

4) Angel in a Cage

Year: 1983
By: Richard Pflieger
Where: 1915 W. Canal St.

Angel in a Cage

This is a 40-foot-high show-stopper, dwarfed only by the industrial buildings around it. Pflieger was a MIAD student when he won a student competition to contribute to the Cargill Sculpture Park, described above.

The idea of caging an angel in a town with many such sculptures standing outside Catholic facilities is provocative. The cage is 40 feet tall (with a small padlocked door on the base), and the angel is made of fiberglass and metal. She seems to be looking for/at something but can’t do much about it.

Pflieger said he was inspired by religious figures on the South Side and fencing in the Menomonee Valley.

5) Trigon

Year: 1970
By: Allen Ditson
Where: close to the Peck Pavilion

part of Trigon

The oldest work on this list, Trigon was commissioned by a group of daughters in memory of their late parents and originally placed at State and Water streets. There are three figures in the complex structure representing dance, music and drama.




Matt has written for Milwaukee Magazine since 2006, when he was a lowly intern. Since then, he’s held the posts of assistant news editor and, most recently, senior editor. He’s lived in South Carolina, Tennessee, Connecticut, Iowa, and Indiana but mostly in Wisconsin. He wants to do more fishing but has a hard time finding worms. For the magazine, Matt has written about city government, schools, religion, coffee roasters and Congress.