A Self-Guided Bus Tour of Milwaukee’s Many Murals

Hop aboard the Green Line (or 15) bus and spend a day admiring all the great art along the route, from the comfort of your warm, dry seat.

After such a relentless and gray winter, it’s important to remember that Milwaukee can be a colorful place. Nothing is a better testament to this fact than the city’s arts scene, which exists both indoors and out.

Murals are one thing that Milwaukee does very well, with old staples around every corner and new favorites constantly popping up. Even the most avid art enthusiast could spend weeks hunting down each adorned wall.

Fortunately, many of these beautiful installations can be found right along the MCTS Green Line and 15 routes, meaning that you can take advantage of Milwaukee’s public transportation and give yourself a mini tour to boot.

There are plenty of places to jump on the bus – which runs all the way from General Mitchell Airport to Bayshore and back again – but we’ll start our tour at Kinnickinnic Ave and Mitchell Street. While you wait for the bus, check out the first two murals on your tour:

1) Culture Work

by: Raoul Deal, UW-Milwaukee students and high schoolers
Culture Work, Milwaukee
“Culture Work,” by Raoul Deal, UW-Milwaukee students and high schoolers; photo by Abby Vakulskas

“Culture Work” is a tribute to the work of the United Migrant Opportunity Services (UMOS), who serve Hispanic populations throughout the Midwest. The mural represents challenges that immigrants face and the richness of culture they bring with them. In bright, striking colors, it calls for equal rights and opportunities.

2) Peacemakers

by the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council
"Peace Makers," by XX
“Peace Makers,” by the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council; photo by Abby Vakulskas

Across the street and next to your bus stop, it’s hard to miss “Peacemakers,” dating back from the 1980’s but still looking good. This mural by the Milwaukee NAACP Youth Council features peacemakers from Milwaukee and beyond. See if you can spot familiar faces, such as Father James Groppi, Nelson Mandela or (fittingly, for your bus tour) Rosa Parks.

3) iLLustria Salon mural

by Zenon Castillo
mural at iLLustria Salon, by Zenon Castillo; image via Google Street View

Once you’re done admiring these works of art, jump on the next bus and head north. As you ride along First Street, look out your right-side window to catch the mural on iLLustria Salon & Academy, painted by Zenon Castillo. This geometric and abstract piece was the result of the artist wanting to give himself a challenge – with earthly and universal elements and a large portrait of a woman, it was the biggest work Castillo had done at the time.

4) The Rhythms of Water, Land and Sky

by Mark David Gray

As you reach the corner of First and Florida, keep an eye out the back window. You just might glimpse “The Rhythms of Water, Land and Sky” on the loading dock of Studio 420b. This tribute to the earliest Milwaukeeans was painted by Mark David Gray to honor native tribes and the Menomonee River Valley. (Of course, to truly appreciate it, we recommend hopping off the bus for a closer look.)

5) Migration

by CERA and Katie Batten
“Migration,” by CERA and Katie Batten; photo by Abby Vakulskas

If you feel like stretching your legs, jump off at the Public Market and walk east to Jefferson Street. There you’ll find the brand new “Migration” adorning the Jefferson Street pedestrian tunnel. Freshly painted by MIAD alumni CERA and Katie Batten last October, this mural features native birds and Milwaukee landmarks that brighten up the once-gloomy underpass.

6) Black Cat Alley

by various artists
Black Cat Mural Alley
Black Cat Alley; photo by Abby Vakulskas

Loop back to the corner of Water and Michigan to rejoin the Green Line or 15 for the last leg of your journey. Sit back and relax as the bus takes you along the river and through the Lower East Side. You probably know where we’re going with this – Milwaukee’s renowned Black Cat Alley, just a block and a half east of your stop on North Ave. This “open gallery” is constantly changing and features both local artists and visitors to Milwaukee.

7) & 8) The finale

However, it’s worth noting that there are a couple of other fun murals nearby that stand in Black Cat Alley’s shadow. For the finale of your tour, don’t miss the giant 3D guitar on the north wall of what was once G-Daddy’s BBC, or “Grocery Aisle” by Yvonne Hangsterfer, a short walk south on the last building before the bridge.