Utility Box Murals

Wisconsin’s Avenue to the Arts

In our efforts to reclaim Milwaukee’s main street, Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 declared 2017 “The Year of Wisconsin Avenue.” The International Downtown Association award-winning program brought ten colorful utility box murals to the street, completed by nationally recognized artist Mauricio Ramirez.

Each mural tells the story of Wisconsin Avenue’s rich history of commerce, diversity of people and architecture, and its undoubtedly bright future. Since 2017, Mauricio continues to reside in Milwaukee and has transformed overlooked walls into some of the city’s brightest and largest murals, including “Heart & Sol,” commissioned by Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 on the Community Advocates building in 2019. The project has even inspired the creation of a citywide utility box mural program.

City of the Arts

720 E. Wisconsin Avenue 

Sponsored by the Milwaukee Arts Board 

Reflecting Wisconsin Avenue’s terminating vista, this mural depicts the Milwaukee Art Museum’s breathtaking addition completed in 2001. The Quadracci Pavilion serves as Santiago Calatrava’s first project in the United States. The structure’s operating wings span 217 and take three-and-a-half minutes to open and close each day. The sculpture-like building has since become the official symbol for the City of Milwaukee, inspiring the overall lakefront skyline’s architecture and design. 

WELCOMING FACES, FRIENDLY PLACES

650 N. Jackson Street

Sponsored by Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21

Milwaukee’s walking concierges. Downtown’s spirit squad. Information gurus. Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 Public Service Ambassadors, and Clean Sweep Ambassadors go by many names. What remains consistent is their unwavering dedication to keeping downtown clean, safe, and friendly. Since Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21’s inception in 1998, the downtown ambassadors continue to make Wisconsin Avenue shine from sunrise to sundown.

HISTORIC HOSPITALITY

411 E. Wisconsin Avenue

Sponsored by 411 East Wisconsin Center 

Paying homage to Wisconsin Avenue’s countless friendly faces in the hospitality industry, this mural depicts longtime Pfister Hotel bellhop Harold Lewis. Known for his warm smile and personality, Harold has helped roll out the red carpet for the thousands of hotel guests for this historic hotel. The street-facing mural depicts the hotel’s architect, Charles Koch, credited for designing the $1 million building in 1893, billed as the “Grand Hotel of the West.” That’s equivalent to over $30 million today!

FASHION AND DESIGN

411 E. Wisconsin Avenue 

Sponsored by 411 East Wisconsin Center

Harkening back to the days of Wisconsin Avenue’s prominent department store offerings, these murals depict fashion commonly seen on Wisconsin Avenue in the early 20th century. Wisconsin Avenue was once home to the region’s largest selection of department stores, including Chapman’s, Espenhain’s, Gimbel’s, and later Marshall Field’s.

MILWAUKEE BRIDGE WAR

200 E. Wisconsin Avenue 

Sponsored by Drury Hotels 

In the late 19th century, fierce competition between Juneau Town (Eastown) and Kilbourn Town (Westown) resulted in a complicated matrix of shipping yards and streets. When the first bridge was constructed in 1842, the sides disputed and arguments escalated into the infamous Bridge War of 1845. Depicted in this mural, Milwaukee’s founding fathers Solomon Juneau (sidewalk-facing) and Byron Kilbourn (street-facing) are divided by the Milwaukee River.

GOOD LAND

707 N. Plankinton Avenue 

Milwaukee is home to several indigenous populations, including Menominee, Potawatomi, Ojibwe, and Ho-Chunk tribes. Approximately seven villages were once located within a two-mile radius of Milwaukee’s present-day downtown. The name “Milwaukee” derives its name from the Algonquian term meaning “good land.” Other interpretations include “gathering place.”

CITY OF FESTIVALS

310 W. Wisconsin Avenue 

Sponsored by 310W 

Milwaukee may be best known as the “City of Festivals” for weekend revealers everywhere. And, Wisconsin Avenue has played host for countless parades and community gatherings since its early days. Most notably, Wisconsin Avenue was home to the Great Circus Parade (1963 – 2009), City of Festivals Parade (1983 – 1993), and the Milwaukee Holiday Parade (1927 – 2018). Each year, millions of visitors and locals alike are drawn to Wisconsin Avenue to experience one of the country’s largest St. Patrick’s Day Parade and the popular NEWaukee Night Markets. The sidewalk-facing mural depicts the late Milwaukee-native Charlotte Rae, known for her role in NBC’s “The Facts of Life.”

CIVIL RIGHTS

700 N. 6th Street 

Sponsored by The Wisconsin Center District 

Milwaukee played a pivotal role in the Civil Rights Movement, including the work of the late Vel R. Phillips (1923 – 2018) and Father James Groppi (1930 – 1985). In 1956, Vel R. Phillips was the first woman and African American to serve on the Milwaukee Common Council. With support from Father Groppi, Phillips passed her groundbreaking Fair Housing Law in 1968, after nearly six years of garnering support. In 1979, Phillips became the first woman elected as Wisconsin’s Secretary of State. She was later honored by the City of Milwaukee when 4th Street was renamed and dedicated to Vel R. Phillips Avenue in 2018.

AL MCGUIRE AND MARQUETTE UNIVERSITY

706 N. 9th Street 

Sponsored by The Wisconsin Club 

Considered by many as Marquette University’s greatest coaches of all time, Al McGuire led the university’s unrivaled basketball team to 11 consecutive season winnings. Between 1964 and 1977, McGuire shattered records with a final 259-80 loss tally throughout his 13-year reign. He was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1992. McGuire’s legacy lives on at Marquette University’s Al McGuire Center and the annual Briggs and Al’s Run and Walk fundraiser for Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. 

A New Day

250 E. Wisconsin Avenue

Sponsored by Two-Fifty

Commissioned in 2019 by Two-Fifty East, Mauricio Ramirez brought back his signature street art to Wisconsin Avenue to capture the exciting developments that took place since the first utility box murals were completed in 2017. The new mural features The Hop streetcar and a buck, one of the most notable icons of Milwaukee's NBA team and a nod to the completion of the Fiserv Forum and Deer District. 

Thank You to Our Community Partners