MKE IT Downtown

Gateway Mural Creates New Sense of Arrival for Westown

July 15, 2019 /   Westown Gateway Mural Emma Daisy Gertel Placemaking Milwaukee Downtown

Westown Gateway Mural Emma Daisy Gertel Cristina Ossers

Wisconsin Avenue is having nothing short of a busy summer. Between sculptures and major road and building renovations, the street is full of resurgence and rejuvenation. Building on this momentum, Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21 and the Downtown Placemaking Task Force have commissioned local artist Emma Daisy Gertel for the new Westown mural at the northeast corner of James Lovell Street and Wisconsin Avenue. The high-impact, west-facing canvas will feature an urban garden as its subject matter—a metaphor for the resurgence in Westown. 

“My artistic concept is to create a bright, colorful garden of flora to enliven the space and create a sense of wonder, vibrancy, beauty, and hope that is representative of the revitalization and renewal efforts of Westown,” said Daisy. “Plant life improves mood and there is nothing more welcoming to visitors than fresh flowers.”

But Daisy’s motivation comes from more than just her desire to instill this metaphor. Earlier this summer, she rolled a chalkboard through two Westown events: the Farmers Market and River Rhythms. At these events, she fielded on the design from the people who live and interact within Westown the most. Participants received a custom-designed wildflower seed packet with information about her project. 

On the chalkboard, community members placed a pin on a world map from where they born. Fortunately for the project, it was World Refugee Day in Milwaukee, reflecting Westown's diversity. Pins dropped in places on that map that read anywhere from Cleveland, OH to Mandalay, Myanmar. With this information, Daisy has picked flowers for the mural that are native to the countries on the map. 

Westown Gateway Mural Emma Daisy Gertel Milwaukee Downtown PlacemakingThe goal is to create a sense of ownership and unity amongst all who work, live, and interact in Westown. And as many are feeling, the growing list of projects along Wisconsin Avenue are generating positive vibes for the city as a whole, "There's renewed energy and unparalleled opportunities on Wisconsin Avenue," said CEO Beth Weirick to OnMilwaukee a few months ago. "We couldn't have selected a more vibrant or impactful location. The Gateway Mural will welcome the thousands of residents, workers, students and visitors who travel the Avenue on a daily basis. We're excited to delight them with new public art."

So, come celebrate the completion of this project at 622 W. Wisconsin Avenue on Friday, July 19th at 10 AM. Join us for free donuts, mini-bouquets of flowers from Bluebird Design, and Dunkin’ gift cards for the first 50 guests. 

Funding support for the Westown Gateway Mural comes from Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, City of Milwaukee Neighborhood Improvement Development Corporation (NIDC), Wisconsin Avenue Property, LLC, Westown Association, and Dunkin'.

About the Author: Joe Franke is Milwaukee Downtown's Economic Development and Public Space Intern, and engages with stakeholders to promote the downtown business environment. Photography courtesy of Cristina Ossers. 

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