Go, See, Explore: Finding Hope + Optimism in Public Art in Westown


This year has been challenging in many ways for families. One way we’ve been coping is by getting outside and exploring more together: hikes, beach days, and many neighborhood walks. Like the beauty of nature, art has the power to make us smile and to give us hope – something we all need to experience more of from time to time.

We decided to take advantage of a recent sunny morning and get outside as a family. Instead of our usual adventure in nature, I spent a few minutes looking at The Milwaukee Downtown site, made a list, and had a plan in hand. We packed up the kids and the stroller in the car after breakfast and set off downtown to explore some art in Westown

Public Art Tour in Westown

Because of how close together the art I planned for us to visit was, we decided to park and walk. We found a parking spot on James Lovell St. and Wisconsin Ave. and our itinerary had us heading east to the river and back.

Our first stop was a mural “Westown in Bloom”, located at the corner of James Lovell Street and Wisconsin Avenue and created by local artist Emma Daisy Gertel in late June 2019. The mural features an urban garden. The artist hoped her art would “enliven the space and create a sense of wonder, vibrancy, beauty, and hope that is representative of the revitalization and renewal efforts of Westown.” The bright beautiful colors definitely put a smile on my face and provided a cheerful and welcoming backdrop to the start of our public art tour.

Our next stop was only a block away on 6th Street and Wells Street. The mural “Heart & Sol” created by local artist Mauricio Ramirez was installed in fall 2019. The artist hoped to portray the optimism for our city’s future with two figures symbolizing unity and strength. The illustration of two young females portrays a love for the diversity of our city and their strong expressions and posture show them looking forward to the future with hope.

We walked a few more blocks to Pere Marquette Park and let our toddler out to explore the steel sculpture “Dancing Through Life.”

Then it was on to the Wisconsin Avenue Bridge to see the bronze sculpture “Gertie the Duck.” He loves animals so we knew he would enjoy seeing this art up close and personal and the walk across the bridge was a highlight for him.

There is something so hopeful about watching a toddler experience something new and different. Watching him peer through the bridge down to the river, say hello to everyone who walked by, and marvel at each and every big truck and all of the loud noises of the construction was enough to make the trip downtown worthwhile. 

Our last stop, the sculpture “Family”, was at Henry Reuss Federal Plaza. The abstract sculpture, commissioned in the late 1970s, is made of 68 tons of Norweigan blue granite. The artist, Helaine Blumenfeld, intended for the forms to symbolize human figures and their relationships. This piece caught my eye on The Milwaukee Downtown site because of an silly connection to my hubby (also born in the late 1970s and of Norweigan heritage), but also since we were on a family adventure, I thought it only fitting to stop here for a photo opp.

While the hubby got the kids in the car, I ran back to “Westown in Bloom” one last time to admire the flowers and to take a selfie.

It’s not everyday that I get dressed, wear my hair down, and leave the house. I wanted to remember the beautiful fall morning with my family. Moments like this need to be documented to remind me that hope and optimism can come in many forms.



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here