Pedestrian tunnel in Milwaukee transformed by mural; ‘A sense of wonder and surprise’

Jefferson St. mural

MILWAUKEE -- It was once a blank canvas nestled between downtown Milwaukee and the city's Historic Third Ward. New life has hatched inside the Jefferson Street pedestrian tunnel.

"We kind of talked a lot about a sense of wonder and surprise," said Katie Batten, mural artist.

The view now echoes the ever-passing foot traffic.

Jefferson St. mural

Beth Weirick

"There's over 1,400 people that every single day walk from the Historic Third Ward to downtown or from downtown to the Historic Third Ward," said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown Bid #21.

The mural is called "Migration." It was painted by two MIAD graduates who were selected from a pool of more than 30 artists.

"There seems to be so many creative people in the city; the city seems to be booming. And you know, to be part of that, we wanted to find a way -- how do we illustrate our appreciation for that?" asked Janson Rapisarda, mural artist.

Jefferson St. mural

It took two weeks to complete. The 50-foot pathway of color was officially unveiled on Monday, Oct. 29.

"It's probably upwards of 50 -- 50 colors altogether," said Rapisarda.

Images of Wisconsin's local and migratory birds flying among the city's landmarks.

Jefferson St. mural

Katie Batten

"It's nice to have a nod to the local ecology and a reference to the natural world that I think Milwaukee does a pretty good job of maintaining -- even in an urban environment," Batten said.

"People migrating from the various communities into downtown to work here, to live here, to play here or to just visit here," Weirick said.

The mural is just one of many projects initiated by the Downtown Placemaking Task Force -- to beautify the city's "Third Spaces."