By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Despite the rain, which went from a drizzle to a downpour, the unveiling and dedication of Washington Park’s art mural, “The Healing Quilt” went off without a hitch on Oct. 14, 2017. It marks the first public mural as part of The Milwaukee Art Project (MAP).
The curation of the mural began back in late August. Community members of Walnut Hill, Saint John’s on the Lake residents, and the youth from the Our Next Generation program gathered together to commence the final product. Several months later, with the mural officially completed, they joined together again for the official ribbon cutting.
Everything pertaining to the mural has marked it a community project since the start. It was through the donation of this building by Perris Cannady, the fundraising through Saint John’s on the Lake, and the assistance of the children that the mural was even possible.
The mural is located on the side of Londyn Foods at 3133 W. Lisbon Avenue. Cannady, who’s been in the neighborhood for 49 years, said, “[It was the] least I could do, to give back to the community.”Although painted on the side of a building, the mural is hard to miss. It is approximately 42 feet by 18 feet. The colors are bright, if unconventional. There is radiance that shines full of messages of warmth and aspirations and above all a sense of community.
When people look at the mural, Suzanne Osetek, a resident of Saint John’s on the Lake, wants them to think that’s it’s beautiful, she wants them to celebrate diversity and healing, and she wants them to feel pride.
With the surrounding neighborhood in mind, the mural directly reflects the diversity of Milwaukee. There’s a Hmong woman, an African American man, a woman in a hijab among others proudly depicted on the wall. Among the people, is a child on a bike, a woman holding a quilt, Samson the gorilla, but perhaps most importantly, a man throwing away a gun.
According to Osetek, the idea for the mural formulated as a response to the fatal shooting of Sylville Smith in 2016 in Milwaukee’s Sherman Park. The image and message of the man disposing of the gun is clear—gun violence must end.
As Willie Weaver-Bey, MAP Vice-President said, “We embarked on this journey because we knew something was needed in this community.”
In addition to the gun, the mural colors are strong and they were chosen by children of the community. According to Rukiya Alexander, the associate director of programs for Our Next Generation, the children looked at a mini version of the mural and gave their input, hence the jungle cat is a shade of lavender.
Alexander is grateful the kids were included on the project. The neighborhood is their home, and the mural helped relay an important lesson, said Alexander.
“You are not defined by your zip code or environment,” she said. “You make it what you want it to be.”
After the ribbon cutting, members of the community including Cannady, Osetek and Alexander were recognized with special certificates.
Stephanie Samarripa, from the Department of Neighborhood Services, spoke on behalf of Mayor Tom Barret. She reminded attendees that for a city to transition it begins with the voices of the residents, only then can the city find its own voice.
With the “The Healing Quilt” now complete in addition to the “Sherman Park Rising” mural, residents hope Milwaukee continues to heal.