By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Garden Homes, Milwaukee’s first suburb, is known for many things. Aside from being considered both a local and national historical landmark, over the years, Garden Homes has been proud of to boast about its heritage. Now, it’s the site of a brand-new mural.
Earlier this week, Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton along with Cheryl Blue, the 30th Street Executive Director and Ammar Nsoroma, the artist, unveiled the new mural. Although conditions prevented the mural from being hung, the Garden Homes community is hoping to have their new art installed by the end of the week.
The mural which depicts two former Milwaukee mayors, former Police Chief Arthur Jones, native Wisconsin plants and more will be portrayed on the corner of W. Atkinson and N. Teutonia.
“The folks who are on this mural represent the beauty that can come from this community,” said Hamilton.
Often, people talk about the “challenges” in this district, Hamilton said. But this mural is proof of what this area has accomplished, and it raises the expectations of what it can do.
“Let’s hope this becomes contagious so people always recognize the good that comes out of Garden Homes,” Hamilton said.
Blue wanted the mural to highlight the neighborhood’s unique history, its resilience and its rich assets. Community members are working hard to restore the neighborhood and move it forward, Blue explained, and this mural is proof of that.
Nsoroma explained that Blue wanted the mural to portray both the community’s historical past and its current community. In addition to several key figures, he incorporated local plants and water throughout as a nod towards Clean Wisconsin. The group has added water barrels throughout the neighborhood and hopes to add another one under the mural.
Throughout the mural, Nsoroma wanted to stress the connection between the people and the water.
He hopes that when people look at the mural that they’ll see not only a thing of beauty but a sign of welcome. Nsoroma wants people to enter and leave with a good feeling about Garden Homes.
Deantrium King, the community outreach specialist for the 30th Street Industrial Corridor, thinks that the mural is beautiful. King was one of the few people who saw the mural from beginning to finish. Even when it was just a rough sketch, he knew it was going to be something to admire.
“It incorporates everything it has the historical aspect and the environmental aspect,” King said.
He added, “It presents a lot of opportunities for residents and people who aren’t familiar with Garden Homes to kind of get an idea of what they’re bringing themselves into.”
For the community of Garden Homes, the mural is just one step of many to improving their beloved neighborhood. Over the year, recent groups and neighborhood icons have joined forces to create and implement the 2018 Garden Homes Neighborhood Plan.
“We just want people to see that this is a vibrant neighborhood that has a strong history,” said Blue. “We’re working together to revitalize it and move it forward.”
The plan outlines seven key categories: neighborhood pride, housing, education and intergenerational opportunities, health and wellness, economic development, employment and safety.
According to Blue, one of their current projects is resurfacing the playground. They want to make it a place for the kids to enjoy and one where adults can join classes like yoga or Zumba.
“[There’ll be] lots of things simultaneously,” Blue explained. “It’s not one thing, it’s a holistic effort with lots of different orgs and entities working together.”