As part of the Milwaukee Art Museum’s Teen ArtXpress internship program, area students created a design to cover a Milwaukee County Transit System bus. The decoration was unveiled on August 11, featuring an anti-Immigration and Customs Enforcement theme.

Covering the entire bus, the illustrations presented the message “Celebrating over 160 years of Dreamers: Milwaukee is immigrant strong,” and depicts message of resistance against the Gestapo-like tactics used by the federal agency.

MCTS released a statement clarifying that the bus mural was paid advertising and did not necessarily reflect the opinions of the transit service. But it supported the position that art was a reflection of the freedom of expression, and the subject showcased in the design displayed what was on the minds of the youth who participated in the museum’s program.

“MCTS approved the design of the paid advertising piece from the Milwaukee Art Museum,” said Matt Sliker, Integrated Marketing Manager with the Milwaukee County Transit System. “Every year, the Milwaukee Art Museum purchases ad space on a bus to display their finished teen artwork. Additionally, they pay for the bus to park at their unveiling event so that teens can take photos of their work. We reviewed the content and it met our standard advertising guidelines.”

In its 18th year, the Teen ArtXpress program worked with a diverse group of 18 youth from more than a dozen schools across the metro Milwaukee area, between 16 and 18 years old. Activities included making art with professional artists, giving tours of exhibitions at the museum, leading art activities in the community, and participating in the “Craft for a Greater Good” program.

The final project that the teens created was a mural that would be placed somewhere in the community. Typically it has been installed on a bus or a bus shelter, and it is paid for with museum advertising dollars. While the museum does not support or condone any political message, it also does not censor any artists.

“The teens were encouraged to use the bus space to cover a topic they personally cared about, drawn directly from their personal experiences. They unanimously chose to focus on the topic of protecting their friends and neighbors from deportation and came into the program deeply concerned about this issue. This was not a topic suggested or assigned by any museum staff,” said the Milwaukee Art Museum in a statement. “We hope the attention around this artwork can lead to conversations about how art can foster important conversations and bring people together around tough issues in a constructive, positive way.”

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Milwaukee Art Museum