An extra day was added to Tia Richardson’s community mural painting of “Sherman Park Rising” on August 4, giving residents and city leaders one last opportunity to participate in the production process.

Just two weeks ago the wall at 4715 W. Center Street was completely blank, and from July 19 to 23 the community painted 80% of the mural space. The August 4 “Community Paint Day with the Mayor” provided an opportunity for elected officials to issue praise and commentary on the impact of the mural. The extra day also helped connect area residents before the project finished. Stories were told of people who lived in the area but had never met each other until volunteering to paint the mural.

“This is what the mural is about, building relationships and community, both in a literal sense and metaphysical sense. It is about what can happen when we come together,” said mural artist Tia Richardson. “We wanted to gather for one more community involvement day to help paint the mural. I believe in how powerful it is, and when we all get our hands in the pot we can create something great together.”

Hosted by the City of Milwaukee Department of Neighborhood Services, Safe & Sound, and Richardson, the event brought the vision of unity to life for Sherman Park residents. Many of the issues faced by the community need to be addressed at the grassroots level, not from the top down. Organizations like Safe & Sound are in the neighborhoods, knocking on doors and working with residences.

“I think the Sherman Park residents have responded in an amazing fashion, they have really banded together to move us forward as a community,” said Mayor Barrett. “For those who do not live in the neighborhood, the hard issues are easy to gloss over because they do not understand the complexities. So people outside the neighborhood need to understand the challenges that an area like Sherman Park has to face.”

Katie Sanders, Executive Director of Safe & Sound, talked about growing up a few blocks away from the mural site. She was reminded of a clean-up project nearby that she had volunteered for at the age of nine. The media had come and interviewed one of her friends, and they asked how she felt about picking up the garbage.

“My friend became really serious when she answered. She said it made her feel sad. As kids we teased and made fun of her for being so dramatic, but she was right,” said Sanders. “Our neighborhood affects us and how we feel. This mural makes me happy, and it is the continuation of many beautification efforts going on here. Within the art I see the positivity, beauty, and the story of diversity of the neighborhood.”

Richardson expects to complete the “Sherman Park Rising” mural in the next few weeks, and a completion ceremony will be scheduled later in the summer. The artwork initiative is part of the momentum that is attracting economic interests to Center Street, in the aftermath of the August 2016 disturbance.

“What happened last year in Sherman Park will never be forgotten, it is cemented in Milwaukee history,” said Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II. “But we’ve made progress, because we have taken that adversity and turned it into economic opportunity.”

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Lee Matz