Publisher’s Pick

New: Publisher’s Pick highlights one community art project per issue. This issue highlights Wallpapered City founded by muralist and artist, Stacey Williams-Ng


Publisher’s Pick: Wallpapered City

written by Stacey Williams-Ng

Vol 28

Detail of mural, “Taste the Sweetness” by Eric Ricks. Photo by Stacey Williams-Ng

In July of 2019, the Tourism Commission of Wauwatosa, Wisconsin engaged Wallpapered City to manage and execute a series of six murals along North Avenue in the neighborhood known as “East Tosa,” a commercial corridor between 64th and 70th streets. Wallpapered City does not actually do wallpapering at all—the name of our company is a euphemism for covering the town in murals and pictures—it’s an expression meaning, “paint the town red.” We have a vision to bring public art to communities throughout the Midwest and beyond, because we believe that murals are not just decorative. We know that public art creates conversations, that it makes unique new destinations, and that it has the potential to create pride of place.  When public art projects are done well, they can build up communities, stimulate the economy, and even persuade tourists to visit there. Many urban planning studies have shown that cities with more public art are perceived as more progressive—very many young professionals see it a sign that a city has a thriving cultural arts scene.

In our initial meetings with Wauwatosa, we learned that they were inspired by these ideas, and wanted to see how public art could engage and beautify their East Tosa corridor— and were ready to invest heavily in this experiment. Over the course of several months, we planned, walked the area, spoke with residents, met with building owners, and put out a widespread call to artists. The actual call to artists reached far and wide— we had applicants from as far away as Portugal, South Africa, Puerto Vallarta! We could hardly believe how many artists were interested in painting murals in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin. When the deadline finally came, we had hundreds of entries, and they were each more amazing than the last. Surprisingly, very few local Wisconsin artists applied to the call, as a percentage. Our jury was determined to choose the right balance of talent for the six walls, ensuring that we included artists whose work would be inclusive of different themes, different styles, different points of view, and come from different places. We wanted to ensure that our representative artists were diverse, from different racial heritages, different gender identities, and even different skill levels if possible. And finally, when the six walls were complete, we wanted the walls to work together as a curated set at “face value” in an aesthetically pleasing way, so that even if the viewer didn’t know or care who made them, the works would just look fantastic together, and just perfectly suit the walls and the spaces they were designed for. Think this sounds easy? (No?) Well  you’d be right. It was an incredibly difficult process. And on top of all of that, each building owner had to be pleased with his or her selection of mural artist, in order to grant permission. It was a tough job, but in the end, we narrowed what seemed like a million paintings down to six. And the Wauwatosa community has been delighted with the results.

Ivan Roque working on his mural, “A Life of Gold”. Photo by Stacey Williams-Ng

Have you visited the Wauwatosa mural corridor? If so, please reach out to Wallpapered City’s Facebook or Instagram page with a comment, we would love to hear your feedback or see your selfies. For more information on any of the artists who painted the East Tosa murals, or on how to start a mural program in your own community, please write to info@wallpapered.city.

Visit Wallpapered City.

 

About Wallpapered City

We help artists find mural projects, and we help building owners and neighborhoods find artists. People call us when they want to sponsor mural programs, and when they want to put up murals. In this way, we serve not only as logistics managers but also as curators, match-makers, and consultants to mural projects. [source: Wallpapered City]