West Allis Living Streets
Three new murals are coming to the Burnham Pointe area in fall of 2021 as part of West Allis Living Streets. Tax dollars are not being used to support these projects, which have been funded by First-Ring Industrial Redevelopment Enterprises (FIRE), a regional community development entity, run through the City of West Allis’ Economic Development Department.
Artists and mural locations
Erin LaBonte – 5901 W. Burnham St.
Erin LaBonte received her Bachelor of Fine Arts from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point and her Master of Fine Arts from the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts in Philadelphia. She has participated in artistic residencies in Costa Rica and Argentina and has exhibited nationally and internationally. Erin practices many artistic mediums in her own studio work. She is an advocate for bringing art to public spaces and for community engagement. Erin is dedicated to inspiring and educating young artists in their personal explorations. She served as associate professor of art at Silver Lake College in Manitowoc, WI for nine years, is currently associate lecturer at the University of Wisconsin Green Bay and is co-founder of Yonder, an art space in Algoma, WI.
Drew York – 6016 W. Burnham St.
Drew York is a Milwaukee muralist and painter, who is originally from Moline, Illinois. A retired professional BMX rider, York developed a passion for art through his travels around the globe meeting area artists and exploring major cities. York is now an entrepreneur, running his own residential and commercial painting company while also designing and cultivating original artwork. For the last few years, York has focused primarily on murals and canvas work, using a blend of both physical and digital art, bright colors, and mixed mediums to create his pieces. York’s murals can be seen in various spots throughout the City of Milwaukee, including Mobcraft Brewery, Bridge Battle Alley, and Four Seasons Skate Park. York is a featured artist in the locally owned Beard MKE and is the newest addition to the artist community House of RAD, where he has a studio and an indoor mural. Well known for his signature “Pirate Rabbit,” York derives much of his inspiration from his love of street art, nature and animals. He believes great art should be accessible to everyone, both in its location and price. When he isn’t working on a mural or creating in his studio, York loves riding his bike throughout the city, hiking along the Milwaukee River and wheat-pasting Pirate Rabbits around town. York owns and rents out a duplex in Riverwest, where he lives with his girlfriend and their dog.
John Kowalczyk – 6400 W. Becher St.
Born in Chicago in 1988, John Kowalczyk currently lives and works in Milwaukee, WI as an artist who utilizes art as a vehicle towards a more equitable society. He received his BFA in painting from Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design in 2010, and began a three-year residency with RedLine Milwaukee soon after, where he curated gallery exhibitions and developed a passion for community art. Since 2017, Kowalczyk has served as the Program Director with the non-profit organization Artists Working in Education where he oversees large scale community art projects working with artists, community stakeholders, and youth in Milwaukee. Kowalczyk founded the company Brick and Beauty in 2019 which produces custom visual art experiences and mural work. Kowalczyk’s work has been exhibited at the Sienna Art Institute in Italy, The Charles Allis Art Museum, The Museum of Wisconsin Art, Cedarburg Cultural Center, John Michael Kohler Art Center, and D.Varelli Gallery in Chicago along with other galleries across the U.S. Kowalczyk is represented by Scout Gallery in Milwaukee, WI.
“West Allis Living Streets” (WALS) made West Allis a lot more colorful in 2020. Four new artworks were installed at various sites around the commercial corridor of West Allis, sponsored by the City’s Artscape Committee.
Walls identified for the project included the west-facing wall of a commercial building at 7506 W. Greenfield Ave., the east-facing wall of the upcoming Reunion Restaurant at 6610 W. Greenfield Ave., the south-facing exterior wall of the West Allis Towne Centre, located on the northeast corner of W. Greenfield Ave. and S. 70 St., and the large façade of the Noble Senior Living Facility at 7400 W. Greenfield Ave. The Noble Senior Living Facility, with its five-story expanse of wall, was reserved for a special artist invitation to Thomas “Detour” Evans of Colorado.
The WALS project was led by Wallpapered City, the artist-led working group that implemented the “North Avenue Mural Arts District” (NoMAD) in Wauwatosa last summer, as well as Black Cat Alley, Bay View Street Canvas, and other public and commercial art projects in the Milwaukee area.
“We have wanted to do this in West Allis for years, and we could not be happier to begin this work in 2020,” said Mayor Dan Devine, a longtime supporter of strengthening arts and cultural opportunities in West Allis. ”This project has been fantastic for our City.”
INVITATION TO DETOUR
Thomas Evans, aka “Detour,” was invited to paint the five-story expanse of the Lamplight building at 7400 W. Greenfield Ave. as part of this project. Detour, from Denver, COL., is an all-around creative specializing in large scale public art, interactive visuals, portraiture, immersive spaces, and creative directing. His focus is to create work where art and innovation meet. A born collaborator and “military brat,” Detour pulls from every conceivable experience that shapes his landscapes and perspectives.
The mural was inspired by a photograph of one of Detour’s friends, John Chapman, and Chapman's son, Britton. Detour hopes people will relate to the piece through their own happy memories with loved ones.
SELECTING THE OTHER ARTISTS
An impartial jury comprised of West Allis residents, City staff, and local business owners, reviewed nearly 100 submissions to select artists for the remaining three walls.
Visit the WALS murals and other City of West Allis Artscape Committee projects, and share your experiences on social media, #WestAllisLivingStreets.