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Unveiling the Finished Mural

We did it!!! It was a wonderful experience working with fellow artist, Gabriela Riveros, the students of Escuela Verde Milwaukee, and Ali Carlucci of Artists Working in Education, Inc. on this public art project. This mural has been and will continue to be a great way to research, talk about, and understand immigration and the role it plays in how civilizations change and evolve–culturally, technologically, and economically. It also serves as a beacon for the arts as not only integral–but a leader for how we think, feel, and take action.

Thank you to everyone who came to our mural celebration today, and to all the students, organizers, and community partners who made this project a success. For those of you who weren’t able to make it, you can view the mural at 35th and Pierce Street in Milwaukee and continue to learn more about the project on this website.

The driving force of this mural was collecting and researching our shared migration stories, so please, share your stories (and pictures!) with us as well! Keep in touch. ‪#‎MigrationStory‬‪#‎MyMigrationStory‬ ‪#‎community‬ ‪#‎Milwaukee‬

The finished mural, which stands 12 x 30 feet. It occupies the Eastern wall of the Superior Salt building, at 35th and Pierce Street, in Silver City.
Artists Gabi Riveros (left) and Jenie Gao (right).
Major thanks to Max Balan, who installed our mural panels on the Superior Salt Building!
Students and instructors with the mural.
Students and instructors with the mural.


Students and community members gathered for the celebration.
Beth and Ali of AWE, Inc. speaking alongside the students.
Classmates of the mural students at Escuela Verde.



Community Painting Day

Our final day of painting. Countless thanks go out to everyone who came out for this day. We seriously couldn’t have done this without you, and are excited to feature our collaboration with you for everyone in the neighborhood to see come August.



















Painting Days

After all this planning and preparing, we finally get to paint!

We spent:

  • 6/21: 1 full day (8 am to 3:30 pm) priming the boards and setting up the work area in the garage and driveway of Escuela Verde.
  • 6/22 and 6/27: 2 full days (8 am to 3:30 pm) painting with the students.
  • 6/28: 1 full day (8 am to 7:30 pm) painting with the community.
One of our students tracing the projection onto a cement board panel. The butterfly on this panel is by student Josue Galicia.
Painting on the projection. The plant on-screen is by Marysol Bermudes.
Students Marysol and Joselyn and artist Gabriela Riveros filling in and matching up the panels.
Joselyn adding detail to the plant.
Joselyn, Diego, Marysol, and Brian working on four of the panels.





Based on a drawing by student Isabel Castro.
Painting based on a drawing by Marysol Bermudes.
Gabi matching up the text.







Why butterflies, roots, and triangles?

The following video shares an exercise we did with our students at Escuela Verde.

In one of our workshops, we learned about fractals, and how this mathematical set can explain all the diversity that we see.

What is a fractal?

A fractal is a repeated, geometrical shape. It is itself repeated, and this repetition results in the complex patterns and systems that we see. We can see examples of fractals all throughout nature, and in our own, human-designed systems.

An example of a fractal.
Examples of fractals in nature.
Examples of fractals in nature.

Final imagery for the mural

After all our discussions of the role immigration plays in our markets, economics, and cultural development, we decided on two “images” to represent our ideas:

  1. Crops that now grow natively in Wisconsin, that have traveled to different regions as people have migrated and agricultural societies have developed.
  2. Migratory species of butterflies that travel thousands of miles every year, and are essential to the health of our ecosystem. The fact that the Butterfly Effect is a concept related to fractal theory is a nod to our explanation of diversity, via fractals. (The butterfly theory states that small causes can have large effects. When and where a butterfly flaps its wings can determine whether or not a hurricane occurs on the other side of the planet.)

We combined our imagery via the shared patterns of root structures, butterfly wings, and their underlying tessellations.

Crops drawn by Marysol Bermudes.
Butterflies by Isabel Castro.
Question Mark Butterfly by Jenie Gao.
Butterfly with roots by Marysol Bermudes.
Yellow sulphur butterfly by Gabriela Riveros.

The Mural Site & Transforming Public Spaces

Our project started with a partnership between Escuela Verde and Artists Working in Education.

About the Organizations

Escuela Verde is a public charter school in Milwaukee that uses a project-based learning model to emphasize sustainability, student-led learning, and restorative justice. Artists Working in Education is a nonprofit that partners with artists and schools, to use the arts as a way to collaborate on community solutions that reflect the values, concerns, and cultures of the neighborhoods we are a part of.

Together with their instructors and facilitators, the students at Escuela Verde met to discuss the relevant issues of their neighborhood. Escuela Verde is located at 36th and Pierce Street in Milwaukee’s Silver City.

About the Neighborhood & Concept

Milwaukee has always been a city of immigrants. In the 1800s, most of the immigrants were from Germany and Ireland, and in 1844 it had twice as many newspapers in German as in English.

Silver City continues to be a neighborhood representative of the groups that have immigrated here. Many of the immigrants are Hispanic and Hmong, but the neighborhood is home to many different immigrant populations who have started their businesses and new lives here, much like the generations of immigrants before them.


About the Site

The wall for our mural is the eastern side of the Superior Salt building, under the viaduct. We chose this location for a few reasons. The location is isolated and as a result, has little activity or observation. Neighbors are concerned about the safety of this street; because of the seclusion and lack of use, oncoming drivers often speed through this part of the street, even though within blocks of this location are to homes, a school, and community-focused organizations like the Urban Ecology Center and Wisconsin Bike Federation. The owner of the building has also had tagging problems. As you can see in the last picture, the north side of the building is covered with graffiti tags and bombs. Because the north side of the building faces the railroad, the city sees these tags as a violation of public space, and the costs fall on the building owner to remove the graffiti.

So the question is, can we use a public artwork to get people to slow down, to deter tagging, and ultimately, to make people become aware and respectful of the space in a different way?

Will this artwork be a way to focus people’s attention on the concerns facing their neighborhood, and start the conversations and actions we need to have?

Superior Salt Building, east-facing wall under the 35th/Pierce Street viaduct
Some of the students in our workshop and project
The tagged north-facing wall of the building, facing the Hank Aaron State Trail and railroad

Further Information

Statistics for the neighborhood available on AreaVibes and Point2Homes

A brief synopsis of the Silver City neighborhood: Silver City District and Silver City and Immigration