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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.







Preparing the Materials

We’ve talked a lot about ideas, teaching, and even planning. But how do you actually make a mural?

I’ll start with the nitty gritty details and numbers. Photos are at the end of the post.

Return to the previous post to review our design process.

Our Supplies List

For anyone who’s curious, here’s what we went through.

Item Source Price Quantity Total Cost
Markers and crayons (for workshop activities) Target $9.57 1.00 $9.57
Sharpies, pencils, and graph paper (for workshop activities) Target $18.38 1.00 $18.38
Hardiebacker Cement Boards Home Depot $10.97 27.00 $296.19
Tarps Home Depot $4.48 2.00 $8.96
Glidden Premium Paint – gallon buckets Home Depot $23.48 3.00 $70.44
Behr Pro Exterior Paint – gallon buckets Home Depot $24.98 10.00 $249.80
Paint rollers Home Depot $6.28 3.00 $18.84
6 pack extra rollers Home Depot $10.97 1.00 $10.97
15 piece brush set Home Depot $9.67 1.00 $9.67
4 inch flat brush Home Depot $3.85 3.00 $11.55
1 inch flat brush Home Depot $0.94 4.00 $3.76
foam brushes Home Depot $0.64 9.00 $5.76
Pour Spouts for paint cans Home Depot $0.98 5.00 $4.90
Scotch Blue Painters Tape Home Depot $6.25 1.00 $6.25
9″ paint roller Community Warehouse $5.28 1.00 $5.28
Paint Rags 10 pack Home Depot $3.97 1.00 $3.97
Glidden Exterior Paint – 1 quart Home Depot $11.28 1.00 $11.28
VandlSystem 1-gal. Anti-Graffiti Coating Home Depot $50.24 1.00 $50.24

Additional Tools & Costs

  • One ViewSonic projector, provided by the school; artists provided laptop to hook up to the project
  • Both artists own the Adobe CS Suite to compile the final mural design and the files to project each panel
  • A very creaky, old CRV (his name is Bowser, that trooper), after we foolishly and ambitiously loaded all of the extremely heavy cement board panels into the car
  • 2 broken cement board panels 🙁 (Thank goodness we were able to get extra)
  • Donuts and churros for our students who got up early to help us paint

See the post on Painting Days to review our process, from setup to workflow.

Additional Information about Our Materials

Cement Board: Pros and Cons

  • Pros: They are extremely weather durable, and their advantage over a material like plywood is that they won’t bow or warp with the humidity and climate conditions. Cement board is usually used in shower and bathroom installations, so it’s made to take a lot of exposure to different conditions.
  • Cons: They are brittle. We had to be very careful in their transportation. While they are sturdy and long-lasting, we did drop and break two panels in half.

Why didn’t we choose to paint directly on the brick wall? In the case of our building, it’s made with cream city brick, and the aged brick is crumbling and peeling. The surface takes paint poorly and the paint would easily come off the portions of the building that are built with the cream city brick. Additionally, since this is a collaborative piece with the students and neighbors, it was easier to set our project up outside and in the school’s garage. This allowed us to do a lot of upfront planning, to project sections of the mural on each panel, and not have to worry about having any students on a lift to reach high points on the building.

Time and Labor

Artists: There were two of us professional artists on hired for this project, Jenie Gao and Gabriela Riveros. In addition to 8 workshop sessions (2-3 hours each, for a total of 20 workshop hours), we spent 10+ hours outside of classroom time:

  • lesson planning
  • collaging and curating the student images to create the final design and creating the plan for executing the mural
  • planning, purchasing, and transporting the materials

And 34+ hours of actual painting time (we typically had 7-10 helpers at a time, varying based on the students’ class schedules and community members’ participation):

  • Monday, 6/20 from 8 am to 3:30 pm
  • Tuesday, 6/21 from 8 am to 3:30 pm
  • Monday, 6/27 from 8 am to 3:30 pm
  • Tuesday, 6/28 from 8 am to 7:30 pm (Community Painting Day, where anyone from the neighborhood and city was invited to join us)

Contractor: We hired a contractor to install the panels on the wall. Our contractor worked to install the lumber support beams and hang the panels between 8/2 and 8/4. We had three student volunteers help him transport the panels to the building, where they also got to learn about installation.

Total, we (the artists) had 50+ hours of contact time with the students for this project, 34 of which we spent painting the mural.

Students and staff unloading the cement board panels (5′ x 3′) from the car.


My car will be so relieved…lesson learned, don’t buy all 20-some panels in one trip. My car was practically resting on the tires.


Day 1 was dedicated to priming the boards. Everyone earned their ice, cold beverages that day.

Priming the cement boards on a hot summer day.
Priming the cement boards on a hot summer day.
Priming the cement boards on a hot summer day.
Priming the cement boards on a hot summer day.
Priming the cement boards on a hot summer day.

Final Notes

We bought most of our supplies at Home Depot. The benefit of this is that Home Depot had everything we needed and multiple options. It was also convenient. But there are community resources for more affordable paint (though you’re limited in your options for colors). Community Warehouse in Milwaukee is a great resource for affordable supplies like brushes, paint rollers, and other staples, and it’s always worth looking for bulk/resale type shops like this place in any city you might be working in.

Glidden and Behr both had affordable options for exterior paint, semi-gloss. We went for semi-gloss because it’d be easier to wipe down if needed, without being maddeningly reflective in the sun like glossy paint would have been. It’s important to tell your paint mixer which colors you’ll be using as your primer or on top of other coats, as some colors are more opaque while others need to be mixed with a primer to be used on top of other paints.

Final Design: Mock-up

Once the students finished researching and drawing a variety of native crops and migratory species of butterflies that live in Wisconsin, we (Gabi and Jenie) got together to collage them together into a final composition.

Our goals:

  • creating a design that reflected our collaborative effort and unified our styles in one beautiful composition
  • creating a plan that made good use of the space and was practical for our supplies budget and time frame. We estimated 4 painting days and $800 for the mural supplies. You can see the breakdown of our supplies here.

Here is the final mock-up of our mural. Now we were ready to get supplies and start painting.

Collage of Escuela Verde Root Drawings FINAL_lowres
The students’ and instructors’ drawings collaged together in Photoshop for the final design, to be 12 x 30 feet.
Collage of Escuela Verde Root Drawings FINAL_lowres_grid
We divided the design into 24 5×3 foot panels, the size of the cement boards we would be using. The plan was to set up a workflow with a projector for each of the panels and then space on the ground and floor to finish painting and detailing each panel.
Final text design by Jenie Gao. We came to a consensus on the words, “Our Stories Share the Same Roots,” to drive the message of our mural.
Photoshop mock-up of the location and scale of the mural once installed on the building.