Artists Paint New Murals in East Tosa

Sara Stanislawski, Katie McCabe, and Maddie Bishop

Artists painted seven murals across local businesses in the East Towne Tosa neighborhood along North Avenue from mid to late July. 

The Wauwatosa Tourism Commission hired Wallpapered City, a local company experienced with murals, to organize the project. The corridor of murals was done at no cost to the businesses as the city is responsible for compensating the artists and Wallpapered City, as well as purchasing supplies. 

Many local citizens, such as East Towne Tosa residents Jessica and Corey Baumann, are excited for the murals and believe they reflect a growing vibrancy in the community. 

Corey Baumann graduated from Wauwatosa East in 1997. “My friends couldn’t wait to move out of Tosa, but now they’re moving back. The murals obviously show there’s a lot of improvement going on in Tosa and that it can be a great community for everybody,” said Baumann. 

Wauwatosa artist Christina Thomas is happy to have her art displayed to the community while also projecting the growth of the community through her mural. 

“Having lived here a few years I’ve seen how even in that short time how the community has changed so much by bringing in all these cool things into the neighborhood. I wanted to create something that was indicative of that growth,” said Thomas. 

State Representative and East Tosa resident, Robyn Vining is proud to have a mural from a local artist such as Thomas. Vining believes the murals will positively impact the atmosphere of East Tosa and the entire city. 

“East Tosa is a really fun community. We do a lot of walking to spend time and money on North Avenue and this is going to add a pep in the step of those enjoying North Avenue,” Vining said. 

Another East Tosa resident, Joe Donovan, thinks the murals will provide the chance for residents of the city and greater Milwaukee area to interact. 

“It’s another opportunity not only for those of us who live here to engage with their neighbors but also those from all around,” Donovan said. 

Additionally, Donovan believes the murals will have similar impacts to those of other local murals. 

“I think it will end up being a terrific draw just like it is in Black Cat Alley,” said Donovan. 

Founder of Wallpapered City, Stacy Williams-Ng, started Black Cat Alley, a collection of murals in downtown Milwaukee, and witnessed the large impact art can have on a location. Williams-Ng also hopes her work with the murals in East Tosa will positively impact the city. 

“It’s truly astonishing what street art can do to a place in terms of changing it and changing people’s ideas towards that place,” said Williams-Ng. “It’s just a coat of paint, but it’s a coat of paint that’s been done with love and creativity and it can change a place utterly.”

Williams-Ng approached business owners within East Towne Tosa to gain permission to paint on their buildings. After the mural locations were selected artists were able to submit their ideas to an open call for selection by six voting jurors from Wallpapered City. The murals they appointed were then each individually approved by the city. 

Business owners along North Avenue with murals displayed on their buildings, such as the owner of Voline Service Station, Richard Klein, are enthusiastic towards Wallpapered City’s project. 

“I think it’s awesome that the city is doing this for us. It really brings color and vibrancy to the area,” said Klein. 

Owner of Firefly Realestate and Wauwatosa resident, Doug Sprague, also thinks the murals bring vibrancy to the area. 

“I don’t know if it will have much of an effect on property values from a real estate standpoint, but it’s certainly better than looking at a blank brick wall,” said Sprague. 

Co-owner of Cranky Al’s, Joey Carioti, stated he was skeptical of the project at first, but is now happy to be a part of it. He believes people will be “talking about the art for years to come.”

Carioti also feels the murals show that local residents of Tosa care about their community. 

Carioti said, “People are invested in this community and when you’re invested, the possibilities are endless. That is what’s so great about Wauwatosa, you come here for two weeks and you end up staying here for eight years.”