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The Secrets of Black Cat Alley

Street art transforms a desolate spot

Sep. 13, 2016
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Milwaukee’s East Side is a crowded, dense place. Carving out a new corner can be challenging, and the newest location for art viewing is one of the most interesting in recent years. The Black Cat Alley is a semi-secret space where some fantastic street art is taking shape. 

The project is a reclamation, transforming an unused and desolate place into a creative passage that complements the area’s busting activity. Eleven artists, both local and international, were selected for the project and their works will be fully completed during the Doors Open Milwaukee weekend on Sept. 17-18.

As of this writing, a tall lift still sits in the alley, an aide to monumental pieces such as Adam Stoner’s 30-foot tall painting of a young man. He stands stoically against a vibrant orange background, his dark skin contrasted against white sleeves. Stoner’s work is intended to reflect the problems facing African American men and the high rates of incarceration in Milwaukee. “I want that portrait, that icon, to be a reminder to people of this city that this is not a problem we have solved in any measure,” says Stoner. 

The French artist, who goes by the moniker MTO, has produced a huge image of a frog that appears to leap from the brickwork on the side of the Oriental Theatre building. Breaking through the facade, he is decked out with a top hat and mustache, and is titled as a self-portrait, “A French man in Milwaukee.” It is dramatic for its imagery as well as sense of detail.

Other artists produce their work in a lyrical and even playful manner. Milwaukee artist Jeff Redmon is known for his abstract paintings, and in his piece a cyclopean figure expands with lines like wings, ready to take off from a cloud of turquoise color. While Redmon shows regularly in Milwaukee, it is a pleasure to see his work on such a scale, and for all of the artists to achieve greater public accessibility that comes with moving art from the gallery onto the street.

The Black Cat Alley is located in the alley between the Oriental Theater on Farwell Avenue and Colectivo Coffee on Prospect (enter on Kenilworth Boulevard or Ivanhoe Place). The grand opening, hosted by the East Side BID, is slated for Sept. 17-18, in conjunction with Doors Open Milwaukee.

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