Milwaukee is not only a hub for history and industry, but its streets are a canvas for vibrant outdoor art. From colorful murals to thought-provoking sculptures, the city’s public spaces are filled with a diverse collection of outdoor art that reflects Milwaukee’s creative spirit and commitment to fostering a visually stimulating urban environment. In this blog post, join us as we embark on a journey through Milwaukee’s outdoor art collection, uncovering the stories behind these captivating installations that contribute to the city’s unique landscape.
At City Tours MKE, we love showing off the city’s cultural side on our unforgettable Milwaukee day trips. From haunted history tours to cutting-edge museums, there is plenty to love about this Midwest hotspot. If you’re hungry for more information, check out our blog about the Best Things to Do in Milwaukee: A Local’s Complete Guide, which includes several museum recommendations for you to enjoy! Just get in touch if you have more questions.
Enjoy Sculpture Milwaukee — a Dynamic Outdoor Gallery
One of Milwaukee’s most famous outdoor galleries is Sculpture Milwaukee. Each year, the annual outdoor sculpture exhibition chooses a theme to transform the city’s downtown into an open-air gallery.
With a diverse selection of artworks from world-renowned artists, Wisconsin Avenue is filled with work for everyone to enjoy! From abstract creations to thought-provoking installations, Sculpture Milwaukee celebrates the power of public art to engage and inspire.
From October 2023 to Summer 2024, the theme is Actual Fractals, Act I, which can be previewed on the gallery’s website. This theme explores seven artists’ takes on “pastimes and pleasures that shape contemporary life, here and in the world beyond” and is an excellent exhibition!
Another ongoing exhibition is called Nature Doesn’t Know About Us, which explores the human connection to the natural world over 16 exhibitions scattered around downtown. You can explore the maps of these artworks on Sculpture Milwaukee’s website and plan a walk that takes them all in.
Discover Black Cat Alley on Your Trip to Milwaukee
Heading now to Milwaukee’s East Side, art enthusiasts can check out the vibrant and eclectic Black Cat Alley. From a once-neglected side street, local and international artists have helped to turn this space into an outdoor mural gallery. Expect a range of styles, from abstract designs to political works with a message.
Black Cat Alley not only breathes life into the neighborhood but also serves as a testament to the city’s evolving identity, embracing street art as a form of cultural dialogue and urban revitalization.
Take a Stroll on RiverSculpture! On Your Milwaukee Visit
As the Milwaukee River winds its way through the city, it becomes a natural canvas for RiverSculpture! This initiative places outdoor art installations along the riverbanks and features sculptures, often created by local artists, which invite residents and visitors to engage with art in unexpected outdoor settings.
Whether it’s a whimsical sculpture that reflects the playful spirit of the river or a thought-provoking piece that sparks contemplation, RiverSculpture! transforms the riverwalk into an ever-changing gallery, making art an integral part of the urban river experience.
There are 22 works in the series, which include a range of temporary and permanent installations. There are also information kiosks near each sculpture that offer more background to the works on display, as well as information about planning a self-guided walk amongst them.
Visit Lynden Sculpture Garden on Your Milwaukee Trip
Located a short drive north of Milwaukee’s downtown, the Lyden Sculpture Garden is a beautiful day out. Situated over 40 acres of lush greenery, the collection boasts more than 50 sculptures for visitors to enjoy on their visit. Much like the other art attractions on our list, this spot is also free to everyone!
There are often exhibitions on rotation at the Gardens, meaning you can see old favorites while discovering new ones. The offerings aren’t limited to sculptures alone, but feature artists working across an array of mediums, including printing, painting, and illustration.
Learn About Black History and Art on Your Milwaukee Trip
The Wisconsin Black Historical Society and Museum pays homage to its rich African American heritage. Outside, there is a vibrant mural that artist George Gist painted in 2016, which stands as a monument to the legacy of Black people in Wisconsin.
The museum serves as a powerful reminder of Milwaukee’s commitment to celebrating its people and recognizing the contributions of individuals who have shaped the cultural landscape of the city and beyond. With an array of authentic artifacts from Milwaukee and Wisconsin and moving exhibits, the museum is a must for any art lover. Admission for children is free and for all other adults, it’s $10.
At 1740 N Doctor M.L.K. Jr Dr, you can also see a bronze statue of Martin Luther King Jr., who is standing on a pile of books, which pays homage to his famous speeches and love for education.
While that brings our virtual tour of Milwaukee’s outdoor art collection to a close, we hope you’re feeling inspired to visit and experience it for yourself! If you want to get grounded in our city, we recommend taking our Iconic Milwaukee Sightseeing Tour, which takes in some of the artistic delights we’ve mentioned. If you’d like to learn more about our tours, just contact our local team who will be more than happy to help you begin your Milwaukee adventure!