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‘Creational Trails: A Placemaking Experience in Milwaukee

With a nod to the many gorgeous recreational trails throughout Milwaukee, our project‘Creational Trails, is a network of improv(is)ed spaces, projecting identity through light and sound to activate spaces as a means of breaking down barriers in Milwaukee.

Milwaukee is one of the most racially segregated cities in the country. In the predominantly African-American area of Harambee, some residents need to go down a steep foot path and then cross six lanes of traffic to reach the Riverworks Center retail area, which is a more Caucasian and successful middle-class neighborhood.

The Artery, a two-thirds of a mile linear trail connecting the Riverworks Center to Harambee, is home to an abandoned rail corridor that today is used as a dumping site for construction debris, auto tires and old televisions.

West Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee is a strip in the heart of the city that serves three communities with little interaction: business professionals commuting downtown for work, downtown and central city residents, and students from Marquette University who rarely venture east of their campus. The neighborhood’s woes are a problem for the entire region as Milwaukee tries to attract more business, conventions and visitors and create perceptions about safety and vibrancy. The Delta Center is the city’s main convention facility on West Wisconsin Avenue and many of the downtown hotels and entertainment facilities are concentrated nearby.

Our project ‘Creational Trails will activate these two linear pathways to connect neighborhoods that are divided by physical, racial and economic barriers by installing interactive light and sound art pieces in residual spaces, turning them into safe, walkable and bikeable destinations. ‘Creational Trails also seeks to provide amenities such as bike lanes, cafe seating, edible landscaping, pop-up businesses and lighting.

The project will be led by us, Greater Milwaukee Committee’s MiKE initiative, and managed by local organizations, Art Milwaukee and Beintween. We are also working closely with Riverworks Development Corporation, the City of Milwaukee, the West Wisconsin Avenue Task Force and dozens of other community leaders.

To kick-off the project, we held a press conference in May to announce the ArtPlace America award and present the ‘Creational Trails project to the larger community for the first time.

Mayor Tom Barrett weighed in on the importance of this project stating, “Creating flourishing places has the potential to generate additional innovation and economic activity, which broadly benefits the entire community…this project will be a real catalyst to energize many of the existing initiatives in these two locations.”

JuneCT Press Conference

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