Creational Trails

The Greater Milwaukee Committee

Funding Received: 2013
Milwaukee, WI
Funding Period: 1 year and 5 months

Creational Trails is creating a network of improvised spaces as a means of encouraging acceptance and growth of the cultural diversity in Milwaukee. Specifically, Creational Trails is taking a unique approach to developing interactive art projects in targeted neighborhoods with the aim of raising visibility of those areas and activity within, such as increased foot and bike traffic. The two locations include the artery, a two-thirds of a mile former rail corridor connecting the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, and a 10-block stretch on West Wisconsin Avenue in downtown Milwaukee. Both locations hosted several public events and public calls and commissioned placemaking activities with a focus on arts and culture throughout 2014.

Creational Trails is led by the Greater Milwaukee Committee’s (GMC) Innovation in Milwaukee (MiKE) initiative with management being contracted to NEWaukee and beintween. All installations made by Creational Trails are vetted by a group of professionals and members of the community.

Project Overview:

On "The Avenue," NEWaukee piloted the work of a culturally diverse set of artists and vendors to create the feel of a neighborhood market on the mainstreet of a busy downtown. At the artery, beintween incorporated arts in an old railroad line to become a linear community park.  

At the artery, the open call for performances led the team to a broad set of lesser-known or “underground" artists in the two neighborhoods and surrounding areas. The performances during Season One at the artery included a Korean drumming group, healthy food information sessions and demonstrations, various performance troupes, community BBQs, open mic nights, movie screenings and workshops. Along with the performances, trail installations included ICAN2 Labs, an on-site alternative learning space, the community table, performance stages with seating made from recycled materials, basketball ball court sculptures, and trail signage and definition (e.g. lighting and mowing). The artery had impact on the digital space through the Healthy Words program, a collection of positive words about the trail from community members compiled into a video and shared online.

Another layer of the work at the site was the production of art and other installments along the trail. The artist-in-residence, working with beintween, accessed recycled industrial materials from the Port of Milwaukee and local construction businesses. They enhanced the park with art and created defined community gathering areas (table, stages, lighting, etc).

Along The Avenue, the open call for creative placemaking ideas provided the team with a broad range of art projects and activities to produce at the site. The featured art projects during the Night Market included Polyplane, temporary murals created with industrial saran wrap; a live radio show curated by Ayzha Fine Arts Gallery; craft beer created to fund local arts programs; the Moire Pavillion; recycled tree stump seats; urban hikes; a sidewalk installation; and the market itself, curated by a local craft fair organizer. NEWaukee launched the monthly Night Market to activate the space, creating a model for programming similar spaces. WAM DC and the downtown BID, among others, are also collaborating with NEWaukee on this monthly Night Market.

Also as a result of the ArtPlace grant, the GMC and WAM DC hosted a Strategic Actioning Session (SAS) to form a comprehensive West Wisconsin Development Plan in order to form long-range plans around retail, housing, creative endeavors and overall development of the street.


Next Steps:

Stemming from the original ArtPlace grant of $350,000 for Creational Trails: the artery and The Avenue, the GMC and its partners are developing The Milwaukee Method of Creative Placemaking, convening a cultural leadership network, and facilitating creative placemaking projects in neighborhoods across the city. The Greater Milwaukee Committee also formed the Creative Placemaking Committee in fall 2014 to foster local support for creative placemaking and contribute to an emerging national dialogue in the field. This new initiative originates from a long history of the GMC's investment in Milwaukee as a vibrant place to live, learn, work, and play.

In the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods, the GMC is working with Riverworks Center, the City of Milwaukee, MKE<->LAX and beintween on the Beerline Trail Neighborhood Development project. The coalition is investing in this corridor as an opportunity for the sharing of access and resources between the neighborhoods and a spine for redevelopment. As a vibrant public space, the trail serves as the symbol and the source of our focus on access and equity. The bike trail in the Riverworks area is far from just a bike trail; it has become an important component of neighborhood economic revitalization.

This project exemplifies the importance of cross-sector, public/private partnerships. Through a strategic actioning process earlier this year, a wide range of participants from across sectors and interest worked to create an interactive infrastructure as well as an integrated process for communication, planning and workflow. In the subsequent months, we held a follow-up session and hired two project coordinators, and Riverworks hired two new staff members to focus on the project.

The second area the GMC focuses on is West Wisconsin Avenue, where WAM DC has formed a Creative Placemaking Subcommittee in order to support efforts along The Avenue. This subcommittee is a collaboration with the City of Milwaukee, the GMC, Westown Association, NEWaukee, Creative Alliance Milwaukee (CAM), MKE<->LAX and other neighborhood stakeholders. 

The subcommittee's work aligns with the City of Milwaukee's Growing Prosperity Plan including using creative placemaking to establish places within Milwaukee in which all segments of the community and region can interact. Further alignment with the City's plan includes revitalizing The Avenue with a focus on cultivating artists as entrepreneurs, supporting innovative businesses, enhancing quality of life and opportunity, and improving neighborhood market conditions.

The WAM DC Creative Placemaking Subcommittee builds from work initiated in 2014 through Creational Trails: The Avenue including the NEWaukee Night Market, which was supported by ArtPlace America, and CAM's 4MKE Initiative, which was commissioned by WAM DC. These 2014 summer initiatives influenced community perspective on safety, density and vibrancy on The Avenue, particularly at night, through the integration of art and creative entrepreneurship. The Avenue explores walkability and interaction with a broad range of cultures enjoying downtown's main street through animating a vacant lot and historic streetscape.

The WAM DC Creative Placemaking Subcommittee also announced a second summer of collaborative programming with Westown Wednesdays, which in 2015 includes the Westown Association Farmers' Market, River Rhythms, the NEWaukee Night Market and CAM's 4MKE Initiative. This collaboration is made possible with the support of the City of Milwaukee, WAM DC, the GMC, CAM, NEWaukee, the Westown Association and MKE<->LAX, with funding support from local businesses and the Southwest Airlines Heart of the Community grant, which also includes in-kind technical support from the Project for Public Spaces.



See below for recent updates, press, and events from this project

Jun 16, 2016
#BronzevilleSummer: Our Milwaukee Experience is an inaugural series in the Bronzeville Cultural and Entertainment District presented by Friends of Bronzeville in collaboration with City of... Read More
Nov 22, 2015
On Monday, Milwaukee County Executive Chris Abele and Parks Director John Dargle cut a bicycle chain to officially open the highly anticipated “Oak Leaf Trail... Read More
Nov 11, 2015
On a brisk autumn evening in late October, the city of Milwaukee celebrated its newest, most unexpected, and most unconventional public space with a community... Read More
Aug 24, 2015
A former rail corridor that had become a dumping ground for trash and old tires between the Riverwest and Harambee neighborhoods was celebrated Monday as... Read More
By Maggie Bryde Creational Trails is creating a network of improvised spaces to activate spaces as a means of encouraging acceptance and growth of the... Read More
Call for Performance Ideas at All People’s Church, 02.22.14 Updates We’d like to think that Creational Trails is starting to become a household term in... Read More
Updates Over the last month the W. Wisconsin Ave portion of the Creational Trails project has made some significant progress. Much of our recent work... Read More
Resources, relationships, creativity transform waste into shoebox stages + seating to support the Call for Performance Ideas @ the artery Updates Creational Trails has been... Read More
Tournavation; photo courtesy of Art Milwaukee Updates The continued strategic planning and development of partnerships along West Wisconsin Avenue (or “The Avenue” as we have... Read More
Updates Creational Trails is already making a place in the creative minds and industrious nature of Milwaukeeans. In the past month, we’ve learned that many... Read More
Updates West Wisconsin Avenue In the past month, we have been working extensively on building a vision for placemaking in Milwaukee, as well as coordinating... Read More
Communal installation of bicycle inner tubes woven into chain link fence at the art ery, reflecting the imaginative eyes of a neighborhood kid Updates The... Read More
West Wisconsin Ave: The Grand Avenue Mall[/caption] Just over two years ago, Mayor Tom Barrett assembled a task force to galvanize the revitalization of West... Read More
‘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... Read More
‘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... Read More
In 2013, ArtPlace America invested in the implementation of two “Creational Trails” in Milwaukee, a project led by the Greater Milwaukee Committee. Both trail initiatives...Read more
ArtPlace America and Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC) are pleased to announce the publication of “Creative Placemaking & Community Safety,” a new report by Urban...Read more