Milwaukeeans have been spotting colorful koi fish swimming along city sidewalks and walls for years, wondering who was behind them. Jeremy Novy, a graduate of Milwaukee’s Peck School of the Arts and a nationally-renowned street artist, is not only the koi painter but is also responsible for many other compositions of stencil work seen throughout the city. He’s visiting us again, and his next appearance will be in Milwaukee’s Black Cat Alley.
As one of the few street artists who openly identify as gay, Novy is known as a pioneer of sorts, using his stenciled works to explore political and social issues. His goal is to encourage social change and make LGBT street artists more visible in the street art scene.
"People have asked me for years what is the meaning or purpose of the koi I stencil on sidewalks across America," Novy says. "The answer may be simple, but it has a lot of meanings both to me as a person and to the symbols of harmony, strength, good fortune, friendship, success, prosperity, longevity, courage, ambition and perseverance."
As for its relationship to LGBT social issues, Novy adds, "The koi symbolize several lessons and even trials individuals often encounter in life. The koi has a powerful and energetic life force – and it has the ability to swim against currents and even travel upstream."
The Black Cat Alley (blackcatmke.com), a major new arts destination, will be a corridor of world-class murals created by a diverse group of professional and student artists. This "outdoor gallery" will be located in the unlikeliest of places: a private alleyway between Farwell and Prospect. Eleven artists have been selected and include major names from both coasts, as well as eight local talents.
"We actually already have some original Jeremy Novy koi fish in the alley!" BCA Program Director, Stacey Williams-Ng, explains. "It was one of the first things I noticed when we first started scouting the all as a location," she says. "It seems fitting that he would be the one to inaugurate this new arts destination." The original koi will be retouched by Novy, and a new installation of art will be installed at the opposite end of the alley, near Ivanhoe, during the week of June 20.
In July, internationally-renowned artist "MTO" will be painting a large wall piece on the South Side of the Oriental Theatre. The major ten-artist installation is planned for the week of September 11 with a seven-day mural installation concluding with a mural arts festival during the weekend of September 17-18 on Milwaukee’s East Side.
To arrange an interview with any of the artists, or to request images, contact Stacey Williams-Ng (pronounced "UNG") at blackcatMKE@gmail.com, or call (414) 477-7282.