By Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer Published Aug 04, 2023 at 11:33 AM

The East Side Business Improvement District is looking for a new mural for Black Cat Alley, located in the alley between Kenilworth and Ivanhoe Places and Prospect and Farwell Avenues.

The group is seeking an artist to create an original concept and design for a mural to be painted in the public art space this autumn. The alley already has 21 murals painted by 42 artists.

The work will be about 10 feet wide by 8 feet tall and the artist will paint the mural on a cinder block wall during two weeks in September with completion by Sept. 19.

The space is curently painted with Jeremy Novy's "Monarchs," which was the first mural to be painted in the alley. According to BID Executive Director David Smulyan, the mural has been vandalized multiple times and can no longer be restored.

Mural surface
The site of the future mural.

Artists sign an agreement that stipulates the lifespan of a mural in the alley, which is typically 3-5 years.

A jury will consider works submitted by artists over the age of 18. Each artist may submit two proposals, and each proposal should include a color sketch of the design.

The artist will receive a $1,600 stipend and a $200 materials budget. Travel costs are not provided.

The deadline for proposal submissions is Friday, Aug. 18 at 5 p.m. The winning proposal will be announced during the week of Aug. 28.

The names of the jury members have not been released.

Find complete details on the call for artists and the submission process here.

“Black Cat Alley is a one-of-a-kind outdoor art gallery and serves as a favorite attraction on the East Side,” said David Smulyan, Executive Director of the East Side BID in Friday's announcement. “We’re always looking for ways to keep the space fresh and engaging to attract visitors and to support and highlight our local artists.

"This is a great opportunity for top talent in our community to showcase their work in a vibrant, accessible, and active space in our neighborhood. We look forward to sharing the new mural with the public and are planning an entertaining fundraising event in the alley to coincide with the new art.”

The process is being shepherded by consultant Contessa Lobely of CC Consulting Group.

“I’m excited to be partnering with the East Side BID to lead the artist selection process to find the perfect candidate to create an exciting new piece of Art in Black Cat Alley,” said Lobely.

“This is an incredible opportunity for a local artist to get paid to create in a highly visible area. This project will prioritize featuring the work of BIPOC, LGBTQ+, and women artists and we look forward to giving a voice and a canvas to a member of the Milwaukee community.”

Black Cat Alley got its start in 2016 in a privately owned alley behind the Oriental Theatre. It was created in partnership with Wallpapered City and the East Side BID.

It has become one of the city's most visited tourist attractions with tens of thousands of visitors annually.

For more information about the application process, contact
Lobely at (414) 467-6741 or

Bobby Tanzilo Senior Editor/Writer

Born in Brooklyn, N.Y., where he lived until he was 17, Bobby received his BA-Mass Communications from UWM in 1989 and has lived in Walker's Point, Bay View, Enderis Park, South Milwaukee and on the East Side.

He has published three non-fiction books in Italy – including one about an event in Milwaukee history, which was published in the U.S. in autumn 2010. Four more books, all about Milwaukee, have been published by The History Press.

With his most recent band, The Yell Leaders, Bobby released four LPs and had a songs featured in episodes of TV's "Party of Five" and "Dawson's Creek," and films in Japan, South America and the U.S. The Yell Leaders were named the best unsigned band in their region by VH-1 as part of its Rock Across America 1998 Tour. Most recently, the band contributed tracks to a UK vinyl/CD tribute to the Redskins and collaborated on a track with Italian novelist Enrico Remmert.

He's produced three installments of the "OMCD" series of local music compilations for and in 2007 produced a CD of Italian music and poetry.

In 2005, he was awarded the City of Asti's (Italy) Journalism Prize for his work focusing on that area. He has also won awards from the Milwaukee Press Club.

He can be heard weekly on 88Nine Radio Milwaukee talking about his "Urban Spelunking" series of stories.