The old Grand Avenue Mall skywalks spanning Plankinton Avenue and North 2nd Street are getting a new look in the form of brightly colored murals, thanks to a partnership between The Avenue, the ASQ Center and Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21.
The BID commissioned Los Angeles-based Alex Couto – of the Couto Brothers – is painting the 2nd Street skywalk, which most recently had been home to a Stone Creek Coffee kiosk and in the early days of the mall housed vendor carts, including the classic Pride of Milwaukee.
Couto is a Milwaukee native.
Meanwhile, Milwaukee-based artist Dave Watkins will paint the Plankinton Avenue skywalk that used to connect the Plankinton Arcade to Gimbels and, later, Marshall Field’s, and now connects The Avenue to the ASQ Center.
“Downtown Milwaukee’s 1.75-mile skywalk system is a convenient amenity, especially during winter months,” said Beth Weirick, CEO of Milwaukee Downtown, BID #21, on Wednesday.
“Activating these vital corridors with public art is an important step in enhancing their vibrancy and further strengthening connectivity to The Avenue and the recently-opened 3rd Street Market Hall.”
The murals will fill the entire lengths of each skywalk (75 and 100 feet long) and will be 10-12 feet tall.
Work on them began on Monday, Jan. 24 and they are expected to be finished in the next two weeks.
The murals join German artist Claudia Chaseling’s “mutopia 2” mural in the skywalk that connects the former Boston Store (now Hub 640) to 310W, across Wisconsin Avenue. That work was painted in 2019 and was finded by Time Equities, Inc., which owns 310 W. Wisconsin Ave.
The new murals are being funded by the BID and Hempel Companies, which owns The Avenue and ASQ Center.
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 OnMilwaukee.com 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.