Milwaukee EPS Mural Project with Urban Ecology Center and Forest Service Urban Connections


On May 9, 2011, 8:30am through 2:30pm four Milwaukee Public Schools—Fernwood Montessori School, Maryland Avenue School, Hamlin Garland School and Downtown Montessori School—created a composite mural to help raise attention to restoring schoolyard ecosystems and their uses as learning grounds for wildlife habitat and improving water quality.

The Urban Ecology Center, University of Wisconsin–Madison Arboretum Earth Partnerships for Schools, U.S.D.A. Forest Service Urban Connections, Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewer District, 16th Street Community health Center, Riveredge Nature Center and University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee (Great Lakes WATER Institute and School of Architecture and Urban Planning) are working with over 20 Milwaukee Public Schools to restore native habitats on their school grounds. As part of these restoration projects, Connie & Tim Friesen, artists and principals of AVEC: Arts Vitally Enrich Communities located in Wabeno, WI, guided over 250 students to create a collaborative mural that express’s the awe and wonder experienced through restoring nature. High school art students from SUPAR, School of Urban Planning and Architecture, an MPS charter school, volunteered to assist the young artists create the fourteen four foot by four foot muralettes.

Connie and Tim have been leading collaborative mural projects for 15 years, in Wisconsin and beyond, from Philadelphia to San Diego and north into Canada. “We have led hundreds of collaborative mural projects that have involved over 10,000 youth. The visual arts condense and amplify essential elements…and with nature as its subject, as youth paint these elements on a mural they learn to distinguish them, which specific patterns are in the different flowers, leaves, seeds…the learning is in the doing. Collaborating on a mural brings the youth together to work on something that is bigger than themselves and that they could not have done on their own…putting UNITY into commUNITY…” says Connie Friesen.
The four muralettes painted during this workshop will form a larger composite mural for public display at the Gathering Waters Festival and Betty Brinn Children’s Museum throughout this summer. The mural project aims to show how students’ efforts at individual schools work together to beautify the city of Milwaukee and provide much needed habitat for inner-city wildlife. After the summer the murals will then be returned to their schools and put on display for a city-wide art scavenger hunt in hopes of engaging and inspiring the public to learn about the benefits of schoolyard restoration.

These habitats become outdoor classrooms for science, math, language arts, social studies, student inquiry, and service-learning to address ecological literacy across age, ecosystem, discipline, place, and culture. By putting students in charge of their schoolyard resources, enabling them to restore native habitats, and encouraging them to teach others. Projects like this one generally promote place-based education, serve as a vehicle for people to become leaders and stewards in taking care of lands in their communities, and can cultivate an informed citizenry for environmental decision making.

We invite you to come and celebrate Nature and Nuture children’s creativity.

These projects are made possible by USDA Forest Service – More Kids in the Woods, WI Sea Grant, Morgridge Center for Public Service, and US EPA Great Lakes Restoration Initiative.

Located between Lake Wingra and the West Beltline Highway at 1207 Seminole Highway, the University of Wisconsin-Madison Arboretum features the restored prairies, forests and wetlands of pre-settlement Wisconsin. This 1,260-acre arboretum also houses flowering trees, shrubs and a world-famous lilac collection. Educational tours for groups and the general public, science and nature-based classes for all ages and abilities, and a wide variety of volunteer opportunities for groups, families and individuals are available.