Mural On Milwaukee County Bus Causes Controversy

Aug 14, 2019

A mural wrapped around the outside of a Milwaukee County bus that tackles immigration enforcement and family separations is sparking debate.

The Milwaukee Art Museum paid for the mural as part of a summer art program for teens. But a Milwaukee County supervisor, Dan Sebring, is demanding the artwork be removed.

Sebring says the mural has a racist, anti-law enforcement message. While Sebring wasn't available to comment, in a statement he said, "We cannot allow a county bus to be decorated with advertising that includes a 'how-to' guide for illegal immigrants to evade law enforcement."

One side of the Milwaukee County bus with a mural made by teenagers in a Milwaukee Art Museum workshop.
Credit Milwaukee Art Museum

The mural was created by 18 teenagers as part of a summer workshop run by the Milwaukee Art Museum. Spokesperson Amanda Peterson says the mural doesn’t reflect the official stance or opinions of the art museum. 

"However, we stand behind art as a medium for expressing people’s beliefs, feelings and experiences," Peterson says.

For the last 18 years, she says the museum has encouraged teens from across the Milwaukee metro area to create murals and express feelings about life experiences, hopes and fears for the community. She says the mural doesn’t depict violence, nudity, alcohol, cigarettes, and meets every other standard of ads in the community.

And as far as Sebring’s claim that the mural is “racist?”

Peterson says, "Talking about race is not racist."

"Talking about race is not racist." - Amanda Peterson

She says, "Given that the students were pulling imagery both from their personal experience with the news, if they are depicting things that are happening in the world, then supervisor Sebring has an issue with the things that are happening in the world, not with the teens observing that."

Sebring isn’t the only person commenting on the mural. Peterson says the museum has received a lot of positive responses, along with a few very vocal and angry responses on social media and by phone.

The Milwaukee County Transit System says the mural went up on Sunday and will stay on the bus for six weeks.