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What’s got you scratching your head about Milwaukee and the region? Bubbler Talk is a series that puts your curiosity front and center.

Brady Street Beasts Creator Hopes To Restore Iconic Milwaukee Sculpture

For this week’s Bubbler Talk, we tackled a request from Kathy Yanoff of Shorewood to provide an update on the Brady Street Beasts. The beasts Kathy refers to are actually part of a sculpture featuring fanciful creatures on Milwaukee’s east side, called Cavorting Critters. 

It’s tucked away near the corner of Brady and Holton streets north of downtown, and you can get the best view while walking or driving over the Holton Street Bridge.

There are three critters — a water rat, a dragonfly and a deer — created from sheet metal and painted in bright colors. They were installed in 2000, and look as though they're climbing up the side of the old Brady Street Lift Station building.

Kathy says the sculpture is her favorite piece of whimsical art, but she’s concerned about its future. Over the years, she's noticed that the vibrant colored beasts have been fading.

Credit Left: Courtesy of Bill Reid, Right: Lauren Sigfusson
When first installed the sculpture was vibrant (left), but over the years it has faded.

“It makes me worry that they’re going to disappear altogether, they’re going to be taken down and we won’t see them again," Kathy says. "So, I’m really hoping that they get repainted."

The critters were the brainchild of Julilly Kohler. She's the philanthropist who helped oversee the revitalization of Brady Street about 20 years ago as well as an artist.

Julilly says she wanted something fun and eye catching for the spot. “It’s whimsy, it’s wonderful, it’s a marker, it’s memorable and it excites your imagination."

So, she decided to give her friend Bill Reid a call. Bill lives in Racine and specializes in creating animal figures. After chatting with Julilly, Bill says he got right to work on a theme.

Credit Marti Mikkelson
Bill Reid, artist behind the Brady Street Beasts, and Julilly Kohler, philanthropist who helped oversee the Brady Street revitalization.

Eventually, Bill brainstormed the critters concept. After building the animals at his home in Racine, he brought them to Brady Street in his pickup truck. It took a crew to hoist them onto the lift station building.

Bill acknowledges the critters are faded by the sun and have been battered by the elements in the 18 years since they were installed. He says he wants to take them down, restore them, and put them back onto the building. “I don’t see any holes in them, but I want to make sure they are structurally good, brush them down, give them primer and a lot of paint and some clear coating so they’ll last even longer."

Julilly adds, “The outdoor paints are better now and we’re really going to take advantage of that.”

She plans to apply for a grant to help pay for the restoration of the critters, which could lead the Brady Street Beasts to be renovated within the year.

While Bill doesn't currently have any other public art in Milwaukee, his work is inside several homes in the area and is shown at Tory Folliard Gallery. But that could change. Julilly says she’s such a fan of Bill’s work that she wants him to craft something for the east end of Brady Street. 

Credit Courtesy of Bill Reid
Bill Reid also creates motorized and pedal driven cars used mostly in parades, such as Racine's Fourth of July parade.

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Marti was a reporter with WUWM from 1999 to 2021.
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