MILWAUKEE – Residents asked for positive public art, so positivity is what local artist LaNia Sproles poured into the new Jewish Community Pantry Mural.
On Aug. 31, 2021, Sproles gave a tour of the mural she painted onto a wall outside the Jewish Community Pantry, 2900 W. Center St.
The mural was funded by the Northwestern Mutual Foundation, with input from more than 100 community residents, in partnership with Metcalfe Park Community Bridges, Artists Working in Education, and Imagine MKE. The Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center operates the pantry, with funding assistance from Milwaukee Jewish Federation.
Sproles grew up in the city of Milwaukee and graduated with a bachelor’s degree of fine arts from the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design. LaNia Sproles’ body of work spans several disciplines including printmaking, drawing and collage. In 2019, she was a Mary L. Nohl fellow and teaching artist in residence at the Lynden Sculpture Garden in Milwaukee.
“Originally, I was going to do one long image,” Sproles said. “Then I decided on separate compositions.”
The mural and the pantry, which mostly serves people outside the Jewish community, are in Milwaukee’s Metcalfe Park neighborhood. Local residents said they wanted elements of family, bonding and strength. “I really wanted to depict a happy black family,” Sproles said.
One of the pieces features a house, which Sproles said provides a “sense of security” that is “a privilege.” That piece is her favorite and it exists at the center of the long wall of art.
There are plenty of flowers, too, in the artwork, because there were many requests for that, Sproles said.
The mural is at the corner of 29th and Center streets. Speakers at a public unveiling event included aide to Alderman Russell Stamper, Dameon Ellzey; LaQuondra Shaw, representing the Northwestern Mutual Foundation; LaShawndra Vernon, executive director of Artists Working in Education; Melody McCurtis, deputy director of Priorities; Mark Shapiro, president and chief executive officer of Harry & Rose Samson Family Jewish Community Center.
The JCC was lauded for operating the Pantry, doing the “front line” work.
“We are together the fabric of Metcalfe Park,” Shapiro said. “The challenge that faces us is not only celebrating today but what do we do next year?”