Bay View artist Lana Holman has drawn more than 80 chalk portraits

The sidewalk outside Lana Holman’s Bay View home is full of stories.

In the last year, the concrete squares have been Holman’s canvas for more than 80 chalk portraits of notable figures, both historical and living.

The art, along with short accompanying biographies posted to social media, have provided windows into the lives of everyone from Milwaukee Bucks stars to jazz musicians to victims of police violence.

Telling those stories sometimes means shining light on obstacles people faced on their way up, or giving recognition to little-known pioneers.

Last summer, spurred by the racial justice movement and the murder of George Floyd, Holman focused on drawing people of color. Her current series is on famous Milwaukeeans.

As her work gains prominence, Holman hopes the art offers onlookers a new, more nuanced view of the world.

“Instead of getting people angry, I have tried to really highlight the lives and the accomplishments that they have given to us in the world,” Holman said. “Often people just see things (as) so simple.”

Lana Holman, chalk artist, puts the finishing touches on Beulah Brinton Saturday, June 12, 2021, in front of the Cactus Club in Milwaukee. Brinton welcomed immigrant mill workers into her home and later taught them how to read, sew and other skills. Brinton was a prominent figure in Bay View, and a community center and a house are named after her.

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‘I really want to be proactive’

Floyd was Holman’s first chalk portrait.

She recalls watching protesters march past her home last summer and wanting to contribute to the conversation about racial justice in a positive way. As a white woman, a busy mother of eight and an artist, she thought her voice could be best expressed on her Oklahoma Avenue sidewalk.

Read More: Bay View artist Lana Holman has drawn more than 80 chalk portraits

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