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'East Side Art Lot' to fill empty North Avenue space with outdoor dining area featuring local artists

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- A crowdfunding campaign is underway to raise funds to hire local artists for the east side's newest outdoor public space.

The East Side Business Improvement District (BID) says they've been looking for new ways to add extended seating for restaurant patrons looking to dine outside when a restaurant is at capacity, or for people who just want a place to hang out while social distancing.

The "East Side Art Lot" is the product of a need for more outdoor dining areas in the neighborhood. It's set to take over the city-owned parking lot at 1915 E North Avenue, between Von Trier and Beans and Barley. The BID recently received funding to buy picnic tables that local artists will be hired to paint.

“We know increased outdoor seating is a key to helping restaurants, an already low-margin business, get through this pandemic," said East Side BID Executive Director Liz Brodek. "And customers feel safer in open-air environments. This lot is in great proximity to over a dozen restaurants, so is really accessible for anyone looking for a spot to eat. As we talked with area business owners, the idea really grew. Businesses stepped forward wanting to do light programming if we could make this happen. We also saw an opportunity to pay local artists to help make the space feel more vibrant. The East Side Art Lot will bring together our local community, local artists, and local restaurants and shops that make the East Side so special.”

A $1,000 AARP Small Dollar Big Impact grant will fund the purchase of ten picnic tables, but additional funds are needed to pay artists for their work, supply materials to artists, and provide ongoing maintenance and sanitization of the tables.

To fund this, the BID put together a crowdfunding campaign.

The campaign is seeking $6,500 according to a press release -- $5,000 of which will pay local artists, $700 for garbage collection and sanitization, $640 for locally-bought art supplies, and $150 to produce signage for the lot recognizing sponsors and artists. 

The BID says if additional funds are raised, they will go to further beautify the lot with plants, more local art around the tables, and programming.

A call for artists was released Wednesday, July 22, and will remain open through August 6. You can find that here.

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