The Milwaukee Building, also playfully known as the “Ladybug Building,” can be found just a few short blocks from the Milwaukee Public Market, Grand Avenue Mall, and Milwaukee Art Museum on North Water Street. The ladybugs infested the façade of the downtown office building in 1999 as part of a city beautification project and are still surprising visitors 20 years later. This public art installation of enormous red-and-black bugs offers a lovely, colorful contrast to Milwaukee’s grey skyscraper landscape. Visitors to this area will be delighted to know that they are not the only art pieces featured at this location either. The second floor of the Milwaukee Building hosts a modern art gallery that houses a variety of artworks, including those from Milwaukee’s world-renowned artist Marc Sijan.
John J. Burke came up with the idea for the quirky six feet (1.8 meters) long and three feet (0.9 meters) deep creatures on the west side of the Milwaukee Building. He is the founder of Burke Properties, the company that manages the Milwaukee Building. A signmaker created the bugs to Burke’s exact specifications, and Burke even had a say in where they were placed on the building. The lowest ladybug even hangs over a window that was part of Burke’s office before his retirement from the company. Mr. Burke was said to enjoy the view of his red-and-black friends from inside as well as from the restaurant across the street.
The Milwaukee Building’s ladybugs are made of fiberglass, which is both durable and lightweight. They are so easy to handle that they were installed by just three people. Visitors will be happy to know that they can enjoy this unique view at any time of day, with the ladybugs even being lit up at night, directing visitors to the nightclub below. While they caused a bit of controversy among Milwaukee’s art scene, their creator has always viewed them as a public work of art with the intention of making people smile.