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  • Writer's pictureElisabeth Gasparka

Community Art at the Jimmy Banks Memorial Stadium

The arts. Sports. Oftentimes, they are thought of as in opposition to each other, but the pursuit of arts and sports have a lot of overlap. One remarkable local "artist" in the field of soccer and coaching was the late Jimmy Banks.

Milwaukee's Jimmy Banks Memorial Stadium Scooer
2022 gathering at the Jimmy Banks Memorial Stadium (image: Friends of Jimmy Banks)

Banks was a trailblazing Milwaukeean who was discovered in his young teens, playing pick-up soccer outside the Westlawn housing project where he grew up. He went on to play professionally for the Milwaukee Wave, and then for the U.S. Men’s Soccer team—where he was a starting player in the 1990 World Cup. His ascendant career was followed by a whole other career—as a leader, coach, and mentor in the Milwaukee community to young players of diverse backgrounds, including the MSOE Men’s soccer team and leading the Simba Soccer Club. Banks passed away in 2019, but his impactful legacy lives on. To commemorate his work, values, and spirit, Milwaukee Public School’s Custer Stadium, where he played as a school kid, has been renamed the Jimmy Banks Memorial Stadium.

Soccer legend Jimmy Banks
Jimmy Banks teaches ball-handling techniques at the Jimmy Banks City Soccer League Camp in 1991 (image: Michael Sears/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel)

Now, a mural celebrating Jimmy Banks will be added to the facility. Community artist, Tia Richardson, who will be leading the artistic arm of the project, and Banks’ son Jordan Banks—who is himself a soccer player, coach, and educator—joined Elisabeth for a conversation about the mural project, which is seeking support.

In the conversation, they speak about the importance of representation for young Black kids growing up in Milwaukee, youth development, and the value of creativity, public art, and the many rich connections that exist between art making and sports—which both foster self-exploration, collaboration, relationship-building, and skill development. Richardson and Banks hope that the spirit of the mural will inspire youth who play on the Jimmy Banks Memorial Stadium field for generations will see the mural, think of Banks and what he accomplished, and expand their own concepts of themselves and the positive impact they can have within their communities.

You can support the work and learn more at Friends of Jimmy Banks Memorial Stadium’s website.

Check out Tia Richardson’s artwork and follow her on Instagram at Cosmic Butterfly Design.



Full Interview Transcript (Click to Expand):




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