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Paint for Peace: A Milwaukee artist's journey to stop gun violence through art

Trayvon Williams
Posted at 6:14 PM, Mar 30, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-31 12:26:06-04

MILWAUKEE — Inside a historic building in Milwaukee, there’s an art gallery like you’ve never seen before. It's a boundary pushing exhibit that focuses on a more gritty and street style aesthetic that challenges standard art gallery traditions.

But beyond creating transcendent art, an artist from Milwaukee is trying to inspire change.

"People feel hopeless, and it’s hope. It really is. So when you see these paintings, you see these events, you see these people coming to gather, it represents hope," Trayvon Williams.

Williams, who goes by the artist name TrayFreshh, said he wants to stop gun violence in Milwaukee. One of his best friends was shot and killed, and that's why he created the Painting for Peace project. The goal is to inspire someone through art in order to make a positive impact and change on their community.

"Some people tell me my cries are going to fall on deaf ears or that I’m fighting a battle that I can never win," he said.

But he won’t listen to those voices. He persists so that no one else has to feel the pain he felt.

“As long as one person feels like they should do something different, or one person thinks art is cool instead of wasting their talent, or they feel inspired to just do something positive," Williams said.

The Paint for Peace project is inside the Anti Art Gallery on Milwaukee's Lower East Side in the old Paul Weise furniture building. It's Instagram page says it's "a nod to the (DIY) punk rock pop ups."

It's filled with experimental art, pop art, mixed media displays and more. It's all about exploring creativity in a place that puts a premium on being different. Trayfreshh has an entire wall filled with his paintings.

“I want my paintings to demand attention. I want them to be screaming at you. I want them to be loud as possible, that it's a conversation piece whether you hate it or love it.”

Unfortunately, the gallery is coming down and the collective is in search of a new venue. What won’t change though is its mission to promote peace through art.

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