2023 Joy Engine Community Challenge

Whether it be a mural, mosaic, music, poetry, or dance; creative expression comes in many forms. We’re challenging neighborhoods to discover and creatively express what JOY means to their community.

The Joy Engine Community Challenge provides small grants to fuel creative expressions of joy within our diverse Milwaukee community. Applications are accepted for projects to improve public spaces and civic engagement, support diversity, equity and inclusion; and pursue innovative ideas that support your neighborhood.

Supported in part by the Bosley & Green Foundation

Historic King Drive Business Improvement District (BID) No. 8
& True Skool

True Skool is a youth organization that empowers students through transformative creative arts and hip hop culture. They’ll partner with the Historic King Drive BID to work with emerging and established artists to create unique artworks infused with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s words, images, and teachings to display throughout the BID in celebration of Dr. King’s 95th birthday.

The Middle Ground

The Middle Ground is a community organization whose mission is to engage youth, families, and communities to break the poverty mindset and reduce violence and unemployment. To showcase joy, the group will enhance Antoine’s Garden, a double-wide city lot located on 39th Street, by building an arts pavilion for events, decorated garden beds and bird boxes, and a water system. The space will be used for intergenerational programming, community chess games, healthy living workshops, and other events.

Historic District Inc., Business Improvement District (BID) No. 51

The Harbor District BID, which leads the revitalization of Milwaukee’s harbor district, will highlight the area’s rich history by partnering with historians, community members, and organizations to host a five-day Indigenous History celebration in June 2024. The event will include water and walking tours, a fashion show, featured work by local indigenous artist Sabrina Lombardo of Native Nation Designs, and other programming showcasing both land and waterways.    

Cosecha Creative Space

Cosecha Creative Space is a collective focused on building cultural and human connections through art. The members seek to use the grant funds to create “La Marquesina: Comida, Cultura y Cariño/La Marquesina: Food, Culture and Joy,” a temporary installation of a “marquesina,” a makeshift space used for parties in Puerto Rican culture. The group plans to showcase the structure along with programming that resonates with the essence of Puerto Rico, including a domino tournament, a new mural depicting the island’s history, and a community dinner complete with music and dance.  

Milwaukee Makers Market

Entrepreneur and owner of the Milwaukee Makers Market, Ryan Laessig, is gearing up to produce the first-ever Milwaukee Makers Market Festival in July 2024. The fest will showcase art, music, small business and all forms of Milwaukee talent, rather than a traditional festival focused on eating and drinking. The market will feature local art and music, along with designers, painters, bakers, jewelers, soap and candle makers, Milwaukee merchandise vendors, and more.  

Throw with the Flow

Throw with the Flow, led by yoga and mindfulness practitioner Haley Furh, will create 2-hour workshops incorporating yoga, meditation, art-making, and reflection. The workshops will include a warm welcome followed by a playful yoga practice that focuses on releasing expectations and rediscovering joy and play and a body mapping exercise that uses symbols, images, and colors to depict emotions, as well as group interaction.  

YMAA Tai Chi Ch’uan of Wisconsin

Angela Laughinghart of YMAA Tai Chi, a branch of Yang’s Martial Arts Association International, will hold an event for World Tai Chi & Qigong Day, the last Saturday in April. Besides being healing and relaxing, Tai Chi is a creative art favoring individual expression while strengthening the mind, body, and spirit. The practice includes body movements and hand motions, all while coordinating with your breath. “One World, One Breath” is one of the themes of the event.

Lion’s Tooth

Lion’s Tooth is a bookstore and art space supporting local artists and authors in the Bay View neighborhood. Owners Cris Siqueira and Shelly McClone-Carriere will host a series of comic labs at the shop. The “Comics Lab” invites first-time comic artists, experienced artists, and zine makers to attend its Sunday classes from 2-4:30 p.m., which will feature a guest lecturer and time for a hands-on session with live DJ performances.    

We can’t wait to see their projects come to life across a diverse array of Milwaukee neighborhoods in 2024. Stay tuned for updates!

Grant Recipient Eligibility

Your project must: 

This application is open to the following:
The following projects are NOT eligible for funding:


Project Framework: 

Joy Engine is looking for projects that engage the arts, are inclusive, mobilize volunteers, and aim to create JOY in your community. We encourage applicants to creatively explore ideas that improve open spaces or design innovative and tangible projects that increase neighborhood pride and facilitate a greater sense of inclusion.

Project Types:

Joy Engine Community Challenge can be used for:

The project types described above will be prioritized over those that support ongoing programming or events.


Grant Amount:

Five Grants with a maximum of $10,000 each will be awarded.

Applicants who receive one year of funding may be eligible for additional grant dollars for year two, however, there is a match requirement with a separate application process. Please email Steph at steph@joyengine.org for information.

Applicants can apply for the same grant two years in a row but must take the third year off.


Grant Selection Process:

Assessment Criteria:

Application & Notification

Application Requirements:

Grant recipients and unselected applicants will be notified by email no later than November 20, 2023. Grantees must execute and email a binding Memorandum of Understanding after acceptance. If chosen, your project must be completed by December 31, 2024. Noncompliance with this deadline may result in disqualification or delayed funding.

*If your project is located within a public space, Joy Engine will facilitate the connection between the applicants and the City of Milwaukee for any permits and/or liability insurance required.

Submission Terms & Conditions

If you submit this application, you agree on behalf of yourself and your organization to release Joy Engine Inc and its affiliates and their respective officers, directors, employees, contractors, agents and representatives from all liability associated with sharing the Project Information with potential funders. 

By applying to Joy Engine, the applicant agrees that: 

Questions? Please email communitychallenge@joyengine.org.

Apply Now

2023 Grant Recipient Projects

Congratulations to our 2023 grant recipients for spreading joy in their communities through these incredible projects.

Gothic Milwaukee: Brady Street and Lower Eastside Walking Tour

Gothic Milwaukee, a historical attraction led by author and creator of the Walking Milwaukee tour, Anna Lardinois, created a self-guided, GPS-based audio tour of Brady Street and the Lower Eastside in celebration of Milwaukee on 414 Day (April 14, 2023). The 2.8-mile tour gives a glimpse into the past while highlighting the history and architecture of the Brady Street neighborhood.

The tour covers an easy stroll through Historic Brady Street, loops through Cass Street, follows along the former Gold Coast and ends at the Oak Leaf Trail Head on Prospect Avenue, featuring favorite MKE staples including:

We’re proud that our Community Challenge Grant has allowed Gothic Milwaukee to make this tour FREE for the public to enjoy for a year! To access the tour:

1. Download the free VoiceMap app from the App Store.
2. Create a free account.
3. Select the “Brady Street and Milwaukee’s Lower Eastside” tour.
4. Head to the corner of Brady and Cambridge Streets to start the tour, which can be completed at your own pace.

Learn More from Gothic Milwaukee

Download VoiceMap from Apple

Download VoiceMap from Google

Out There Series: Outdoor Summer Music Shows

Out There Series, Milwaukee’s experimental performance series curating strange sounds in unique places, developed a series of free, live musical performances for all ages that took place in Milwaukee’s outdoor spaces in summer 2023.

The performances featured a variety of genres and sounds including soft R&B, jazz, ambient and experimental music, and even a professional marimba player, allowing attendees to experience exciting, “out there” types of music, sound combinations, or artists they wouldn’t normally hear. Some of the artists are local, and others are from around the Midwest.

Follow Along with Out There Series

RiverWestRadio: Alleyway Studio Series

RiverWestRadio, which provides a community platform for education, advocacy, and creativity and an outlet for marginalized and alternative voices, has used their grant to create an Alleyway Studio Series that took place monthly in summer 2024.

Each event started with a Chalk ‘n’ Talk, where community members created art in the alley at 816 E Center Street, followed by a live alleyway performance such as music, theater, comedy, poetry, or a lecture.

Check out incredible video footage from RiverWestRadio’s projects below:


The RiverWest Alleyway Studio


Alleyway Activation 2022-2023


Alleyway Activation – Pedal Parade


Chalk ‘n’ Talk Promotional Video


Chalk ‘n’ Talk Mini Documentary

Follow Along with RiverWestRadio

BloomMKE: Cherry Street Garden Art Walk

BloomMKE, an organization promoting community enrichment for residents of low-income and public housing in Milwaukee by using community gardens as resources for engagement, education, and relationship building, used their Community Challenge grant to create a new Art Walk at Cherry Street Community Garden located at 1431 N. 23rd Street.

The art walk features a self-guided tour of the garden, highlighting more than a dozen pieces of original art, sculpture, and a centerpiece mural created by students at Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD) and University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee (UWM) School of Architecture and Urban Studies.

Visit the garden any time to enjoy the self-guided tour.

Follow Along with BloomMKE

La Familia de Arte: Community Mosaic Celebration

La Familia de Arte, a grassroots organization dedicated to creating meaningful change in the Milwaukee area through collaborative, community-based projects and public artwork for all, created five tiled, concrete bollards on the hill just north of Mitchell Street. The bollards, which are decorated with tiles inscribed by the neighbors of Muskego Way with words about what brings them joy, serve as a beautiful point of art and also as a safety barrier.

Follow Along with La Familia de Arte

Homeworks: Bronzeville SPLASH!: Community Game Show

Homeworks: Bronzeville, a cultural development initiative that supports growth and activity in the community, created SPLASH!, a community-based variety show that explores culture in Milwaukee. The artmaking game show welcomed the community to come participate as contestants, paint with water balloons, dance to music by KLASSIK. The entire process was documented via video.

Follow Along with Homeworks: Bronzeville