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State Street is always changing; but it has never looked like this before.

In just under two weeks, this well-loved, iconic street transformed from a place of damage and destruction to a place of powerful art and community expression.

Immediately following the damages incurred on May 31 and June 1; the City of Madison commissioned dozens of artists to create unique artistic responses to the historic moments and movements within our community. City Arts Administrator Karin Wolf worked with cultural partners to identify artists and quickly develop an open and inclusive application process for artists.

This commissioned work was placed on boarded windows in Madison’s Central Business Improvement District (BID). More than 60 businesses and the Overture Center for the Arts hosted works by more than 100 artists and resulted in more than 100 unique pieces.

Staff at the BID worked to register downtown businesses eager to partner with artists. Many of the downtown businesses are minority- and women- owned and offered great collaborative partners with their artists, others chose to step back and let artist’s they selected create.

Artists were given open canvases without fear of censorship or reprisal. The only request was that artists refrain from including commercial messages and/or nudity in their art piece.

Wolf explained, “City selected artists carried a heavy weight of the pain and tensions in our city at this time. They expressed themselves beautifully, from the student participants, to the emerging and professional artists. Much of their work is challenging and raw, inducing the deep thinking necessary to create the fundamental changes we need to see right now.”

The city selected professional artists over the age of 18. Artists were paid modest stipends through the Madison Arts Commission's Art in Public Places Program. That funding was specifically allocated to be directed to artists who had lost income due to COVID-19.​

Sunday, June 14 was the final day of the project for artists working on the boards. Artists gathered at the top of State Street to celebrate their accomplishments. Local businesses donated foods and snacks.

The project was always intended to be ephemeral. As businesses re-open and repair their broken windows, the boards will be removed slowly and deliberately over many weeks. A few have already begun to come down. Some will remain up for a longer period of time based on the damage to the property. The city will work to preserve the art, whether from commissioned artist or volunteer artists.

The BID is working with partners to remove and store many of the pieces in hopes that there could be an additional public viewing of these boards, for historical preservation and to document the importance of the work.

Wolf elaborated, “Our community owes a large debt of gratitude to over 100 artists who created 100 murals. We are finished painting downtown but we will always remain in awe of the strength and courage it took for them to transform broken glass and broken hearts into something powerful and beautiful. And now we, as supporters need to step back and look at this incredible body of work.”

BID Executive Director Tiffany Kenney offered thanks to the downtown shops, “The BID is thankful to the 60+ businesses who offered their storefronts as an open forum of expression. When you were already at your lowest, you stood up and you supported your community.”

And jointly the City of Madison and the Central BID wish to thank the artists, the property owners, the businesses, the community, the thousands of allies, and supporters. Your faith in art and open communication achieved miracles. Thank you!

We are collecting community input about the future of these murals with a community poll which you can access here. We are eager to hear your good ideas:

Here is a link to a Facebook album of some of the work: