American Family Insurance rises to call for action, preserving State Street art in new book

The book is available now and free to the public

MADISON, Wis. — Last summer, after the death of George Floyd, artists in our community started painting murals along State Street that captured the moment, mood and emotion behind the Black Lives Matter movement. The boarded up store fronts were transformed into works of art. American Family Insurance, which has been a pioneer in setting an example of corporate businesses taking a stand on racial and social justice, asked how they could be involved.

Dane County Circuit Court Judge Rev. Everett Mitchell said they could help preserve the art along State Street.

Nyra Jordan, the social impact investment director with American Family Insurance Institute said she was honored that she could be a part of telling the story of extraordinary people doing extraordinary things. Jordan said the company decided to preserve the art by creating a book, accessible to all members of the community.

“This issue is so heavy and so complex. There are individuals that have so many feelings and emotions from anger to frustration to hope and love. The key is we need to come together and talk about it. So we’re hoping this book is a catalyst to bring all stakeholders together to have the conversations on how we can come together as a community, how do we start to heal the wounds and how do we start to have discussions around a topic that means so much to so many different people in so many different ways?” Jordan said.

American Family Insurance reached out to local artists and photographers to help create the book, Let’s Talk About It.

“This is a topic that touches me personally as a Black woman in this community and raising a Black son,” Jordan said. “So all of this is very meaningful and all very personal because so many of us have dealt with discrimination and racial inequity in so many ways.”

One of the featured photographers, Amadou Kromah, said he was honored to be a part of a cause that would help preserve such a critical moment in Madison’s history.

“It turned out to be something kind of amazing,” Kromah said.

Another photographer featured in the book, Nithin Charlly, said he originally began photographing the murals last summer.

“I started a project called Stories on State. I started posting my material on social media,” Charlly said.

Members of American Family Insurance saw his work on his social media accounts and asked if they could use them in the book.

“It’s pretty dope. I’ve never had my artwork displayed like that in an actual book so it was cool to see as just like a personal win, I guess,” Charlly said. “But also to chronicle all the artwork on State into a single storybook it cements it in history.”

One of the artists who painted several murals along State Street, Anwar Floyd-Pruitt, said he was “really impressed” seeing the finished product.

“Unless there’s a lot of pressure, then corporations tend to remain silent,” Floyd-Pruitt said. “For a company or corporation to step forward and choose to do the right thing is really important.”

Jordan said she hopes to continue setting an example for other corporations to get involved in the social justice movement.

“We want to continue to support our communities and continue to have insight to what they’re going through,” Jordan said.

The book features photos of the artwork, artist’s profiles, poetry, and details explaining the messages behind each photo. The book is available now and is free to the public. Jordan said American Family Insurance wanted the book to belong to the community as it is the community’s story.

To order a copy, click here.

Books are limited to one per individual. Schools and non-profits can order additional copies by request.

Jordan said there will also be a copy available in the Library of Congress.

Other photographers involved in the making of the book are as follows:

Shalicia Johnson | Owner | ArrowStar Photography

Hedi Rudd

Beth Skogen |Beth Skogen Photography

Shawn Harper (Harper’s portrait was the cover photo of the book)
Harper Fritsch Photography