Boarded up storefronts became palettes for scores of artists seeking justice and peace

The spontaneous and temporary project transformed many storefronts.
Keysha Monque Mbra sitting in front of her mural
Photo by Paulius Musteikis
Artist Keysha Monique Mabra hopes her collage-style murals “lighten the spirits of all who view them in dealing with life’s trials of race, class, gender [and politics].” She is seen here seated before the piece she created for Heritage Tavern on East Mifflin Street. She also created the artwork on the front of Urban Outfitters on State Street and on the side of the Overture Center for the Arts facing the Madison Public Library. 

Dozens of murals expressing rage over police brutality, demanding justice for Black victims and pleading for racial harmony appeared on plywood-covered storefronts up and down State Street and throughout downtown Madison. Business owners and the Madison Arts Commission encouraged area artists, many of whom were people of color, to express themselves. The spontaneous and temporary project transformed many storefronts — 75 of which were damaged or looted, and others that were boarded up to prevent damage by relatively few people compared to the thousands of protestors who filled downtown streets for several nights in June.

Madison’s Tony Catterucci and Lincoln Rust collaborated on a mural spanning the length of the Wisconsin Veterans Museum facing the state Capitol. The mural was bookended by images of George Floyd and Malcolm X.

mural featuring flowers and George Mural's face

Courtesy of Julia Fresne/

Demands for recognition and respect for Black women and girls was a theme of many of the State Street murals. One such mural in the alcove entrance of Goodman’s Jewelers featured artwork tied to Lilada Gee’s website and “Defending Black Girlhood” podcast. Gee founded the Madison-based nonprofit Black Women Heal.

Murals on the Goodman's Jewelrs that have black girls and lines that say defending Black girlhood

Courtesy of Julia Fresne/

Gee joined Maia Pearson, Chanelle Baines and Cassy Marzette in painting murals, including one quoting the late African American poet Audre Lorde: “When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.”

Mural featuring a Black woman's face and a quote that says Protect Black Woman

Photo by Joel Patenaude

A Black man is depicted in bed clutching an American flag bedspread and saying “I had a nightmare” in a mural by Valendice Payne.

mural of a Black person sitting in bed with an American flag and the person says "I had a nightmare"

Courtesy of Julia Fresne/

Sisters Sapphina and Zaria Roller painted a girl with a raised fist the subject of one of their murals. Their mother, Emida Roller, executive director and lead artist for Dane Arts Mural Arts, and Alicia Rheal painted portraits of Barack and Michelle Obama.

Black woman with an afro holding up a fist

Photo by Joel Patenaude

Barack Obama and Michelle Obama mural with a little boy standing in front of it with a fist up

Courtesy of Julia Fresne/