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Since launching in 2014, the Dane Arts Mural Arts program has created more than 40 murals around the county on elementary school walls, on the sides of churches, inside police stations and at community centers and businesses.
The nonprofit public art program serves many populations, from students and individuals to groups that request murals and the neighborhoods where they're placed.
But the program and its benefactors all share one goal: to create art together.
"There are a lot of hands that go into making the mural … and the idea is to involve everybody because it's everybody's mural," says DAMA Executive Director Emida Roller. "It's about community — it's not just public art, it's community art."
When a group or neighborhood approaches DAMA to create a mural, the first task is to draw in all of the local stakeholders to come up with a theme. "We ask them, ‘What do you want to say about your neighborhood or your community?'" explains Roller, who is also one of the program's lead artists. "From that, we come up with ideas and decide how we can show it visually."
Examples of DAMA murals include the recent painting of Sandhill cranes at Glendale Elementary as well as local landmarks and children playing in a stairwell at the City-County Building. Earlier works include images of cultural history and neighborhoods at The Taft Street Boys & Girls Club and a recycling-themed mural at Sherman Middle School.
To feel true ownership of the mural project, community members and students are involved in each step of the process.
"They help not only with the ideas, but they help us paint and they have to be involved with the fundraising," says Roller, who says murals typically cost $10,000 to $20,000.
The production process happens off-site where the various images are painted on a special tarp that lasts for decades. After the community members and students have painted much of the mural, one of DAMA's five lead artists will provide the finishing touches to give it aesthetic uniformity and a professional look.
From initial idea to installation, the entire mural creation process usually takes many weeks, months or more than a year, but it's always worth it.
"The finished product just keeps giving," says Roller. "The community really creates bonds over it. These are neighbors who may not have known each other before but [now] they are making the community stronger by coming together to make art."
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