Our Town Everywhere

Throughout 2023, The Bubbler, Madison Public Library’s collaborative art and engagement program, will be expanding “Our Town Everywhere: A Self-Portrait of Madison.” Based on a project launched in Nashville, “Our Town Everywhere” invites Madisonians to create stamped self-portraits which can be shared and displayed across the community.

“It’s such a wonderful project of democratizing and giving everyone a way to be part of a community art project,” says Trent Miller, The Bubbler program and gallery coordinator.

The Bubbler has worked on hundreds of projects over its nearly 10 years in operation. From hosting artists in residence to working in non-traditional classrooms to connecting with youth impacted by the justice system, the program has made its mark on Madison.

With this influence, The Bubbler works to connect the community to a wide variety of creatives, including 143 artists in 2022. Carlee Latimer, a Bubbler program assistant, says they want both artists and community members to face creative challenges.

“I think the main focus within the projects are the ones where there’s a harmony or a balance between the artists leading and the community leading… being able to play matchmaker and bring the right artist in to help bring the community vision to life,” Latimer says.

Right now, “Our Town Everywhere” is a two-part project. One part is the exhibit currently on display at the Madison Public Library’s central branch. On display are portraits from the original project in Nashville, as well as portraits created by Madison Public Library staff. This exhibition, open until Feb. 28, represents a kickoff to the larger project.

In the coming year, The Bubbler plans to collaborate with local organizations and trained artists to offer opportunities for the public to create their own self-portraits, then trade them in to receive someone else’s portrait. The Bubbler is teaming up with Communication Print Collective, a local arts organization, to create these trade prints.

“It’s a great opportunity for us to be able to support them and pay those artists to do that work,” Latimer says.

To account for the intended scope of the project, The Bubbler is dedicating much of its effort toward “Our Town Everywhere.” Miller and Latimer have high hopes for the expansion of the project, and are open to different ways to engage Madison in community art projects.

The Bubbler team champions “Our Town Everywhere” for being a truly inclusive experience. Latimer says that many library programs have very targeted audiences, but this art project is accessible enough to engage community members of all ages and backgrounds.

Ultimately, “Our Town Everywhere” seeks to involve the community to create a creative and comprehensive representation of Madison. By capturing the essence of people, these self-portraits have the power to bring a sense of belonging to participants.

“This project — while to us, it’s interconnected and complicated — is so simple. It’s this moment of getting to sit, be with yourself or your community, and then walk away feeling joyful,” Latimer says.

For more information about “Our Town Everywhere: A Self-Portrait of Madison,” visit The Bubbler’s website.

Celia Hiorns is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.

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