Meet the artists behind State Street’s transformation

The silent protest these amateurs hope to spread through art

MADISON, Wis.– Many people are walking slower than usual down State Street nowadays to check out the murals painted on boarded-up businesses. Over the past two weeks, State Street has been transformed, with dozens of murals on display. While it seems like several new pieces pop up every day, this growing art gallery is anything but random.

Murals now span all six blocks, half a mile, of State Street. Some are designed by employees of the businesses they’re in front of, while others are created by artists business owners have found on their own. However, most of the creations are organized by Karin Wolf, the program administrator for Madison Arts.

Wolf has spent the last two weeks creating a program that pays local artists $250 to create a mural.

“If it was up to me, I’d be a full time artist doing this all the time. It’s what makes me happy,” said Cassie Pierce, recent UW-Madison graduate and aspiring artist. “It feels good to know I can use my artwork to give somebody a voice who has passed on.”

Pierce is in the process of moving and starting a new job, but she still made time to get out and paint. She’s responsible for the mural of Breonna Taylor, on the side of Short Stack Eatery. Pierce finished it last week, just in time for what would’ve been Breonna’s 27th birthday. She’s now working on a second piece outside Mad Seafood Boiler.

Several businesses are still looking for local artists to paint their boards. Amateur artists interested in getting involved are asked not to contact business owners or paint without approval. Instead, they should reach out to Wolf or Madison’s Business Improvement District, which has a database of stores still requesting art.

“Art is one way we deal with healing, and we hope that though this art, we can help others too,” said Synovia Knox, another mural artist.

Although city leaders haven’t decided how long they’ll leave these murals up, they are already talking about plans to preserve and donate them to the Wisconsin Historical Society. Some could also be put up for auction. At a minimum, each piece will be photographed and preserved.