When Madison community members think of Mifflin Street, the long-standing tradition of the Mifflin Street Block Party — one of the city’s largest celebrations — probably comes to mind.
What many fail to recognize, however, is that one of the most recognizable and creative buildings sits on the corner of W. Mifflin Street and N. Bassett Street. And it might be undergoing a big change.
ABC For Health is a Wisconsin-based nonprofit public interest law firm that purchased the famous and long-standing Mifflin Street mural site in 2007. The organization now has launched a year-long project seeking community input for an update to the wall.
“Now, we seek your input and support on what comes next,” Bobby Peterson, Executive Director of ABC for Health, said.
The ABC For Health Mural Project will replace the 32-year-old mural on the west side of the nonprofit’s building with public art that commemorates the culture and traditions of the community, Peterson said.
The site has housed four different murals over five decades — the current mural was completed in 1987.
It’s not a simple process.
Painting a mural is a complicated and collaborative operation, according to local artist Niki Urban. After creating a design, it must be projected onto the space and then traced by artists, before being painted.
Urban specializes in lyric art — filling empty portraits with song lyrics — but is currently working on a local mural for a State Street restaurant.
She explained that large-scale murals usually require several artists and are a collaborative effort. Spray paint designs may take one to four weeks, while painting could require up to six weeks.
“It should start a conversation based on where it is,” Urban said. “If it’s in Madison, it needs to incorporate certain aspects of Madison that are crucial to where it is [located].”
In the past, the mural has been used as a canvas for community-centered businesses and projects, displaying advertisements and artwork. The current mural — created for the previous owner of the building, Mifflin Street Co-op — took about seven weeks to paint, according to the Wisconsin State Journal.
The 28-foot-high, 65-foot-long mural depicts food politics and locally grown produce. The painting began after about six months of design work.
The new mural will honor the history and culture of Madison, while also looking forward to the future.
“We seek to honor the present values of the city, our nonprofit organization and new neighbors,” Peterson said. “We also want to set our sights on the future of Madison and hope to have a mural that encourages a vision forward with optimism, hope and progress.”
Mural ideas will be reviewed this winter, with actual painting expected to begin in late spring or early summer. The project is expected to cost around $15,000, according to Peterson.
ABC for Health is seeking proposals from artists and feedback from residents about mural ideas, in the hope that the mural will reflect things that are important to locals. The nonprofit also envisions the mural displaying themes of diversity, inclusion and innovation.
“A mural needs to evoke a conversation based on where it is,” Urban said. “Obviously you want it to look great, but is it standing out and making people think more deeply? Because that’s what art is supposed to do.”