The Madison Finance Committee passed a resolution creating the LGBTQ+ Rainbow Murals and Crossings Art Pilot Program at its Monday meeting, effectively authorizing the City of Madison and a vendor to install the murals at specific pedestrian and roadway locations.
The murals are to be put in place sometime in June to coincide with this year’s Pride Month, Madison Bike Week and Madison’s August Pride celebrations.
The project would be paid for with private donations.
The murals would be placed at four crossings on the Capital City Bike Path near Monona Terrace and the crosswalks at the top of State Street in the pilot program, and are anticipated to last five to eight years.
“Cities around the country have used similar programs and projects in an attempt to make pedestrian crossings and streets more attractive, inclusive and conducive to community building,” the resolution stated. “If [the project] is effective, the city could consider expanding the pilot into a city-wide program that includes other locations and designs.”
However, some Madison residents have found the idea of the rainbow street art to be controversial.
“These are not art projects, they’re flags,” resident Richard Prokash said at the committee meeting. “These flags bring a political message from a minority group. The places that these are proposed, these are public places ... For me, this crosses lines.”
Prokash emphasized the murals would be discriminatory since they do not represent all parts of the community. He stated he was shocked the alders didn’t dismiss the proposal on the grounds that it was a political statement.
After the resident sat down, Ald. Shiva Bidar, District 5, and council president, added her name as a co-sponsor.
“I think this is a great project. I think it reflects our values as a city,” Bidar said. “I’m not sure what the political statement is but the value statement — I know what it is.”
Ald. Lindsay Lemmer, District 3, clarified during the meeting there had already been interest in funding such a project that would support the LGBTQ+ community, and that the decision to use donations instead of public funds was intentional.
She added the murals were meant to convey that Madison is a city that welcomes and includes everyone.
“I don’t think signaling to people that have been discriminated against, who have been marginalized, that they are welcome here is discriminatory,” Lemmer said. “I think it’s the opposite and I think it’s something we need to do. It makes us stronger overall as a city.”
After some discussion, the item to amend the budget for the project to appropriate from private donations passed with only one objection.