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Sunday, February 05, 2023
Willy Street LOVE Mural.jpg

Restoration of Willy Street ‘LOVE’ mural underway

The Willy Street “LOVE” Mural is getting a refresh, courtesy of its original painter Michael Owen. 

For the past four days, Owen, who painted the original mural in July 2014, has been working to restore and update the colorful love-themed mural, found at 924 Williamson Street.

The “LOVE” Mural was originally commissioned by Plan B Nightclub as a response to former Wisconsin governor Scott Walker’s mixed stance on same-sex marriage.

“It was kinda gritty at the time here, some neighbors just wanted to have some bright, positive love to counteract that,” Owen told The Daily Cardinal. “This is something that pretty much everyone wants a piece of.”

The Madison “LOVE” Mural is one of Owen’s collections of over 20 other similar murals with many located in Baltimore, his hometown. 

“The original goal was to put 20 of the [love murals] spread out evenly in Baltimore, and just connect the city, different neighborhoods and see how people responded,”Owen said. “It's just a way to connect with the general public that wouldn't necessarily be expecting to see art.” 

Owen started painting murals after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art in 2004. To this day, he says he has painted “a couple hundred around the country.”

“When I [started work on murals], I started to have conversations with people, different types of conversations than I would have in the gallery or museum,” Owen explained. “It was really inspiring for me. It really checked me on why I was doing this type of stuff.”

The rest of his murals are spread around the U.S., with one across the street from the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando. However, Madison’s version of the mural is unique.

“I brought in some bright colors and made the brightest mural I've ever done,” said Owen. “Usually, I'm just putting the black hands on the wall, but because [of the governor], I wanted to make it multicolored, bright, energetic and positive ... showing people that this is something that we can connect on.”

The reactions from Madison residents have been mostly positive, and the property with the mural is home to the I/O Arcade Bar

“[The reaction] was all over the place,” said Owen. “That was awesome to hear, that's what public art is all about.”

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When asked about students getting involved in art, Owen noted that students must have a “unique message.”

“It's hard to do it when you're young, you've got a lot of different voices and pressures. But if you can be yourself, that's the most unique thing you can do,” said Owen. “I found the most fulfillment when I started putting out what was inside my heart.”

The mural can be found year-round on the right side of the I/O Arcade Bar.

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