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Thursday, May 23, 2024
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Madison community members paint State Street during an April 21 public painting event.

Madison Planning Committee holds community-wide event for local artists in step toward State Street pedestrian mall

The Madison Planning Committee prepared for the unveiling of a temporary pedestrian mall on State Street this summer by holding a volunteer event for local artists to paint the streets.

The Madison Planning Committee held a community-wide art event Sunday to help prepare for an upcoming pedestrian mall experiment on the 400-600 blocks of State Street after almost seven months of planning

Madison city planner Dan McAuliffe told The Daily Cardinal the city commissioned local artists to design ground murals that represent Madison’s community identity. 

“We have four very large 20-foot murals, what we are calling the medallions,” McAuliffe said. “Those are designs created by local artists.”

The mall experiment revolves around a flamingo motif. McAuliffe said the flamingos are meant to represent the pink flamingos that adorn Bascom Hill each fall.

One of the local artists, Sharon Bjyard, designed a medallion with a flamingo stands at the center. The flamingo is surrounded by art deco inspired designs she said compliment the central design.

Bjyard also incorporated hopscotch within her stencil design.

Bjyard said she wanted her medallion to promote “unintentional moments of fun, community and exercise.”

“When I heard it was going to be a ground mural, my first thought was what can you do on the ground that you can't do on a wall, so hopscotch!” Bjyard said.

In addition to the commissioned artists, over 600 volunteers signed up to participate in the event, according to McAuliffe. Volunteers signed up to help paint the medallions and stencil in colorful designs to fill the entire street. 

The stencils evoke the lakes that surround Madison, the arboretum, the University of Wisconsin-Madison campus and the flamingo motif.

UW-Madison student and District 8 Ald. MGR Govindarajan said the stencils were a way to communicate the Madison community with others. 

“As you're sitting in these restaurants and eating your food or having your drinks, you're going to see all the paintings on the ground,” Govindarajan said. “We are going to have such a variety in what people draw that it communicates what our community cares about in the first place.”

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Many volunteers shared this excitement for the growth of the community. One volunteer said she has loved participating in these types of events since moving to Madison from a small town in Michigan’s upper peninsula.

“There's more activity in a small town, so I love that that's still here, and we have all the resources and the funding that you have in a larger city,” she said.

A planning staff member working at a painting station said “the hope is people have fun.”

“It's gonna be potentially chaos, but good chaos,” the staff member said.

Bjyrd commented on the comradery of the volunteer event. 

“I feel like it's already starting, the community aspect of it, and now having people help with the murals gives them a sense of ownership over these projects,” Bjyrd said.

This sense of ownership resonated with some volunteers. One said she is excited to walk around State Street with her friends and family and point out what she helped paint.

McAuliffe told the Cardinal the mall experiment will be halfway done in the next few weeks, and the project will finish by May 8. Once the painting is complete and the furniture is in, the street will look completely different, he said. 

Govindarajan said he hopes the pedestrian mall becomes “one of those third places where we can meet up with friends.” 

“We can just enjoy what Madison has to offer without as many obstacles,” Govindarajan said.

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