State Street Mural Project

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The Downtown Street Art and Mural Project formed on May 31, 2020 in Madison, Wisconsin following local peaceful protests against police brutality and the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police. Civil demonstration in Madison — part of a global cascade of public protest in support of Black Lives — was followed by social unrest resulting in property damage to State Street businesses.

Cities across the nation sustained similar acts of vandalism in May and June, the motivations for which are interpreted variously as inexorable acts of impassioned disobedience over racialized economic oppression, a sign of lawlessness attendant to popular uprising, and anticapitalist dissent.

As owners shuttered their damaged storefronts with plywood on Madison’s signature pedestrian thoroughfare — Mayor Satya Rhodes-Conway, along with the president of the Madison Common Council, authorized Madison Arts Program Administrator, Karin Wolf, to develop a response.

Funded by Arts in Public Places Looking Forward, the Downtown Street Art and Mural Project is part of an Artist Relief initiative that was established to support artists who have lost income due to the COVID-19 pandemic and prioritizes artists of color affected by racial violence and injustice. Artists created 70 commissioned murals conveying urgent demands for change and inspiring community dialogue.

Explore the State Street Mural Project in 360°

PBS Wisconsin documented the murals and street art along the 100 to 400 blocks of State Street — and the cross streets of Fairchild and Henry Streets — using a 360° camera. These come together in a virtual gallery to showcase the extraordinary talents of the artists and share their stirring, evocative calls for justice with a wide audience.

We hope digital preservation of this important piece of Wisconsin’s protest history (and present) calls attention to local BIPOC visual voices. We further hope it engages viewers in thoughtful discussion about the role of public art as a form of resistance, as well as in nuanced debate over how a society should situate the value of human dignity relative to the value of property.

To explore the virtual gallery, click the window above and use the click-and-drag feature of your mouse or trackpad to move around the 360° environment. Clicking on the color-coded circles defined by the legend allows the user to view the artwork on either side of the block, navigate to a new block, and learn more about the artists.

Please return to this page soon for individual artist statements and a new virtual gallery featuring the murals and street art erected on the 500 and 600 blocks of State Street.


Mural in header photo by artists Amira Caire (@amiradescent) and Danielle Mielke (@dmielkz)

Photos / Hedi LaMarr Photography and PBS Wisconsin

The State Street Mural Project and other PBS Wisconsin augmented reality/virtual reality (AR/VR) work are supported by a gift from Steven Vedro and Beverly Gordon.