dane arts mural arts | DAMA

DAMA is a mural program which began as part of Dane Arts and is now an independent non-profit organization. Our purpose is to engage community members throughout Dane County in the mural-making process. Together, we create art for public display of the highest merit. Knowing that our impact will extend beyond those who actively participate in the creation of murals, DAMA recruits participants through multi-channeled community networks and positively affects the quality of life for Dane County residents. Our work builds upon dozens of existing collaborations - while continually creating new ones - both local and national. 

Through DAMA, community artists train in the process of creating community murals. They use art as an educational tool to make a difference in the lives of Dane County communities with an emphasis on working with at-risk youth. DAMA engages community members and youth in all aspects of the mural-making process - providing opportunities to experience success through organized, hands-on, hard work. Our goal is to address disparities by working within urban and rural communities that have limitations to arts programs. Through extensive outreach to and partnership with those whose grassroots efforts are building community, we are using the arts as the tool to address urban decay, community engagement and youth self-affirmation: beauty, goodness, and truth drive our work.

  • Artists increase their earning power – and their connection to community.

  • Communities experience an enhanced sense of place and community connectedness.

  • Youth learn how to successfully complete projects on time, increase their critical thinking abilities, and create better connections with their neighborhoods and communities.

While visually awakening communities, DAMA ignites members of neighborhoods in the process. DAMA artists benefit from the increased opportunity for paid work as community artists.  Community participants benefit from the ownership of the public art in which they are fully a part. Youth benefit by working alongside skilled trained artists who understand that deliberate practice leads to success. Through their hard work, youth benefit from the artist mentor relationships created, and learn job-readiness skills. 


Mission & Vision

The mission of DAMA is to utilize the transformative nature of art, particularly mural-making, to create a sense of belonging, especially for youth, by beautifying communities and humanizing neighborhoods.

The vision of DAMA is a county-wide network of communities whose members, especially youth, are happy, healthy and engaged, and who reap the rewards of living and working in neighborhoods and communities filled with art which they have helped to create.

We believe that art has the power to transform both individuals and communities. Through DAMA, Dane Arts is committed to training artists to work as community artists who practice this most rewarding type of art – community art. Not all artists have the desire or the capacity to become community artists. It takes a highly organized person who is outgoing and able to adapt to often continually changing circumstances in order to see a successful mural project through from inception to dedication. We believe, though, that by training those artists who have the aptitude for community art, we can improve the lives of Dane County citizens.



DAMA artists evenly divide their attention between creating a meaningful work of art and transforming lives. They strive to keep an equal balance between product and process. Through the mural-making process, artists positively engage youth - many of whom lack opportunity. Our program is designed to help close the opportunity and achievement gaps which limit the ability of Dane County youth - especially those of color - to envision and attain successful futures in their own hometowns. 

The same limitations to quality arts programs impact our rural communities as well as poorer inner city communities. DAMA community artists address the disparities and lack of access to arts programs in both rural and urban Dane County.  Art is used as the tool to address youth self-affirmation, community engagement and urban decay.


DAMA engages students and other youth through project-based learning so as to help increase school attendance and improve outcomes in other areas of life. Data from alternative high school programs shows increased attendance for students who participate in our mural activities.

Youth are given the opportunity to train alongside community muralists. Depending on the skill level of youth, perhaps some will become community artists themselves; others might learn to be able to paint murals or install mosaics commercially; while others might merely learn how to show up regularly – and on time – for a job. The acquisition of job-readiness skills is a major goal for youth. We have devised simple pre- and post- tests which show positive outcomes for participating youth.

Our curriculum is “emergent.” This means that our curriculum is based on the learning goals for youth, not merely on the mural project or projects themselves. The curriculum “emerges” as we get to know a specific participant and build a relationship with him or with her. 

We use a trauma-informed curriculum in our work with youth. The first component of our curriculum is to give youth the chance for a degree of recovery from trauma and the ability to feel safe. The second component of our curriculum is to give youth the opportunity to express their feelings and find their own voice. The third component of our curriculum is the development of social skills. Artists model cooperative interaction in their work as community artists. They foster problem solving skills in youth, and are experts in changing negative behavior into positive behavior. They foster the resilience that helps youth learn to make a rewarding place for themselves in the world.

To successfully teach the emergent curriculum at DAMA, our community artists are firmly grounded in their knowledge of adolescent development. They are aware of the different stages of childhood and young adulthood, and know particularly how people at different stages react differently to stress. Community artists are prepared to respond to the “teachable moments” that participants present.

DAMA has an integrated approach to learning. We provide youth with a learning environment in which developmentally appropriate goals are integrated on an individual basis with the creation of murals. Some of the learning goals our artists integrate into their work are:

  • Fostering a positive self – identity and sense of emotional well – being

  • Encouraging thinking, reasoning, questioning and experimenting

  • Encouraging language and other expressive development

  • Developing social skills and knowledge

  • Encouraging creative expression, representation and appreciation for the arts

  • Fostering respect for cultural diversity

DAMA artists encourage youth to take initiative and to make real choices that involve their lives. They give power to youth by helping them have their voices heard and develop skills in real life situations that perhaps have never been equaled for them in the classroom. Our goal is to make each moment count and make the learning real.


DAMA has a strong place-making component. One of the most effective ways to engage youth is to help them forge strong connections with their neighborhoods and communities. Helping to beautify their neighborhoods and communities through the creation of murals instills a sense of pride in the participants. Many of Madison’s neighborhoods and Dane County’s communities are pleasant, walkable areas. Others, though, are sadly devoid of art or much that is humanizing. DAMA is working to change that for as many neighborhoods and communities as possible.


It is our intent to create murals that are designed to last as long as possible. We strive to ensure the longest possible life for our projects by engaging in “best practices” in all technical aspects of the mural making process. We update our knowledge and skills through on-going communication with the best mural programs in the country. We work to determine reasonable expectations for the life of each work that is created. Maintenance plans are built into each project.