On May 27th, I walked into the County Executive office to begin my summer with Dane Arts. After a brief tour and introductions, Dane Arts Director Mark Fraire said, “I have a meeting you should sit in on.” Twenty minutes later we were sitting around a table with mural artists Sharon Kilfoy, Emida Roller, and Alicia Rheal. Sitting there in my “business casual” clothing, I noticed that all three women were dressed from head to toe in paint spattered attire, and I thought – what have I gotten myself into? For the next two hours, I listened as they hammered out the details behind one of Fraire’s new initiatives, “Dane Arts Mural Arts” – or “DAMA.” The program was already showing immense potential for growth, and there was so much excitement behind the idea. I couldn’t help but feel the same thrill.

Three days later, I ditched my “business casual” in favor of jeans and an old t-shirt and headed to Zion City Community Outreach Center for a community painting day. That morning, Chicago graffiti artist, Lavie Raven met with a group of adults and teenagers to discuss the issues facing the community. As people talked, Raven sketched. By late morning, Raven was creating a mock-up with ongoing input from community members. As we ate lunch, new friends worked together to create artwork and poetry. Unfortunately, the weather didn’t cooperate for painting to begin that day, but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves nonetheless.

Since that first day at Zion City, the mural project has taken on a life of its own. Under the leadership of Sharon Kilfoy, professional mural artists from Chicago, Arizona, and Dane County have collaborated with community members and a number of organizations to come together through art. Through DAMA, plans for other murals around Dane County are already in the works, and despite my initial hesitations, I can’t wait to see the results.

- Elise Crone