A 120-foot long mural measuring 8 feet tall and covering two walls of a city building will be dedicated Saturday. Ceremonies will begin at noon at Monona Well No. 3 at 6500 Raywood Road (across from South Towne Mall).
The mural celebrates the water and Native American heritage of the community.
“The theme of the mural was chosen through a citywide poll,” City Administrator April Little said. “The design by local artist Rhea Ewing in conjunction with members of the Ho-Chunk Nation features animals and habitats found abundantly in Monona. Elements were chosen with guidance from members of the Whitehorse family, who have called the Monona area home for countless generations. Pictured in the mural is Ho-Chunk elder and well-known artist Harry Whitehorse.”
Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) and the city of Monona will dedicate the mural, created by DAMA community artists, MG21 Liberal Arts Charter School students, Monona community members and members of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
Sharon Kilfoy, DAMA director, said the entire process, which began in earnest at the start of the year, was fast and efficient.
“It was amazingly smooth, just right from the beginning,” she said. “(Former Mayor) Bob Miller was a delight to work with as he had a real vision of what he wanted.”
The mural is a great legacy for Miller to leave, she said. Miller and his wife will move to Ireland next month.
Little was also complimented for her role in guiding the mural to completion.
“She really is the person who helped me gather input from the community about what is special about Monona,” Kilfoy said. “The theme is so deep, so meaningful.”
The process from conception to completion was fast-tracked and streamlined.
“But nothing was shortchanged,” Kilfoy said. “Everything had the attention a project like this deserves.”
Little was the transition person at election time, when Miller left office and Mary O’Connor was elected mayor.
Former Monona resident Kelty Carew was going to design the mural, but her schedule wouldn’t allow it, so Kilfoy brought Ewing into the picture.
The mural was created on a fabric and was attached to the building similar to how wallpaper is applied.
Headquartered in the old Blooming Grove Fire Station, artists rolled up the mural and took it to various locations in Monona where community members could work on it. These community painting days were very successful and included MG21 students, Winnequah School students, senior citizens, members of the Ho-Chunk Nation and other city residents.
“The mural was a fantastic opportunity for our students,” said Rebecca Fox-Blair, executive director of MG21. “It fits with our goal of having students work on projects that are meaningful to them and beneficial to the community. Our students loved the chance to contribute, and the DAMA artists made it something all students could participate in whether they were artists or first-time painters.”
Throughout the process, mural artists visited MG21 twice a week, and about 20 students spent the afternoons working with them.
“It was great working with the DAMA artists and working out in the public beyond just the walls of the school,” student Jessie Lord said.
Kat Arnold took the lead for the students and helped with the installation on the building.
“I love being able to make art and make it meaningful,” she said. “This was my senior project, and it was amazing.”
“It was a life-changing opportunity,” added Leslie Cammer.
After more than 100 people helped paint parts of the mural, the professional artists used their finesse to make it appear as if one person had created the mural.
Kilfoy said the mural is expected to last 25-30 years.
Guest speakers Saturday will include O’Connor; Miller; Ho-Chunk municipal relations coordinator Missy Tracy; Mark J. Fraire, director of cultural affairs for Dane Arts; and Fox-Blair.
The dedication will include a performance by Ho-Chunk Nation singers and dancers.
A key to the symbolism in the mural’s elements will be available through a QR code painted on the mural.