As construction along the Verona Road Project progresses into 2014, Monona resident Elizabeth Doyle has been selected as one of three Wisconsin artists enhancing the aesthetic nature of the project.
Doyle is an art teacher at Elvehjem Elementary and currently represents the Madison Metropolitan School District on the committee for the Kennedy Center’s Any Given Child program in Madison—part of a nationwide initiative to assist communities in developing and implementing a plan for expanded arts education in schools, ensuring access and equity for all students in grades K-8.
Doyle’s contribution to the reconstruction efforts will be the design and creation of ten large mosaic panels to be installed in the sides of the retaining walls along the pedestrian underpass and side of the Verona Road roundabout facing Home Depot. Featuring life-size silhouette figures of the youth currently living in the Dunn’s Marsh and Allied Drive Neighborhood communities, Doyle conducted tracing parties in February, collecting nearly eighty different outlines at the Second Baptist Church, Allied Drive Boys and Girls Club, and the Prairie Unitarian Universalist Society.
Subcontracting on the project through Ken Saiki Design, a Madison-based multi-disciplinary firm specializing in landscape architecture and sustainable site design, Doyle is scheduled to submit the completed panels by late July in time for a late-summer or early-fall final installation.
Doyle’s design inspiration for the Verona Road Mosaic Panel Project stemmed from two mosaic figures she made previously with students at Elvehjem Elementary. The figures, Bobcat Boy and Rainbow Fireworks Girl, were featured at the 2013 Young At Art show at the Madison Museum of Contemporary Art.
With formal training in environmental art, installations, and site-specific art, Doyle has found her true passion in teaching.
“My mom was a teacher and is also an artist. Because my mom was a teacher, I never though I would be. But, even as a teenager, I was working with kids,” she said.
While earning her MFA at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, Doyle found she did not enjoy the process of critiquing art.
She explained, “I’m not making art to make better art. I’m making art to express something, to bring something out, and to share something with the world. I don’t care if it’s good art or not. It’s about the essence and the communication, and for me, the process of critiquing is over thinking and over processing things. I had to get away from it for a long time and then I realized I would need a job, so I decided to go back to my roots and get my teaching certification.”
From the outline tracings made in February, Doyle has narrowed down the potential mural candidates into a “final fifteen.”
She explained, “Right now I’m taking different elements of different traces and putting them together. It’s not just about what the individual mosaic looks like, but how it tells a story all together. I’m trying to pull out those stories.”
In one tracing, four girls lay down on two sheets of paper, each with an arm pointed towards the center of their heads. Doyle is working to incorporate images representing the elements of earth, wind, water, and fire—one element into each body. One design features a silhouette of 17-year-old Cory Morovits seated in his motorized wheelchair. Another design shows two boys from the Second Baptist Church connected in a two-fisted embrace.
“We all have physical characteristics, but there’s something so beautiful about the body,” Doyle explained. “I think of the final design as seeing into a person or a group of people—seeing into gifts or dreams or energy and bringing out the beauty without bringing out the physical characteristics.”
She continued, “The image of the two boys connected at the hands is something they came up with. To me it represents that we’re all in this together, but there’s also a struggle. I love the stories our bodies tell.”
Doyle says she is enjoying the collaborative process and seeing the neighborhoods coming out from behind their typical boundaries. “It’s not just me collaborating on the design with the community, but the community is part of it. It was really important to the two neighborhood associations for the youth to be part of the art and to see that they have opportunities and are part of the neighborhood,” she said.
“This project represents the shared vision of many people, and that’s what I’m most excited about,” Doyle added. “It’s also what I love about teaching; the idea of tuning into the ideas and images that are coming out of the kids at that time and interpreting them into something meaningful. I’m really excited about the final panels and I think they’re going to look awesome.”