It’s quite apparent State Street looks a bit different than usual. The glossy storefront windows are boarded up, guarding restaurants and businesses.
But, these wooden panels serve a more impactful purpose to the Madison community than just protection. These panels have become the canvas of many talented artists, expressing mutual struggle, pain and inequity with beautiful murals and commemorating portraits.
I actually had not seen these murals until this last weekend. Walking down State Street, my experience was no longer about looking at fun, colorful trinkets and products I did not need to buy — but gosh, they are tempting — and window browsing. It had more of an emotional, long-lasting impact.
The art that’s been painted onto these panels is simply striking. Not just in artistic talent, but in the messages they convey.
Names of Black lives and families who have been hurt due to police brutality, murals that represent Black struggle, murals that encourage Black power and unity and murals that promote community healing.
State Street is no longer just a place for the Madison community to shop and for tourists to browse through, but it is a museum of beauty, pain and years of systematic power struggle and lives taken.
This art can be used to promote understanding among the downtown and campus community.
It is easy to avert one’s eyes and talk to friends while walking down State Street, ignoring the messages that are so blatantly put in front of us. But this only hurts our community.
The art of State Street should connect us to one another, promote understanding and call us to action — to transform racism, pain and chaos into paintings that are in the eye line of every passing pedestrian, is a beautiful act.
We should use these murals as a way to process our 2020 experience. This time is not meant for ignorance or to turn away from things that can be difficult to understand.
These murals are a way for white people to attempt to even skim the surface of understanding racial issues people of color have experienced for years. Use this art on State to process, not to criticize.