Karin Wolf, Madison's city arts administrator, spent months pulling together the art for the newly remodeled Madison Municipal Building. When the building officially opened Saturday at 215 Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd., every floor displayed work from local artists.
"We're trying to feature a lot of our nonprofit partners," Wolf said.
To that end, she chose 11 prints from "Women Against Hate, United By Love," a series by Kelly Parks Snider, Rachael Griffin and Leigh Garcia. Each portrait shows a woman with a quote she chose: "You are adored," says one. "We're all Americans, but if I'm not free, you aren't free," says another. The series was recently on display at the Arts + Literature Laboratory.
Artist Romano Johnson has two works on view, including a large-scale glittery piece reminiscent of Tina Turner. Johnson is involved with ArtWorking, a mentorship program and studio for artists and entrepreneurs with developmental and intellectual disabilities.
Some of the art, like a wheatpaste mural by Pete Hodapp made using old aerial maps and an upside-down chair sculpture by Aris Georgiades, were repurposed from the one-day artist pop-up, "Municipal," in 2016. Another "Municipal" artist, Michael Duffy, made a piece that lines the tops of a hallway. Walking one direction, it says, "A city is more/ than a place/ it is a drama/ of time and space."
Several professors from the university have work in the building. Derrick Buisch, an abstract painter who works in bold colors, collaborated with Trina May Smith and Tim Brenner on two separate pieces. Images by photography prof and Ho-Chunk artist Tom Jones invite the viewer to cross the room to see clearly what they are — the bottoms of molded plastic Indian toys.
The budget for art in the building was around $30,000. Some offices have reframed archival photos or "then and now" pictures from Zane Williams and Craig Wilson. The mayor purchased a rainbow-colored, Madison-centric piece by Daniella Willett-Rabin, and Wolf filled out the rest of the space with additional works of hers on loan.
Most of the work is on long-term loan from the artists instead of part of the city's collection. Loan terms will vary, Wolf said, but this means the city isn't responsible for storage and long-term maintenance. Also it pushes her to keep the art fresh.
One installation by Faisal Abdu'Allah called "Squad" will be up for a year.
Loan term length will "depend on what the artwork is and whether the space can carry it," Wolf said. "I would love to have Pranav (Sood's) work up longer but he needs to get his MFA."
Sood, an acrylic painter with an intense eye for detail and pattern, and abstract painter Katherine Steichen Rosing both received small grants from the Madison Arts Commission for their work in the building. Some of Sood's work, like a bold painting in the wood-paneled Room 260 (the former courtroom of Judge James Doyle), has already been returned to him.
With the new building, Wolf wanted to honor the city's past while looking to the future. Risë Christesen's piece on the building's lower level literally used items found during the renovation process.
"When they were digging in there, they found a lot of weird stuff — bottles, RC Cola cans, paperwork," Wolf said. "Archive," Christesen's original piece, installed and lit some of these items behind an old door, to cool effect.
"When we're restoring, it's become a trademark to bring elements from the old into the new, in a reinterpreted way," Wolf said.