New Mural on Social Justice Center

Sharon Kilfoy, who runs Williamson Street Art Center, has received approval for another mural on the side of the Social Justice Center. It will have similar colors to this one, from 2010, celebrating Willy Street in the 1970s, but the subject will be "a celebration of life" for those who died violently. 

On the eve of a major announcement by the Dane County District Attorney in the Tony Robinson case, a new mural honoring Robinson's life was approved Monday by the Landmarks Commission for the side of the Social Justice Center, 1202 Williamson St. 

"We're calling it a celebration of life on Willy Street," said Sharon Kilfoy, an active local artist who runs the Williamson Street Art Center as well as the Madison Mural Program. "The Robinson family — they're very excited about it." 

The lead artist for the mural will be Wisconsin artist Kelty Carew, who has worked on collaborative murals and public memorials professionally for more than 10 years. Shadayra Kilfoy-Flores, Kilfoy's eldest daughter, will contribute mosaic work. 

Who is represented in the mural will depend on the family and friends of the deceased, Kilfoy said.

"We will be approaching family and loved ones of people who have connections to the Willy Street neighborhood who have died from violence," she said. But "the mural itself will depict no violence, no guns, no 'RIP.'

"It will show people in happy moments, skateboarding, sitting on the front porch, playing the guitar. Things anyone in the neighborhood would do."

The mural hasn't yet been designed, so "how much the portraits look like real people will depend on the artists and the families," Kilfoy said.

"Part of our intent is not only to pay homage to these folks, but to show how they represent all of us."

Kilfoy isn't sure how many people will ultimately be reflected in the mural, but no one whose family and loved ones don't want them in the mural would be there, she said. 

"The intent is not only to celebrate life here," Kilfoy said, "but also, this is one of the responsibilities of art, to draw attention to the issues of the day that matter.

"I think it's real appropriate that it be at the Social Justice Center." 

To see the mural, viewers would have to go down Few Street. It will also be visible from the bike path.

There is another mural on the side of the center, created by Kilfoy in 2010, that shows the musicians and poets and actors of the 1970s. 

"We will use some of those colors in the palette," she said of the new mural. But it will likely employ a lighter, brighter tone, especially for the sky. 

Work on the mural will likely not begin for the next few weeks, but it should be completed this summer and dedicated in the fall. Interested artists and others can contribute their skills at whatever level they like, and Kilfoy will be reaching out to neighborhood youth ages 10-25 to participate in public work days.

The mural is being produced solely by the Williamson Street Art Center. For those who want to contribute, a GoFundMe fundraising website should be up by the end of the week.

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