Murals aren’t new to Madison—the original one in the oculus of the Capitol rotunda dates back to the early 20th century—but lately, local artists have put Madison on the map with a growing number of street art spots. From typographic panoramics with bold messages that are both beautiful and aspirational, to quirky doodles that convey the character of our capital city, there are plenty of places where technique meets texture—and double as top photo opp spots!
Sweet Frolic Mural
If you could express the joy that comes from eating ice cream, it would look a lot like this mural. Emily Balsley’s panoramic piece was inspired by historic ice harvesting at nearby Wingra Park. It features whimsical characters roller skating, skateboarding and sliding down a rainbow, like ice in the chutes at the old Knickerbocker Ice House.
Find it: On the street side of the Chocolate Shop Ice Cream Co. building at 2531 Monroe Street
This mural is a vibrant homage to the city with a Latin touch. Liz Lauer, who commissioned the project, gave complete creative freedom to artist Liubóv Szwako (“Triangulador”) who concepted the piece. Liu wanted to incorporate lettering into the mural, so he invited typography specialist Henrique Nardi (@tipocracia) to be part of the project.
Liubóv added his signature pattern to the wall and used more than 40 spray-paint cans to add the smooth orange-to-red gradient. The big “Madison” word was designed and traced by Henrique by counting the wall bricks, like a grid. The style was inspired by the decorative letters hand-painted on riverboats from the Amazon region in Brazil, where he had recently traveled.
To finish it off, Liubóv painted his version of the City of Madison flag on the left wall and a temporary one on the rooftop.
Find it: On two walls—and a rooftop!—of the Lauer Realty Group building at 2526 Monroe Street
As Northstreet prepared to welcome its Eken Park neighbors, they wanted a colorful mural outside to match the culinary creativity happening inside. Henrique Nardi (@tipocracia) was set to design a girl roller-skating combined with a welcoming “Hey Neighbor!” message. Inspired by his recent trip to Brazil, he added a new section to the project: a lady biking barefoot past an art-inspired cactus on a rolling landscape.
It took two months for the mural to be completed, thanks to many friends and community volunteers who helped finish the painting before Wisconsin’s winter weather arrived.
Find it: On the Northstreet Collective building—which holds Bloom Bake Shop, Café Domestique and Young Blood Beer Co.—at 557 North Street
“Love Your Neighbor” Mural
When the “Good Neighbor City”—Middleton, Wisconsin—wanted a mural, there was only one objective: a typographic panoramic that matched their mantra. Enter OhYa Studio, which helped the city land on “Love Your Neighbor” as a simple, powerful call to action for the 40,000 commuters who drive by daily.
Find it: On the corner of Parmenter and University in downtown Middleton at 1920 Parmenter Street.
Flamingo Swirls Mural
Flamboyance is more than the proper term for a group of flamingos—it’s the perfect descriptor for this colorful project by “Triangulador” in collaboration with OhYa Studio. Triangulador’s signature doodle pattern paired with Emily Balsley’s flamingos create contagious energy and pay homage to Madison’s city bird.
The mural was created as a gift to the city and a gesture of gratitude from the artists and the Madison Public Art Project.
Find it: On the corner of Blount and E. Johnson at the laundromat located on 701 E. Johnson Street
Meet the Muralists
Emily Balsley, the artist behind the Sweet Frolic mural on Monroe Street, is a Madison-based illustrator who creates art for murals, books, magazines, maps, puzzles and games. She is active in the creative community, participating in arts events, school visits, panel discussions, and occasionally leads workshops and art classes.
Brian Kehoe and Ray Mawst are OhYa Studio, the artists behind the “Love Your Neighbor” mural. Established in 2019, right before the pandemic, OhYa Studio made a splash in the Madison area by painting a series of positive and optimistic lettering-based murals. Riding off of that initial momentum, OhYa has continued to create custom murals for small businesses, municipalities and multi-national companies. Select clients include Target, Verizon, Meriter and UW-Madison.
Liubóv Szwako (“Triangulador”) is a Madison-based, Mexico City-born experimental artist. He is involved in an array of creative projects, from fine artworks to street art and murals. Liubóv is often playing, testing and observing the different methods and ways he can approach his own work. He is a naturally curious person and loves learning how things work, so he can add his own twist to the process and apply it to his work. Fabric, wood, metal, glass and ceramics are just some of the materials that are on his list of mediums to experiment with.
Henrique Nardi (@tipocracia) is a Brazilian graphic designer, photographer, typography researcher, and UW-Madison instructor. Besides the Northstreet Mural (2022) and the Madison Mural (2020) with Triangulador, Henrique has collaborated with friends on other local artworks: the Better Together Mural (2018) with Flavia Zimbardi and Caetano Calomino, and the Otis Redding Mural (2016), with Cyla Costa and Jackson Alves.