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Artists Paints Mural to Celebrate the Yahara River

Bike commuters and pedestrians traveling along the Capital City Trail or the Yahara River Path at S. Thornton Ave may have already discovered the City’s newest mural behind Mickey’s Tavern (1524 Williamson St). The word 'Yahara' means 'Catfish' (2019) created by Duane Bohlman, adds a delightful surprise along these routes.

Renee Callaway, Madison’s Pedestrian Bicycle Administrator, sees the mural as a bright enhancement along the Cap City Trail saying, “Art is important in continuing to make the path more than just a transportation corridor but also something that provides an atmosphere that encourages even more people to use the path.”

In Bohlman’s grant application to the Madison Arts Commission, he proposed making a mural that would both make people curious about the river that flows right next to them and educate them about this stream that connects Madison’s lakes and is actually part of the Mississippi River Watershed.

Bohlman’s bright yellow mural depicts a large catfish, referring to the river’s name, which he believes comes from indigenous names for the river. What we now call “The Yahara River” is presumed to be historically known as "Catfish River."  The US Board on Geographic Names (USBGN) declared "Yahara River" as the river’s name in 1903.

Duane, a member of Journey Mental Health Center’s Yahara House, was able to complete this project through a Madison Arts Commission (MAC) grant. He also received support from the Veteran’s Administration. Journey served as the fiscal receiver of the grant and supported Duane with the proper insurance needed for the project. Brad Schlough, the Manager of Yahara House, says, “Duane is a visionary as well as a great artist and he expresses appreciation to those who have helped him with his own recovery through his creative projects. Duane hopes to inspire others with mental health and substance use challenges to look for artistic opportunities to regain confidence and their place in our community”. Duane has made such a positive impact at Yahara House; I hope Duane is here for years to come.”

This project allowed Duane to stretch out of his comfort zone, challenging himself to share in an effort to return to his artistic talents and share these with the public.  Duane commented, “I always thought the location was a crossroads in the history of Madison, a perfect place for a reflection or pause for art. I thank Karin Wolf of MAC for her support and hope my mural will inspire future artists.”

Ben Altschul and his mother Jane Caputo of Mickey’s Tavern, championed this project from the beginning, providing the wall for the mural and the effort to clean up the area behind their property. After the mural went up last week, Altschul said he was pleased with the results writing, “The mural is an amazing collaborative success and a wonderful addition to the neighborhood. I feel a great sense of appreciation for Duane and his artist energy.” He added, “To me, this mural represents loving relationships, family, community, and the history of our neighborhood. Public art speaks to the shared values of our community - creativity, compassion, respect and a sense of belonging.”

Please join us in celebrating this bright new addition to Madison’s near east side’s murals at a dedication by the mural on Tuesday, June 25 at 5:30pm (rain date Thursday, June 27 at 5:30pm). Mickey’s Tavern is providing non-alcoholic refreshments, Journey’s Yahara House is sponsoring face painting and a screen-printing station (bring t-shirts, limited quantity for sale), music by Catfish Stevenson (of course) is sponsored by the Madison Arts Commission.

The mission of Journey’s Yahara House is to transform the lives of people with mental illness, by replacing despair, stigma and isolation with hope, dignity and community.  We offer a place to come, meaningful relationships, meaningful work and a place to return.

The Madison Arts Commission is a municipal commission that funds artistic activities and initiates cultural programs that integrate, support, and advance arts and culture as an essential part of life in Madison. MAC has been proudly supporting murals and other art in public places since 1977.

For guidelines about applying to the Madison Arts Commissions Arts Grants Program, visit the Madison Arts Commission website. The next project grant application deadline is March 15, 2020