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“I want to see colors in Madison.” Dane Arts Mural Arts adds Mayela Murillo-Finol as production manager & lead artist


Mayela Murillo-Finol first became aware of Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) during her senior year at Edgewood College, when she completed the 25 hours of community service the school requires for graduation.

“I had to spend 25 hours in a semester, and I spent it all in a weekend,” she said, renovating the kitchen at DAMA’s mural production facility in the building that once housed the Town of Blooming Grove fire department.

It made sense, then, that one of the first projects she took on when hired as production manager in January was to renovate the rest of the space.

I was just thinking, we need to host people, we need to invite people, we need to let Madison know who we are,” she said. “But I didn’t want them to come to this place, because it was totally a mess. I want a place where I can host people and it feels inviting and it feels professional …  I want a better place for the community to come and visit us and feel welcome.”

Murillo-Finol said she and her husband took a $500 budget and three weeks to purge some old donated items that weren’t going to be used, reorganize supplies, redo walls and floors, rearrange storage and create a “living room” space.

While it now has a cleaner and more professional look, at least one thing remains left to do.

“My goal is to find a budget or someone who can help us to insulate this place,” she said. “I mean, right now it looks pretty. But during winter, we have a hard time (keeping) warm.”

As production manager, Murillo-Finol works with clients and six other lead artists to create large works for schools, parks, municipal buildings, businesses and other places all around Dane County. The organization also “fosters youth development through collective art experiences and trains local artists to stabilize and sustain processes of community transformation,” according to its website.

“I think my vision is more modern, more color,” Murillo-Finol says of what she hopes to bring in her own work. “I want to see colors in Madison. To turn Madison to be a place where tourists want to come to see our murals. That’s my wish … When I say fun and modern it means more color, things that they can share on Instagram. Hashtag Madison.”

Since coming to Madison 20 years ago at age 17 and graduating from Madison West, Murillo-Finol worked a number of jobs and raised a family before enrolling at Edgewood to earn a degree in art therapy, which she finished in December.

“I was working first in factories, after that I was cleaning houses, but I never stopped because I had a vision from the beginning,” she said. “Since (I was) little, art has been my passion. I don’t only draw or paint, I do more than that. It was hard when I was writing my artist’s statement because usually they’re like, I am an oil painter, or I am a 3D artist, but for me, diversity is huge.”

She has also worked as a behavior education specialist with the Madison Metropolitan School District for 11 years, a job she continues to do alongside her new role at DAMA.

This spring, the Edgewood College Art Department honored Murillo-Finol with the Fra Angelico Award, given to an art student who “represents the highest standards of the Department and values of the college through artistic excellence, academic inquiry and community engagement.”

“Mayela is consistently a leader in her studio courses and helps to motivate the other students to work harder and challenge themselves,” art professor David Smith wrote in nominating her for the award. “We can’t think of a student that has had more of a positive impact on other students in the studio.”

See more of Murillo-Finol work on her Instagram page.