“We are excited to be celebrating with Neighborhood House and very proud of the mural we have completed,” Dane Arts Mural Arts Director Sharon Kilfoy tells Madison365. “We had some just incredible students working on this mural over the summer.”

Dane Arts Mural Arts are celebrating Neighborhood House’s 100-year anniversary of service to the community by dedicating the mural — which tells the story of Madison’s oldest neighborhood center —that was painted this summer by DAMA Summer Institute Youth. The dedication will take place Saturday, Sept. 24, 3 p.m. at the Neighborhood House.

Sharon Kilfoy
Sharon Kilfoy

Neighborhood House Community Center, Madison’s oldest neighborhood house, is a nonprofit serving youth, adults, and families in Madison on 29 S. Mills Street, just south of the UW campus. Neighborhood House provides youth programming during the school year and summer as well as hosting diverse cultural, recreational, and special interest groups from throughout the city.

“I’ve been blessed that not only has Dane Arts allowed me to direct a mural program under their jurisdiction but that we have a couple of fabulous lead artists — Alicia Rheal and Emida Roller,” Kilfoy says. “This is their second year working with the [DAMA] Summer Institute high school youth.”

The brand-new Neighborhood House Mural is big, bold, and bright. “That mural will generally be viewed from people who are driving down Regent Street,” Kilfoy says. “We wanted it to be something that people would notice from a block away and that would draw them over there to see it and to find out more about Neighborhood House.

The Neighborhood House
The Neighborhood House

“The mural features plants and flowers representing the growth of the neighborhood Center, but also some people who have been important figureheads for the communities who have lived in that surrounding area of Neighborhood House over the years and people who were instrumental in getting the Neighborhood House off the ground,” Kilfoy says.

Last year, the students painted the mural on the shed at Centro Hispano. This year, they’ve not only done the Neighborhood House mural but they’ve also done one at Literacy Network’s new building on Wingra Drive.

“They worked with the staff on the Literacy Network mural and did quite a bit of research on the history of Literacy Network. That dedication is coming up in October,” Kilfoy says. “They’ve really been working hard this summer and getting a lot done.”

Kilfoy says that mural making is a much more complex process than people realize. “There’s the mural making aspect of taking something small and making it large and beautiful and durable,” she says. “But then there is the community aspect of it … really working with the community so that what we’re doing really reflects who they are. I see us as a vehicle or conduit for young people’s ideas and their hopes and aspirations.

“I love the part where we are working with youth and giving them encouragement and tools. They are learning skills, showing up at a job, participating,” she adds. “But they also get the satisfaction of knowing that they are part of something bigger and the confidence that they can do something wonderful from start to finish and really leave their mark on the world. To be able to do all of those things – on a schedule – is a big thing for these young people.”

It’s also a big thing to be working on the city’s oldest neighborhood house. Neighborhood House, which dates back to 1916 (the present building dates to 1965), started as a settlement house to help European immigrants in the Greenbush neighborhood and has always been available for whatever wave of immigrants was current.

“To be a part of Neighborhood House is something special. Neighborhood House means a lot to Madison and it’s been a real blessing for us to be able to work on the mural there,” Kilfoy says. “They do such tremendous work.”

Join Dane Arts Mural Arts Saturday, Sept. 24, 3 p.m., to celebrate Neighborhood House’s 100-year anniversary of service to the community and to dedicate the new mural.