Celebrating urban art ahead of Dane County's first festival of its kind

DANE COUNTY., Wis. (WMTV) -- A network of local artists is hoping to transform parts of Madison and Monona with lots of color and design, ahead of the first urban arts festival in Dane County this Saturday.

Street art lines the walls of an alley in Madison.

“It’s absolutely art. There’s no vandalism involved,” James Gubbins, owner of Momentum Art Tech, said about the concrete walls, storefronts and trash cans adorned with paint.

Gubbins belongs to the network of street artists and is helping bring the Momentum Urban Arts Festival.

Currently, Gubbins says, there are 20 to 30 sites along Monona Drive, Atwood Avenue and Cottage Grove Road that display urban art. Some business and property owners have given their permission plus full creative control to artists to revamp their walls.

“I think it provides visual interest as you’re driving down the street,” Renee Raspiller, owner of Java Cat Café, said. She said her favorite part of her café’s blue and orange art is the dancing people. “Plain buildings don’t really stand out very much, but obviously, you drive by and it gets a lot of attention.”

Sarah Edson, who was sitting in the café patio, said that the art piqued her interest.

“I almost want to check out this tattoo shop [next door] too because it looks really cool,” Edson said.

Gubbins said that street art is meant to be enjoyed by the public because it’s a “physical experience.”

“If we change five peoples’ minds on what street art is and make you step out of your comfort zone just a little bit, then we’ve done our job as artists because that’s what art is about. It’s about pushing boundaries, and sometimes it isn’t safe,” Gubbins said.

This Saturday, the public has the opportunity to experience live art. More than 80 artists from around the nation are expected to paint at different locations in the area. Maps will be provided at Momentum Art Tech.