Willy Street Co-op Mural Dedicated

Graffiti artist/activist tapped as part of ongoing neighborhood art project

“The Siamese Twins”, a mural painted on the Willy East Co-op by Brazilian Graffiti Artist Panmela Castro.

A large mural, covering the entire west side of the Willy Street Co-op East, was dedicated July 6 with a reception in the courtyard of the Co-op building along Jenifer Street. “The Siamese Twins” mural is one phase of the Marquette Neighborhood Association (MNA) Art and Culture Committee’s Public Art Concept, an ongoing project in coordination with the City of Madison Arts Coordinator that will populate the Willy Street Corridor with various art projects.

The Committee commissioned Brazilian graffiti artist Panmela Castro to design and paint the mural. Many in the neighborhood may have already seen her work earlier this year on the side of the Mother Fool’s Coffeehouse permission wall. Castro grew up in the suburbs of Rio de Janeiro and soon established herself in the Rio arts scene, going by the graffiti name Anarkia. 

Graffiti Artist Panmela Castro, known by her street handle “Anarkia” is also an internationally recognized women’s rights activist.

A gender violence law passed in Brazil in 2006 was one of the motivations for Panmela Castro to use her art to raise awareness among women and girls in Brazil about the law and their rights. For her efforts she was recognized with a Global Leadership Award in 2010 given by Vital Voices, a international NGO that recognizes women leaders and helps to empower them in their local causes.

“When I heard about the Art & Culture Committee’s interest in a wall for a mural, I contacted them,” said Anya Firszt, Willy Street Co-op’s General Manager in a media release. “We are always interested in supporting local arts and keeping the stores a vibrant, creative part of the community.”

“The Siamese Twins” mural has three main meanings for Panmela Castro. The nudity symbolizes women in their natural state and that they be respected for who they are and not how they appear. Castro feels that hair is one of the strongest symbols of strength and femininity for women; and the hair is power binding women past, present, and future. Finally, Utopia is the name of the women and represents the myth of a strong woman in a free society. She used vibrant colors to represent Utopia as a fantasy or a dream, an “ideal future” that has not been attained but is attainable.

The mural on the west wall of the Co-op symbolizes three aspects of women’s struggles and triumphs in the world: acceptance, strength, and unrequited dreams.

“Panmela was brought here by a coalition of the Willy St Coop, the Williamson Street Art Center and the Marquette Neighborhood Association Art & Culture Committee,” said MNA Arts Committee member Sharon Kilfoy. “The dedication was super – lots of people were in attendance – and given the hot weather, the co-op provided beer in addition to great munchies.”

Other phases of the MNA Public Art Concept include: the Poetry in Sidewalks project which was completed last September featuring Madison Poet Laureates, the Williamson Street Gateway Sculpture designed by Erika Koivunen and the Historic Marker project currently under development.

The artist and the MNA Arts Team (from left to right). Panmela Castro, MNA President Scott Thornton, Eugina Podesta of Vital Voices, City of Madison Arts Coordinator Karin Wolf, Sharon Kilfoy, Alder Marsha Rummel. Photo courtesy: Sharon Kilfoy

Marquette Neighborhood Association President Scott Thornton said, “We are truly fortunate to have this international artist back to paint our first mural.  Special thanks go to our tireless neighbors Sharon Kilfoy and Bill Scanlon for all of their dedicated work, the Willy Street Co-op for making this happen, and the city’s arts coordinator Karin Wolf for her advice and support.”

The MNA Arts and Culture Committee has a small group of volunteers and is looking for more along with financial support. The committee encourages volunteers, or join them at their meetings the third Wednesday of every month.

Stop-motion video of the painting of the mural from start to finish taken between July 2 and July 5, 2012.

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