The Mural Project

Read about this project in The Cap Times!


  • Story of the mural plan
    • First thoughts
    • Proposal
    • Theme
    • Searching
    • Meeting
    • Planning
  • Artist Profiles (Including photographs of the completed mural)
    • Natalie Hinahara
    • Angelica Contreras
    • Adreena Burhan
    • Pete Hodapp
    • Mario Fregoso
    • Sylvia Hecht
    • …2 more to come…
  • Unveiling Reception
  • Children’s Scavenger Hunt

First Thoughts

Charlie & Mallory discuss the mural (The Cap Times)

In 2018, as we, the executive directors of Slow Food UW (Charlie & Amina) and the director of The Crossing (Mallory) began our annual lease negotiations, Mallory mentioned that perhaps we should re-paint the walls of the our dining room space. It’s color was previously a brownish tan and not particular inviting. At that conversation, we through around color suggestions: green, bright blue etc. Nothing seemed good for the space. We moved on to discuss other topics and eventually, over the next few weeks, thoughts of re-painting began to fade.


At a meeting some weeks later, water was discovered dripping from the pipes over the stage in the dining room. This meant that a small section of the walls had to be replaced. This got us thinking, is there something better – more beautiful, inviting and perhaps even educations – that we could put on the walls. We considered tapestries, posters etc. but in the end of the day, we wanted something that would be wholly part of our space. Not hung or transient but permanent. We decided to support artists and have them collaborate to create an original piece of work just for the space. We brought our ideas to Mallory to see what she would think.

The Dining Room (Before)


Mallory, who is perhaps the most enthusiastic and supportive person ever, was quickly on-board. We settled on the broad theme of “social justice” and discussed various sub categories, eventually settling on food, the environment, community and spirituality. The intersectionality of justice was not lost on us and we wanted the mural to convey that justice does not mean the same thing for all communities. These themes were meant to help narrow the broad theme into more bite-sized chunks for the artists, a blank canvas is often the biggest hurdle.


And so it was official, The Crossing and Slow Food UW would partner like never before to make the mural of our dreams into a reality. Artists need true sustainable support (like everyone) and so we decided we would pay an hourly wage of $18. We put all of the necessary information together onto a poster and threw them up all over town hoping that people would send in an application. We got 48 total applications, slightly over our estimations. And with the help of Natalie Hinahara, who’s artistic expertise was vital to the process, we decided we needed only 8 artists.

Advertising for Artists Poster


When we had finally selected all the artists, it was time for them to meet. We met in the basement of The Crossing (the floors had just been redone due to more flooding caused by the renovations to the Chemistry Building next door) on November 30, 2018 over some food and drink. Mallory, Amina, Charlie, Natalie led the 3-hour meeting and in attendance were Shiloah, Mario, Adreena, Angelica, Pete, Tony and Sylvia. We had left the meeting very open, we wanted the artists to have full autonomy within the framework. How should this be collaborative? How can we execute a unified artistic work? Won’t it look overwhelming? What colors should we use? Who should paint where? How should we prepare the walls? All of these questions (and more) had to be answered before the first drop of paint could be put onto the wall.

From Top Left: Shiloah Coley, Mario Fregoso (FORNOW), Tony Torres, Adreena Burhanuddin. Pete Hoddap, Sylvia Hecht, Natalie Hinahara & Angelica Contreras. Taken at the Artist Meeting Nov 30, 2018.


The artists each went the separate ways after the meeting, they had agreed on where they would each paint and answered all the other necessary questions. Needless to say, everyone was very excited after the meeting! Each artist had different experience with murals and collaborations but they all shared a very high level of talent and expertise. Varying styles from graffiti to cubism to surrealism would have to be melded together to look cohesive and not overwhelming. The artists would have full access to The Crossing beginning on January 2, 2019 so they had some significant time, after the meeting, to plan and discuss further. However, they might never actually be in The Crossing at the same time as their colleagues.

The eight artist profiles and a bit about what they created for us.

Natalie Hinahara (Lead Artist)

Taken at her home studio in Viroqua, WI.

Introducing the lead artist of this project, Natalie Hinahara!

After studying art at UW-Madison, Natalie moved to Viroqua, Wisconsin to pursue a career making art. She focuses on block printing, screen printing and painting. 
Although she has done large paintings before, this will be her first adventure in mural painting. The theme that we presented to the artists was social justice. To help narrow down this broad theme, we also gave categories: environment, food justice, community and spirituality. 

Natalie will be using imagery of prairies, seeds and migration. 

Prairies are an infinitely complex community of coexisting species which provide a metaphoric model for how we should strive to coexist. 

Seeds are the mobile portion of the plant kigdom. They fly over mountains, they sore over oceans, they lie dormant for years, they are trampled, eaten, pooped out and then… they find rest. The few that survive their long journeys grow roots and call the new foreign soil home. This, Natalie believes, is another example of how humanity can learn from the resilience and flexibility of the natural world around us.

Monarch butterflies and many species of birds display a natural tendency to migrate to places of safety and abundance. This process of leaving one place of danger and unrest for another place of peace and promise is one that humans share with the natural world. Just as we welcome and celebrate millions of migrating creatures from far off lands into our yards, trees, cities and parks, Natalie believes that we must offer a similar loving and welcoming spirit to all immigrants. Again, nature conveys a valuable lesson for us to learn from.

Natalie Hinahara at work on the mural (The Cap Times)

Angelica Contreras

Angelica, (or Angie as she prefers), was born in Whittier, California just outside of LA. There she developed a love for art at a very young age. Her parents quickly realized that she communicated with her art and that there would be art and paint all over the entire house if they did not get her some art supplies. Angie speaks of these first art supplies and the encouragement of her parents as the beginning of her artistic journey. 

At a young age, she moved to Guadalajara, Mexico. There her artistic journey continued into the Universidad de Guadalajara where she received a BA in visual arts and a Masters in art education. After working at various art academies in Mexico, Angie moved back to Madison and is currently working in the Madison school district as a bilingual resource specialist. This role includes providing translation and support for Spanish speaking families.

Through this mural, Angie will show how social justice operates through food. She has chosen imagery from Mexican and Latino folk art, such as the heart and the hummingbird. Angie says that if you grew up in a Latino culture, you will recognize the idea that we should give with our whole heart, even if one does not have much to give, there can always be a gift from the heart.

Her 6ft x 5ft painting of the semi-realist heart is surrounded by flowers and vegetables which are growing and feeding from the heart. This helps to again convey that the heart is a place of endless giving, the heart can always feed others, we can always give the gift of love to one another. Furthermore, Angie chose various pollinators such as the hummingbird, which secondarily feed off of the flowers that feed off the heart. In this way, we can visualize how giving with the heart may cause chain reactions of positivity and growth throughout a community.

Image result for bucky picnic point angelica
“Goodnight Bucky” Entrance of Picnic Point. Painted by Angelica Contreras

In addition to this mural, Angie also painted a Bucky for the “Bucky on Parade” pop-up art project which Madison took on in 2018. Hers was displayed by the entrance to the Picnic Point Trail. 

Adreena Burhan

Adreena was born in Illinois but moved to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia when she was very young and still calls Malaysia home. Since she was little, she has always loved doing arts and crafts, although they have never been the primary focus simply because it is a difficult to earn a living as an artist. 

After studying for two years in India, she moved to Madison to attend university, she immediately enrolled in the studio arts certificate (UW-Madison’s version of a Minor) and began taking classes in as many artistic disciplines as possible. Only five classes are required but Adreena took eight and intended to take two more before “accidentally graduating,” as she put it.

For this project, Adreena is focussing on the intersectionality between privilege and education. 

Her work, in contrast to Angie’s and Natalie’s presents little abstract figures of realist racial identities. She uses the image of a stack of books to indicate a ladder of educational success and celebration. Her figures appear in various ascending positions of the tower of books. A small white-male figure sits, in fragments of a recently hatched egg, on the very top of the books, indicating the highest level of racial and gender privilege in American educations. The egg shell shows that this position was not earned by ascending the books but instead the figure was born into this position of privilege and the other figures below will have to work significantly harder to reach the same levels. 

Adreena also uses the image of a brick wall to symbolize that in today’s world of inequality, work is often not enough to combat structures of power and privilege. Those who are born behind barriers of war and/or poverty face insurmountable obstacles. Education may simply never be an option, much less ascending the books to the very top. These external walls must be torn down in addition to the internal barriers of privilege.

Some of this work is a direct and overt critique of power structures that Adreena has witnessed throughout her time in the US and at Madison specifically. Often the identity of white male is the most celebrated in education. White men dominate historical narratives even when people of other races or genders were much more influential in a given event. This white washing behavior must change at UW-Madison if we are to move towards a more socially just educational system. 

Pete Hodapp

Pete was born and raised in Minnesota. In high school Pete applied to the Perpich Center for the Arts High School, a magnet arts high school in Minnesota, and was accepted. The curriculum was split evenly between classroom academics and studio art training. He credits this with his ongoing interest in the arts and education.

Pete lives and works in Viroqua as an illustrator, designer and father. Many of the walls in the small town have Pete’s murals on them. In some ways, coming to Madison has become a necessity to find un-painted walls to put art on! Last summer he completed work on Madison’s Mural Alley and “Ruby Moon” in the Municipal Building’s remodel.

Pete’s work on this mural is both unique in format and in imagery. His work is shown in five individual and separate “framed” portraits on small raised sections of the walls. To Pete, one of the primary intersections between food and social justice is accessibility. If we are to achieve food justice, we cannot just consider the health and nutrition of food but also how easily it can be accessed by everyone.

Each of the portraits feature a character holding a unique vessel for carrying food. There is imagery of someone holding a trash bag, someone holding a CSA box and someone holding a reusable grocery bag. All of these represent different levels of access to fresh food. In order to help tie these paintings to the natural world(and just for fun) he added a small bird for each of the portraits.

Pete continues to try to focus much of his work on food. Past clients include Edible Madison, Organic Valley, Kickapoo Coffee, WiscoPop and more.

Mario Fregoso aka FORNOW

Mario was born and raised in the Milwaukee area. He grew up listening to and being inspired by his father’s punk music. Posters, the radio, style, everything was about punk. This “genre-d” lifestyle is something that Mario really loved growing up. However, punk turned out to be just the precursor for a new passion, Hip-Hop. Anyone who has seen a Hip-Hop music video from the 80s-90s, would understand that it is not simply music but it was (and is) an extremely revolutionary cultural explosion. Style, dance, counter-culture and art were forever altered by Hip-Hop. Mario embraces these into his own creative outlet, practicing dance and graffiti art.

Graffiti is not only a foundational pillar of Hip-Hop but also an accessible and universal art form. Most of the association with graffiti is vandalism and property damage, however, it remains an international community of artists all striving to express themselves through lettering and public murals. Mario is an active member of this community, creating work in Madison and Milwaukee, participating in festivals and collaborating on wall space. Most recently, his work was commissioned on the wall of Mother Fools, a coffee shop on Williamson Street. 

For this project, Mario’s piece utilizes bold graffiti style colors and includes animal imagery and a nod to Mexican bingo game, Loteria. 

Walking into the newly painted mural room, one of the first things that catches the eye is a huge purple bear standing in front of a greenish orange forest scape on the far wall. Mario’s bear represents both the journey and the destination of social justice. In many midwestern Indigenous communities, the bear represents courage and love. Mario believes “courage” is what we all need on this journey towards a socially just society for all and “love” is what we will find when we get there. America’s history (and present) is deeply violent towards Indigenous communities but soon their courage will lead the way to a true socially just America where love dominates. 

Loteria is a classic game of chance played in many Spanish speaking countries around the world. Mario grew up playing this game and for him it represents a connection to his parental roots in Mexico. As a second generation citizen, Mario wanted to use playful Mexican imagery to speak about the issues surrounding farm labor and struggles for immigrants. He chose the bingo square entitles “El Mundo” in which a strong masculine figure literally carries the world on his back. We must all come to appreciate the work of immigrants (documented and undocumented) if we are to move forward towards justice. 

Sylvia Hecht

Sylvia was born and raised in on the Madison’s east side, cultivating a career for art the entire time. She began studying art in a pre-college art program at the Milwaukee Institute of Art and Design (MIAD). She then spent two years at UW-Madison studying art before beginning a journey traveling and working throughout Central America as a free-lance artist and designer. 

By traveling, Sylvia can find inspiration from many different places and is not tied to any single spot. In addition, the warmer climate in Central America has allowed more themes related to nature to creep in Sylvia’s art more than they ever did in the colder northern climates. 

This mural is Sylvia’s first work in Wisconsin since she began making painting murals and having one closer to home will mean that many of her followers can see her work first hand for the first time! In addition, Sylvia has worked in a number of food service operations and feels that the intersection of her experiences therein and as an artist were perfect for this mural project.

For this project, Sylvia’s mural imagery is centered on a passive figure of Mother Nature and the ways that humans interact with her through the food system. 

Inspired by Laura Berger’s abstract bodies and a hint of Disney’s Moana island, Sylvia’s mural portrays Mother Nature reclining passively in the center, background. Indeed she begins to fade from view as the many other elements of the mural come into focus. This intentional effect reflects how natural forces are often seen as a passive, almost sleepy and slow compared to the quick urgent actions of humans. The humans in the mural are a marching line of silhouettes (in the style of Jacob Lawrence’s Migration Series) marching towards a cornucopia of produce. As Mother Nature sleeps, they leave the dessert in search of bounty, representing the pushing & pulling forces of immigration. 

As a clever use of her space, Sylvia thematically incorporated an EXIT sign in the top right corner of her mural. A number of planes are seen carrying individual fruits off towards the exit. They are attempting to exit the realm of mother nature to deliver their produce. These planes were heavily inspired by the art Leah Saulnier on the Banana Wars in Central America. By examining how nature and humans interact through the food system, Sylvia’s mural is a masterful work 

Two More Artist Profiles Coming…

Unveiling Event

On February 2nd, 2019 the artists gathered in anticipation in the basement surrounded by their newly completed mural. The public had yet to see more than a picture of the new art piece. We went to the Winter Farmer’s Market that morning and cooked up a nice buffet for the guests. As guests trickled into the space, jaws dropped and eyes were wide! The artists did it. The entire room was covered with dazzling color, figures, trees, butterflies, bees and one big purple bear.

Poster for the Unveiling Reception Event. Photos used on this poster are all previous works done by the artists.

The Children’s Scavenger Hunt

For the more curious visitors, we put together a scavenger hunt that includes details from each artists contributions. The scavenger hunt will be a fun available activity for as long as the mural remains on the walls, which we hope will be for decades to come.

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