1985 – Madison, WI
Once one of Madison's hottest controversies. Madison's program to put art in public places
commissioned Richard Haas, an internationally known artist living in New York, to design a mural.
It prompted two years of public bickering, with the mural at the center of a mud-slinging mayoral
race between Mary Kay Baum and the incumbent and winner Joseph Sensenbrenner. It is now largely
hidden by another controversial project, the Monona Terrace.
Covered up are medallions commemorating eight historic Wisconsin and Madison figures.
Among them Frank Lloyd Wright, John Nolen, James Doty, Chief Black Hawk.
The mural reflects the artist's illusionist style, portraying a stone building with leaded-pane
windows. A centerpiece is a view of the Capitol and a waterfall. Through the windows is a reflection
of the civic center as designed by Wright, along with statues and bubbling fountains. A decade later,
the mural's reflection of a project few thought would never be built has been overshadowed by the
real building. The actual painting was done according to his design by mural painters, who endured
obscenities yelled at them by motorists.
Within months, vandals pelted it with apples and jars of blue paint, requiring restoration. Then it
was discovered that names of two of the eight historic figures were misspelled.