New mural celebrates fusion of science and art

UW’s Science to Street Art initiative produces newest artwork.
Artists work on incomplete mural of molecular structure
Photo Courtesy of Science to Street Art
Kallick and Krsko have been working diligently to complete the massive mural on Plaenert Drive.

A new mural is being completed this week near James C. Wright Middle School to celebrate scientific curiosity and the ecosystems of Wisconsin’s lake-and-creek-covered landscape. Artists Ingrid Kallick and Peter Krsko are beautifying the previously-bland brick of Madison Metropolitan Sewerage District’s pumping station as part of UW’s Science to Street Art initiative, which has already completed four installations across town.

Science to Street Art creators partnered with scientists of astrophysics, chemistry, medicine and more to accurately portray the paintings’ subjects. This new mural, which was designed with the help of Wisconsin Institute for Discovery Director Jo Handelsman and UW-Madison Assistant Professor Zach K. Wickens, hones in on the science behind molecular structure and the water cycle.

This merging of the art and STEM worlds through public art is not just aesthetically beautiful, but speaks to a greater need for science literacy within the community as well.

“We are taking science learning off of the page and bringing it to the streets of Madison,” says Ginger Contreras, founder of Science to Street Art and director of the Illuminating Discovery Hub at WID. “This initiative is non-traditional … it fuses science with street art as a means to change the way science stories are told.”

With a goal of reenergizing underserved community spots, these carefully-planned displays of art all hold deeper meaning.

A work near Luna’s Groceries depicts three women — as the mural was proudly undertaken by women — alongside RNA, microbiomes and other genetic material to explore the realm of precision medicine and big data. The Discovery Building’s wall of graffitied and antiquated portraits highlight notable scientists across race, gender, discipline, era and nationality. An alluring black hole3 complete with a visible ring outlining the event horizon, where nothing can escape the black hole’s pull — is equally stunning and ominous at Meadowood Shopping Center.

What these murals all have in common transcends confusing scientific terminology or impossible-to-remember mnemonic devices, though.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the essential role the arts play in healing our community, communicating scientific information and creatively approaching how we build back as a society — better and stronger,” says Contrereas.

As the weather permits, Kallick and Krsko will be painting away on Madison’s south side to hopefully complete their masterpiece around Sept. 27. Check it out for yourself on Plaenert Drive between S. Park St. and the UW-Madison Arboretum.

Sam Jones is an editorial intern at Madison Magazine.