In the 70s Williamson Street Was primarily a working class industrial area. Artists, activists, poets, musicians, and theater folks found cheap rent here and minimal restriction on out artistic and political expression — We were a generation that had become disillusioned with the world as We found 1t. We created our own "Counter-Culture revolution" right here on Willy Street. This mural tells our story
Death of Dada / Birth of Mama
Death of Dada / Birth of Mama represented the end of a nihilistic approach to art and the desire to
embrace a gentler way of life. It manifested as a theatrical event in which an actor threw himself off the bridge over the Yahara River at Jenifer Street, as a magazine (Madison Area Magazine of the
Arts) and as an art Movement (Madison Area Movement of the Arts).
Broom Street Theater / Junk Plays
Broom Street Theater fostered artistic freedom, growth, and expression through non-traditional experimental and original plays. "Junk plays") productions in which props amd sets Were
made from Materials at hand. "Theater might be dead, but it'S such an interesting graveyard" You can go back through the ages and pull pieces of it and have fun with it."
"Adventures in Wonderland" was an experimental theater production presented by Gallery 853 and the Wisconsin Institute for Intermedia Studies. In it a young woman tries to find her way amidst the cultural remnants of bygone eras and a newly changing world order.
Near East Side Health Clinic
This volunteer-staffed community clinic was one of many grass roots organizations that sought to remove power from corporate America and give people control over important aspects of their lives, especially those involving health and nutrition.
Willy Street Fair
The Willy St Fair was begun in 1977 by Williamson Street artists and activists to foster communication between different factions of the Marquette neighborhood. It continues to take place every fall and has become one of the best-known street festivals in the country.
The Amazement Company was one of many local bands who played their own version of punk music. Unique to the Amazement Company was their focus on local and contemporary issues.
Wayhouse of Light
The Wayhouse of Light on the 1300 block of Williamson St was one of Madison's original "Artist Built environments" in which artists transform their homes, yards, or other aspects of their personal
surroundings into multifaceted works of art that embody the time, era and place in which they live and work.
In the 1970's centers of artistic activity were created up and down Willy Street. A vibrancy and buzz resulted. although we worked in different media, we shared a common vision and belief that through our art we could make a difference. We were a generation whose hallmark was hope.
Poet Laureate of Madison
The 1970's saw an explosion of literary activity. Scores of small-press poetry books were self-published, hundreds of poetry readings happened at multiple venues and an official "Poet Laureate of Madison" was appointed by the mayor. The position continues today.
Unicorn Forest & Wildlife Preserve
The Unicorn Forest and Wildlife Preserve began at 1020 Willy St and later moved to 853 Willy St. This was one of many artist-homes or storefronts in which artists sought to integrate their living and working situations, creating a way of life in which art reflected a belief system and meant more than just making for rich people.
Gallery 853 was a extension of the Unicorn Forest and Wildlife Preserve at 853 Williamson St. There and entire large building became devoted to the arts. It housed public and private gallery and studio spaces,
and living quarters for many artists, poets, actors and musicians.
St Vincent de Paul Fashion Show
The St Vincent de Paul Fashion Show was a performance event that happened in the early 1970's. Artists joined with their working-class neighbors to celebrate at St Vinnie's. We were united in our need to stretch a dollar as far as possible. The importance of recycling and the hipness of vintage came later. Poverty was a common denominator.
Back Porch Radio
Young people recognized that control the instruments of communication meant control of how people think. A fledgling radio station was born that sought to play music chosen by people who care, and that could disseminate information focused on truth rather than profit.
Running for public office was a way to challenge the status quo. Whether one expected to be a viable candidate or not. Important issues could be raised. For example, the "Day-Glow Sheriff," a local artist, promised to "turn the jail into a center of education" if elected.
Alternative business models such as the worker's collective at Nature's Bakery developed on Willy St. A vegetarian bakery which uses organic whole grains, Nature's is "committed to educating ourselves and our customers about nutrition, cooperative work, and
Panel 2the politics of growing and distributing food."
Corn Belt Review
The Corn Belt Review was an "incubation arena" which happened weekly at Gallery 553. There performers were able to develop their talents and discover a home-bred culture of our own. The duo here went on to create "sophisticated and wickedly funny original songwriting that has delighted nationwide audiences for nearly 20 years." They specialize in songs that make wry observations about the human condition.
"It was quite a ride. It was quite the time — wonderful! We really felt like the world was changing and we were catalysts. We were on the forefront. We were right there , pushing things ahead. The eastside of Madison — it was the place to be." — Amazement Company Interview.