Mark Fraire and Dane Arts Are Putting Art in
Dane County Communities
Community Impact of Art
|Dane County Cultural Affairs director Mark Fraire stands in front
of the SAIL mural Dane Arts commissioned on the MSCR
building on Regent Street
do. I like to have art of the highest merit. That’s a priority. And what kind of impact can we have in the communities in which we serve? I think
we can do both. I’ve shown that you can do both. What I want to really do is raise the visibility of the arts in Dane County.”
The arts — and Dane Arts — have been highly visible since Fraire took over.
“I made a commitment to participate in the festivals and events as a way of branding and marketing ourselves to show that we are community-
oriented,” Fraire said. “I have the mural program in which artists can set up many mural activities, which we did at the Agora Art Fair in
Fitchburg, which was wildly successful, the Mt. Horeb Art Festival, Central Park Sessions in Madison, Orton Park. La Fete and other festivals.
We’re being visible and supporting the work to get all people to see that the arts are important and that Dane Arts is at the forefront of all this.”
One of the first things that Fraire did was hook up with artist Sharon Kilfoy to create a series of murals throughout Dane County.
“I want to support the traditional arts and expand the base of the arts throughout Dane County,” Fraire said. “I want the mural program to go
throughout Dane County. Dane County has given me permission to do murals on any county building if I can raise the money and do it on a very
high level. We’re now working on a spring project for the department of transportation building on Fish Hatchery and Badger Roads. It’s a
block-long building. We’re working on designs. We’ve had three community conversations in the neighborhood. We’re kind of nervous
because it is a huge building. But if we can successfully do that — and I think we can because we are working with good people on a good
project. If it is successful, then we can really move throughout the county. My goal is to have the towns and communities that we find Dane
Arts doing a mural, that in the summer they pay for kids to work part time with us. If we can get a Mt. Horeb to support kids in Mt. Horeb to
work with Dane Arts, the kids get part-time work and they develop a skill. It’s not just artistic skills, it’s skill about teamwork, management,
completing tasks. There are all kinds of ways that the arts are critical to our arenas in which we live and work. And that is what I am trying to
do, to raise the visibility, see the impact and help support young people to get this done.”
The impact of the mural program can be seen in the mural painted on the MSCR Building on Regent Street painted with students from the SAIL
“You give a young person an opportunity, that access, and they will do great things,” Fraire emphasized. “Look at what we did with the SAIL
program, the mural that we just took a picture of. These kids did not want to participate in working with two artists when they started this
project until they started getting closer to the artists and they saw what could happen. Then they got a paintbrush in their hands and they
created this incredible mural. And now they are selling Christmas cards based on a lot of the work that they did with the material that was left
over from the mural. You can see what happens to a young person when they get engaged in the arts. And I am a firm believer that if we took
the county to the forefront of leading the arts, we could answer the racial inequity. We could answer the achievement gap because kids need
to be engaged.”
Art is a part of everything around us and Fraire is working to get people to understand the value of art and its impact on the local economy.
And he is doing this through synergies that he is helping to create in the community like the sponsorship of the residence of two artists at 100
State, to create synergies between the arts and technology and business.
And it is that synergy that led to the creation of the Night Market.
“We had a Dane Arts Night Market at the U.S. Bank building,” Fraire said. “Sixty artists applied to be juried in. It’s like a craft fair, an arts fair
on the square only we took it to a night time location with music and dance and a DJ, food and drink and visual artists. And we invited all
businesses we could contact to come to this directly for the purpose of buying art from local artists. We have ‘Buy Local Farming’ and ‘Buy
Local Products.’ I say ‘Buy Local Art.’ We sold about $8,000 of work that night. One of the artists got a couple of exhibitions. One artist got a
$10,000 commission following that night market to produce a couple of murals at a local business. So we think the outcome of this could have
as much as a $100,000 impact over the next year in terms of exhibition, commissions, networking, sales or giving opportunities for artists.”
And this is but one example on how the arts serve as an economic engine.
“I know for a fact that individual artists put their money back into the community,” Fraire said. “There is that economic impact. We’re doing an
economic impact study this year with Americans for the Arts on a national level to try and show the kind of dollars that are spent on the arts in
Dane County. That’s significant. Research shows that you spend $24 in Dane County in addition to the cost of a ticket for an event in Dane
County, babysitter, clothes, travel and other costs. You spend an additional $39 if you live outside of Dane County to come to an event at
Overture and other venues. It shows the economic impact that the arts have.”
One of Fraire’s objectives is to integrate art into the lives of the generations coming up. At community festivals, Dane Arts engages young
people in drawing. And he is reaching out to the Millennials in whom he sees great potential for taking community art to the next level.
“The beauty of these Millennials is that all of them that I have met across cultures, which is different than our age group, are all trying to be
socially conscious,” Fraire observed. “They are all trying to do good things for the community. We may know people in our community who we
can work with, but we know that not everyone is thinking like that. Well with most of these Millenials, everyone is thinking that way,
community consciousness, helping, giving back, raising money, making money.”
It is an engagement that Fraire hopes will maintain the aesthetic and financial health of the arts in Dane County for generations to come.
By Jonathan Gramling
Art is everywhere. It is the music that we hear in movies and in the
elevators we ride. It is on the side of buildings and in the graphics of the
magazines we read. Art is the expression of the human condition and helps
us to define out every day existence. It defines who we are.
And yet, art is taken for granted like the air we breathe. Often times we are
unaware that we need it. But if our environments were devoid of it, we
would notice its importance — quickly.
Dane County Executive Joe Parisi knows this and so, he hired Mark Fraire
in April 2014 to direct Dane County Cultural Affairs.
“What I am having difficulty with is trustees and shareholders who aren’t
quite there yet in their thinking,” Fraire said. “That’s what I like about these
Millenials. They are there. They know it is impactful. It’s these other folks
and businesses that just see art as a hobby, as something that you do when
you are bored. They don’t see the real community value. And Joe does. Joe
sees the importance of it. He’s allowed me to do some things that would
have never happened. I say to folks that this is not your grandma’s Dane
Arts any longer. This is about taking the arts into the community and
impacting people’s lives. There are two things that I like to say about what I