Neighborhood Notable: Demonstrating leadership in making a neighborhood and its businesses successful.
If you've seen a mural in Madison, Sharon Kilfoy probably had a hand in its creation. For the last 10 years, Kilfoy has run the Williamson Street Art Center, which helps local kids and artists enhance local neighborhoods with large-scale works, especially in areas that get overlooked in discussions about public art.
After coming to Madison for graduate school, Kilfoy spent 27 years with the Respite Center at Madison's Center for Families. On the side, she painted murals with youth at schools and neighborhood centers.
"I was trying to give kids an experience that they wouldn't get in a classroom," she says.
With this vision in mind, Kilfoy launched the Williamson Street Art Center out of her home. Since then, she has worked on murals like the Home Away from Home wall in Centro Hispano and the mural on UW-Madison's Humanities Building.
Though the scope of Kilfoy's work has expanded over the last decade, it is still very focused on youth.
"My goal is to get kids engaged in something," she says. "One thing that makes mural work unique is the scale of it. To take something that you've done on an 8-by-10 sheet of paper and see it blown up, that's exciting no matter who you are."
Above all, Kilfoy believes in young people. She says they understand the importance of street art and see how art can transform lives.
"When they see other people in the community appreciating that work, it gets them engaged on a whole other level," she says.
Plus murals can promote neighborly sentiments and strengthen community bonds.
"Murals say, 'We're glad you're here, we're glad you're part of the city, and we're glad you're part of the community,'" Kilfoy says.