Madison's State Street to get new work of public art

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Madison's Library Mall

The campus end of Madison’s State Street looks like the scene of an explosion right now, due to roadwork. But by the time autumn leaves fall, it will feature a new sculptural work of public art.

“LEAF,” the working title of a sculpture by Milwaukee-based artist Jill Sebastian, will take the form of a 27-foot-square maple leaf. The figure will feature layers of depth that create subtle lighting patterns that change with the seasons. The patterns are intended to reflect the waves on nearby Lake Mendota, especially at night.

“LEAF” will be organic to the space, both figuratively and literally, thanks to early civic planning.

“The intersection of State Street and Library Mall/East Campus Mall is one of the most important public places, and one of the busiest, in the city,” says William Fruhling, principal planner with the City of Madison’s Neighborhood Planning, Preservation and Design Section. “For the design of the 700–800 blocks of State Street — the portion now under construction between Lake and Park Streets — we required that an artist be part of the design team so that integrating public art could be considered from the earliest stages.”

“The city has a strong commitment to ‘place-making’ and creating unique public spaces where people will want to visit and spend time,” Fruhling adds. “Public art plays a major role in that, and that is why we required an artist to be part of the design team, and not just think of adding public art where it fit after everything else was designed.”

Sebastian has already made an impact on the other end of State Street, where she created “Philosophers Stones,” the public sitting area adjacent to the Wisconsin Historical Museum. Her works have been exhibited across the United States, as well as in Israel and the Netherlands.

The final cost and installation date of “LEAF” are as yet unknown. Sebastian is now working out the details of engineering and constructing the piece.