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Community projects

Storm drain mural initiative 
In the spring of 2018, Madison Area Municipal Stormwater Partnership (MAMSWaP) and Dane County Land and Water Resources Department partnered with Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA) on a Storm Drain Mural Initiative. UW Art and Service Learning students also joined us to work in schools and design storm drain murals. Thegoal was to raise awareness about stormwater pollution, specifically that runoff entering storm drains flows untreated to local lakes, rivers and streams. The ultimate goal was to inspire people to take actions to prevent stormwater pollution. Using students’ drawings, DAMA artists created designs that they then painted with students on sidewalks surrounding storm drains in their own communities.
Check out the
Ripple Effects website for maps and images of murals near you.


As the artist for the 2022 Dane County Storm Drain Mural Program, here's a sneak peak at some new designs to look out for!

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This design was based on a butterfly species whose vibrant black and yellow wings reminded me of one of my mother's saris, a traditional Indian dress. The upper wings feature ornate designs including lotus flowers, which are believed to be the seat of creation. On the lower wings are silhouettes of Odissi dancers; Odissi is the classical dance of Odisha, a north eastern coastal state in India. To integrate the designs into a butterfly wing pattern, I used colors that mimic the eye spots that butterflies often use for defense.
High school students laid in the background for this design during DAMA programming, while details were completed by me in the shop.

Exterior latex on plywood, 48"x 36"
produced by DAMA
lead artist & designer, Sonya Sankaran

Created for Olbrich Garden's Annual Blooming Butterflies Exhibit, Madison, Wisconsin

starkweather pride
Exterior latex on plywood, 48"x 72"
produced by DAMA
lead artist & designer, Sonya Sankaran

Installed on commuter bike path along Starkweather Creek, Madison, WI

Darbo bikepath.jpg

This design was inspired by a request from community members in the Darbo-Worthington neighborhood of Madison, WI. Gun violence and other activity led to an already close neighborhood coming together even more to build relationships in an inclusive way. This piece was a continuation of other placemaking such as a community garden bed, benches and a street mural.
Neighborhood youth began painting this design during the Darbo-Worthington Pop-up Market, while details were completed in the shop.

Exterior latex on cement wall, 48"x 30'
Lead artist & designer, Sonya Sankaran

Design ideas from teen interns, City of Madison Wanda Fullmore Program
Painted with K-5 youth during Nature Day at Warner Park Community Recreation Center, Madison, WI


"You have the POWER to make a difference," was the message that Wanda Fullmore youth wanted to pass on to children through their summer internship with Public Health of Madison and Dane County (PHMDC). In partnership with Madison Parks, I worked with interns to design and paint this mural as a part of the Cities Connecting Children to Nature Initiative, for which I was principal consultant from 2016-2020.

In spring of 2016, Public Health of Madison Dane County received a grant from the Children and Nature Network to join the first cohort of 7 cities participating in the national Cities Connecting Children to Nature (CCCN) initiative. Still active today, this initiative “seeks to create more equitable and abundant access to nature in cities through a partnership between The National League of Cities Institute for Youth, Education, and Families and the Children & Nature Network. CCCN supports robust citywide action plans to implement policy, develop new partnerships, amplify nature-based programming, and create more equitable nature access.”

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Love the lake
Exterior latex on composite bench, 72"x 24"x 24"
Lead artist & designer, Sonya Sankaran

Design inspired by 5th graders, Bayview Community Center summer program

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Bench mural_edited.jpg
Bench mural.jpeg

In 2019, through the CCCN initiative, I spent several months with Bayview Community Center youth designing a "Nature Nook" or nature mini-park within Brittingham Park in Madison, WI. As a part of this project, summer program youth created drawings depicting their love for the lake that I incorporated into this bench mural. 

The Nature Nook design features accessible pathways, play raft with accessible ramps and deck, fort, boulder "dragon," climbing log, branch boxes/fort building materials, planters and a hillock. (Find more details on my page, Nature - Placemaking)

Play haven mural
Exterior latex on polytab, 10' x 63'
Produced by DAMA
Lead artist & designer, Sonya Sankaran

Painted with students from the Renewing Futures program, LaFollette High School for Atlas Play Haven Childcare Center, Madison, WI

South police station mural
Exterior latex on polytab, 10' x 20'
Produced by DAMA
Lead artist & designer, Sonya Sankaran

Painted with SAIL West Alternative High School students for South Park Street Police Station, Madison, WI

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