Zaria Roller ’23

Dane Arts Mural Arts, Madison, WI

I spent this summer as a Digital Media/Administrative Assistant for Dane Arts Mural Arts (DAMA), a non-profit mural organization in Madison, Wisconsin. I had volunteered with DAMA in the past, first in their 2016 Summer Youth Institute and again when they designed a mural for my high school in 2019, so I was excited to join their team as a full-time intern. I admire their mission of beautifying the Dane County area and engaging community members in the process of making murals, and my time with DAMA has strengthened my belief that art has the potential to transform lives.

My duties varied a lot from day to day. Being the only intern on a small team at a relatively busy time for the organization meant that some days I was writing and mailing thank you letters to donors and organizing files, and other days I was posting on social media and picking up a paintbrush. I found that I enjoyed the variety of work, as it kept me on my feet and never felt monotonous.

One of my main responsibilities was capturing DAMA’s story through social media. Given that we’re still in the middle of a pandemic, this was especially important, as their usual opportunities for in-person community engagement were very limited. My main focus was on creating a social media strategy, primarily to increase brand recognition, get new clients, and fundraise. I was fortunate enough to connect with another mural artist from San Diego to work on this project.

This was just one of the opportunities that I got to network. I was additionally able to talk with other DAMA artists about their careers and what led them to their current roles, even if they didn’t study art in college. One volunteer artist in particular is currently completing her Ph.D. in cellular and molecular biology, but she still maintains time to do art, which is something I hope to do.

With proper social distancing and safety protocols, I was able to assist in the creation and installation of several murals: a portrait of Barack and Michelle Obama on a boarded-up storefront, a Madison-themed mural for a local hotel, and a mural celebrating the class of 2020 at a nearby high school. Painting the portrait of the Obamas was a great experience, as I got to see the whole process from working with a client’s requests to completing the mural. There were some bumps along the road, but working with the lead artists to problem solve on design and installation obstacles made me appreciate the final product even more.

Although I don’t plan on pursuing mural arts as a career, interning with DAMA provided me with a better understanding of how non-profit organizations operate and helped me realize the importance that art has in my life. I’m extremely grateful to the Class of 1972 and the ’68 Center for Career Exploration for making this opportunity possible. Without their support, I (along with countless other Williams students) wouldn’t be able to explore these valuable internship opportunities.