"The Well of Being" mural

"The Well of Being" mural

Juvenile Detention Center
WATCH the 1-minute timelapse video above

The Well of Being is an exercise in metaphor, created through a process of engaging and visualizing all five of our five senses to describe the gymnasium inside Dane County Juvenile Detention Center. During a one-week residency over Spring Break, local artist Chris Maddox worked with students at the facility to transform the giant wall opposite the doorway.

Chris came in on the Thursday afternoon before break to generate ideas and themes with teen residents. After a brief introduction to himself and his trajectory as an learner and artist, Chris laid some basic groundwork by working with the group to define the concept of metaphor. He then handed out a pencil and a stack of note cards to each teen, and began offering prompts in which they had 30-60 seconds to write or draw the first thing that comes to mind. He used prompts like "Please describe the smell when you first walk into the gymnasium", or "What animal do you feel like when you are working out in the gym", or "What does power look like?". Chris then collected all of the note cards, took them home, and laid them out in one large grid on his floor and desk in order to soak in their feedback while designing the mural on his laptop.

The following Monday morning, Chris came back to the facility where we projected his design on the gym wall for both the teen residents and the detention administrators and staff to offer feedback and move on to the next step. Over the next 6 days, the teens used pencils to trace the design as it was projected on the wall and then paint and outline the entire wall. Due to the nature of the facility, teen residents are only housed on a temporary basis so there were some kids that took part in every session, but also kids that were only there for the beginning or the end of the project.


picture of students and artist painting "The Well of Being" mural.
"The Well of Being" mural production notes Chris Maddox uses to design student concept mural
"The Well of Being" notecards with student feedback on design for mural
Handrawn comic of how a mural can transform a dull gym and enclosed gymnasium.