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Richard Smith '83

State Street is known for its colorful characters, and many have become familiar to the UW community at large. One such character was Art Nesson, commonly referred to as "Art the Window Washer."

Art always had a bucket, some dirty newspaper, and a squeegee on hand to perform his trademark occupation: window washing on State Street. Art's window washing afforded him a beverage or couple of bucks here and there from State Street vendors and other passersby. Art wasn't always a window washer — at one time he was a dishwasher and also did some odd jobs for State Street merchants from time to time.

This window washer's claim to fame was heightened by the creation of the "What is Art? … Art is a window washer on State Street" T-shirts. These shirts were a familiar sight on the backs of UW students and Madison citizens alike from the 1960s through the 1980s.

Art seemed to migrate from place to place throughout the blocks of State Street, often setting up shop on the front stoops of houses in the blocks between State Street and where Gorham becomes University Avenue. In a 1979 Badger yearbook article, Art was quoted as saying that he was satisfied with his life. According to his obituary published in the Wisconsin State Journal, Art was born in Madison on August 9, 1937, and died at the age of 44 in Madison in April 1982. Before becoming a State Street legend, he served in the Army from 1957 to 1960. Sadly, because Art died at a young age, he was survived by both of his parents, a brother, two sisters and a number of nieces and nephews.

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