What we need — a little rant about some big things


June 19, 2008   ·   39 Comments

Post by Sid Sachs

Sid Sachs, Director of Rosenwald-Wolf Gallery, Uarts faculty (and friend of artblog whose mind is always ruminating in interesting places) was provoked by my post on Ann Northrup’s mural. Specifically by this: “the head of the Mural Arts Program, Jane Golden, was in Vietnam helping that government launch a mural program and how great it was that she was bringing her successful experience here to other parts of the world.”

In response Sid wrote a free verse rant that raises a lot of issues about murals, and the city’s arts and culture institutions and the future direction of the city.

 PUULLEEAASSE! Cease and desist! We don’t need another illustration in our fair city. Nor does Vietnam need a mural cancer from us (an irony because much of Golden’s aesthetic was forged by Eva Cockcroft who wrote about the Cuban and Latino tradition of murals. Left via Politically Correct.)

What we do need is peace.
What we need is grace.
What we need is kindness.
No killing – here or in Iraq.
We don’t need people slaughtered for IPods.

We need education at the highest level.
We need beautiful architecture.
We need mass transit.
We need waterfronts on both rivers.
We don’t need casinos. (Are there casinos in New York?)
We have no money nor time to lose.
We don’t need wifi – the revolution will not be televised.

We need a monument to Anne d’Harnoncourt in the building of the Frank Gehry wing ASAP. We miss her.
We need another lovely genius.

We need to shake people up.
We don’t need to be embarrassed.
We are not the Sixth Borough.
We need major monuments and high art and dedication to life.
We need ideas.
We need to let Robert Venturi build on Washington Square.
We don’t need greed.
We don’t need Symphony House.
We applaud Mr. Fuhrman’s generosity (free admission to ICA!).
We applaud David Pincus and our new Di Suvero.

All museums should be free.
We don’t give a Tut about Pirates!
We don’t give a fig about Rocky (though Stallone was good in Copland).
We don’t care about blockbusters.
We don’t care about sharing mediocre ideas.
We don’t care about mass production.

We don’t care about murals(unless they are in Padua, Rome, Sienna ).

Our Murals are billboards.

Where are our Rothkos?


39 responses to “What we need — a little rant about some big things”

  1. Anonymous says:

    at first, I thought the mural arts program was great. but now, there seem to be too many murals in philadelphia. way too many. drive west on ridge and you come across one every other block. ever try to paint an urban landscape but find a mural that just gets in the way of a simple shape of color on the side of a building. do we need another busy looking photoshop constructed composition adorning the empty walls of the city. Some murals seem to promote Philadelphia an “ideal city” without problems. When in reality, it is a down right nasty place. Philadelphia can be violent, dangerous and unwelcoming. How about a mural that sheds light on what the city is really about. It just seems funny that we have these happy murals and extreme gunfire in the same place.

  2. Anonymous says:

    The mural arts program is an Illuminati program,telling people everything is fine,be happy,don’t worry,stay calm,escape into fantasy,now go to sleep so we can better control you.

  3. roberta says:

    Sid asked me if I’d noticed the increase in grafitti around town and I said I had indeed noticed it. Look and you will see–grafitti is back. It’s kind of ironic that the origins of Mural Arts is in the Anti-Grafitti Network. And now when we have grafitti we don’t really have an anti-grafitti network to combat it.

  4. Anonymous says:

    if you didn’t know already, graffiti is “in” in the art world. there are books on graffiti and the “artists” that produce them. They get art shows in galleries now too. The art establishment has found their new thing to promote. So why not produce graffiti over the empty walls? That is the thing to do. It is art now. It is the “art of our time”. hahah. You are the new hot thing. Mural arts is so passe.

  5. Melissa - Funnel Pages says:

    Forgive me for what may be a corny response, but I’d like to disagree with the previous sentiments towards Philadelphia’s murals. First I’d like to say that, like Roberta mentioned in her entry, I don’t like all the murals in Philadelphia. Some are executed less skillfully than others, and a few are downright creepy.

    However, I do think that the Mural Arts Program deserves some credit. I don’t think the murals are supposed to represent Philadelphia as a city with no problems, I think they’re intended to promote safe neighborhoods with positive imagery. Is Anonymous #1 suggesting that a more realistic painting of people being shot down and shooting up would make for a better mural? I’m thinking no.

    Does this strategy of painting ideal images in less-than-ideal areas reduce crime? Probably not, but I’m guessing that it’s what we don’t see on the walls that’s what counts: neighborhoods uniting, kids learning about working together, employing artists in a city that desperately needs to support its artists, etc. Even if these things only happen a fraction of the amount that Mural Arts would like us to believe, it’s better than nothing, right?

    Maybe instead of banning murals as some would suggest, we should try to encourage the mural arts program to use less frenetic “photoshopped” compositions, and more subtle, harmonious ones that would complement their surroundings more. I haven’t given the subject a whole lot of thought, but I bet there are alternatives to scrapping the Mural Arts Program altogether.

    (That being said, I pretty much agree with the rest of what Sid Sachs pointed out, haha.)

  6. heatherjowingate says:

    Museums need blockbusters to financially survive.

  7. Christopher Paquette says:

    We need more hotly debated art topics!!

  8. constance says:

    it does raise questions.

    for instance- is the glut of art resulting from the manufactured culture of philadelphia’s artschool community really less out of touch with the city than the mural arts program’s often misguided attempts at democratic expression?

    i dont think the answer is no murals, but better, more informed representations of the city from all angles of the art world high and low.

  9. libby says:

    I hate to weigh in on the murals too negatively. Often they are an improvement over graffiti-ed walls, and that was their genesis.

    Melissa makes some good points about how the murals are more than just the mural itself as a material object. It’s about community building, social work. And while that doesn’t necessarily make great art, it’s worth doing.

    The negative issue for me is the sameness of them, and the look of Socialist Realist cultural propaganda. I object to murals with uplifted arms reaching to some higher power, delivering a message of hope to the people. How trite can you get?

    I like the quirky ones with unexpected imagery and some sort of poetry. I like the ones with a personal stamp of the artist.

    I’m not so crazy about the ones that look like PhotoShop collages.

    Like all art, only some of it is successful. Sometimes a really good artist makes a so-so mural.

    While I have sympathy for those groaning beneath the load of so many murals, especially those who get to look at a really awful one on a regular basis, let’s not throw out the baby with the bathwater.

    I’d rather be supportive of the mural arts program and the nicer murals. In many cases they do lighten up the streetscape. The process touches so many people in a positive way, including school children and community participants, and you’ll just have to avert your eyes when you pass one that isn’t your favorite.

    I’d rather it were a mural than a peeling paint wall that makes me avert my eyes. At least it shows some love toward the city.

    Like all art, there are taste issues. I like one mural, I dislike another, and those are my choices. To damn them all with one broad brush just isn’t right.

    What constance says is completely true. The art that seems to be represented as quintessential Philadelphia should not be the murals, but some of the wonderful things roberta and i have been writing about that we’ve been seeing all over town.

  10. heatherjowingate says:

    I agree with a lot you say Libby.

    I think that the murals ultimately bring communities together and in many instances give the youth in our city a sense of accomplishment and pride in their neighborhoods.

    It’s easy to get point out the shortcomings of our cultural organizations, but why can’t we focus on learning and growing from the positives? Being negative is not really going to do much good (in my humble opinion.)

    The same goes for museums- it is SO hard for museums to survive, and I just think that we are lucky to have them at all. I don’t mind paying for them. I would much rather pay for a museum that is run by creative and liberal people, than have govenment funded/ run organizations that censor the collection.

    So I’m sorry Sid, but I don’t agree with your rotten attitude.

  11. roberta says:

    What I love about the mural program is when they take a risk and let an artist make a more personal statement. Sarah McEneaney’s murals which are blow-ups of her own paintings are a great example. I think Mural Arts should have a dedicated stream of murals that are artist-driven instead of community-driven. There are walls enough out there for both artist-driven and community-driven paintings.

    Maybe it’s the money. Mural Arts works on a shoestring budget. They just got a PEI grant to do a project with Steve Powers (ESPO) for a series of rooftop murals for West Philly El riders. I’m hoping with that infusion of money that ESPO’s mural will be an ESPO project –an artist-driven mural that’s true to his quirky spirit and aesthetic.

    We don’t have anything like Creative TIme or Public Art Fund here in town and I wish we did. Those organizations take some risks and come up with some loopy great projects (like Olafur Eliasson’s waterfalls in the East River which debut this week).

    I have no problem with museum blockbusters. They bring people into museums who ordinarily don’t go.

  12. roberta says:

    This comment just in from Sid Sachs who’s having computer problems and asked us to post it for him:

    Yes, I have attitude. Anyone who knows me knows that. It is called a point of view by others.

    I have a problem with the quantity and quality of the murals. And the fact that they have become their own blight. I have no qualms about the Keith Haring, the Sarah McEneaney, or the coming ESPO murals as these are artists with a particular vision. Many of the murals seem anonymous. They have a generic quality. They are not art. They are safe gaps for community issues but with our crime rate and increasing graffiti they are not working. So much for the power of art.

    As for graffiti: I am old enough to remember Cornbread on the Broad Street Line. There is an original aesthetic there but also an arrogance of ego and anger.

    Some of that paint could be used to provide color. Does anyone know the work of Luis Barragan? Could paint fix up the appearance of homes? Are community gardens earthworks?

  13. Anonymous says:

    I think Mural Arts needs to push other ways to design murals besides using Photoshop. Volunteer members of the Philadelphia art community (not in key positions in the mural arts program) should form some kind of external mural committee that could discuss ways to increase the quality of the murals and look over the designs ( and attend the community meetings that approve the designs that are currently open to the public) Also, for financial reasons murals are made quickly. The focus needs to be shifted if a high quantity of murals are being created so that Mural Arts continues to get funding. I believe that the focus in the future should be on increasing the quality, not just on speed and quantity…

  14. roberta says:

    I like your point about quality versus quantity, anonymous. As for adding an artist consulting group to help raise the quality of the murals that’s an interesting idea. Although adding another layer of bureaucracy to an already committee-heavy process wouldn’t necessarily make the product better although it sure would slow the process down.

  15. german township says:

    For years I have felt that there was less to the Mural Arts Program than is publicly touted although it is, in all candor, political incorrect to suggest that it is anything less than miraculous. Over the years the program has assumed mythic proportions in what it does and what it purports to do, and what its value is to a City replete with truly phenomenal art.

    Yes, some of the murals show a high degree of technique and interesting designs, etc. But more often than not, when I see a mural what I realize I am looking at, almost immediately, is a corner where a building has been demolished, without any thought of how the loss of that building affects the surrounding buildings. This horrific lack of understanding about what demolitions do to environments has become a double scourge as neighborhoods have been decimated and then populated with incongruous artwork. And putting an enormous image in place of the building does nothing to bring the now disparate elements together. On the contrary, it serves to emphasize that the mural was never supposed to be there. My now others must realize that the mural serve a dual purpose as commercials for the program that populates the city which what is, in artistic terms, an invasive species.

    Just once, I would like to see the Mural Arts Program work with an architect to put a well painted mural in a space that is designed to hold one. This may actually have happened at this point, but more often Philadelphia’s murals serve as theatrical slight of hand, trying to convince the viewer that what they are looking at is better than the devastation it hides. Apparently the slight of hand works well with funders and also with leaders who don’t understand that murals created this way are, for all intents and purposes, expensive wall paper.

    Most importantly, the mural phenomenon remains, in spite of what anyone says, a case of the Emperor’s (or Empress’s…) new clothes. Why has this kind of visual cartoon displaced our society’s long-time connection to deeper values – art in an environment designed to welcome and enhance it? As opposed to art designed to leverage more funding for the program that produces it.

  16. libby says:

    Hi, German, are you an architect by any chance?

    I found your comment about the missing architecture and the bandaid murals pretty interesting. Just like the murals can’t replace the missing buildings, they also can’t fix poverty. Both of these are unreasonable expectations.

    I prefer to complain, however, that there are corporations in this city that think they are supporting art by supporting murals. The result is the sort of exciting public art that goes up in New York never happens here in Philadelphia. All we get is another mural!

    The amount of money it would take to fix poverty is so great, the money going to mural arts is a drop in the bucket. At least Mural Arts keeps poverty from destroying the mural artists (but just barely; they aren’t paid nearly enough). If you think this is a mixed message on my part, you’re right. It reflects my ambivalence. I think murals are both good and not so good, depending on if I’m looking at a mural I like or a mural I dislike or the vast majority, which bore me.

    As for utopian dreams of architects providing better placement of murals, excuse me while I laugh out loud.

  17. german township says:

    libby said…
    Hi, German, are you an architect by any chance

    No, just someone who finds visual incongruity oppresive. Murals bandaiding poverty gives me the same sense of visual melancholy that you get driving by an 18th c. house surrounded by tract houses. One has nothing to do with the other yet they are forced to share the same space.

    libby said…
    “As for utopian dreams of architects providing better placement of murals, excuse me while I laugh out loud.”

    I don’t dream of architects providing better placement of murals and had not thought a lot about the issue until I stared reading the thread about the mural program. Just seems like a good idea especially when you see the alternative. Murals as we see them throughout the City are Philadelphia’s version of a Potemkin Village.

    But frankly there is just as much reason to use a mural as there is an enormous video screen in a lobby. You can’t kick the axial cable out of a mural…

  18. libby says:

    lol–vis a vis the comparisons to the Comcast Center’s giant video screen.

    I especially like the potemkin village analogy, given the socialist realist roots of the murals.

  19. Zaba One Time says:

    Your Rothkos are painting murals Sid because your gallery won’t let them exhibit! Give me a break and open your heart, mind and eyes.

    I understand that people are getting sick of all the photo shop murals about town, but the fact of the matter is this is what people want. The artists who create the murals in this city are dedicated artists and teachers. Their work helps to teach people about art in general, creates new audiences and future artists and collectors. Jane Golden is one of the greatest arts leaders in the world – not only bringing high art to all people, but providing jobs for over 400 artists, arts education for thousands of youth each year and inspiring tens of thousands. MAP is one of the great highlights of this city, and a beacon of hope for the world. The social and artistic merits of MAP’s work overshadows and negatives that may arise – and tastes shift and change with the times. Today you may see allot of photshop murals, but that will change as a new generation of artists start painting. It also says allot about the people who are writing here – if you go into the neighborhoods you can see all sorts of murals – painted by groups of artists – designed and painted by youth, by established gallery artists, abstract, funky, etc. There is room in Philadelphia for all sorts of art, high, low and in between. Philadelphia is one of the great cultural centers of the planet and we have Jane Golden and all the hard working people at MAP to thank for that.


  20. cmp7west says:

    You sound like a wealthy snob who believes that TRUE ART lies in a museum. The Mural Art Program (which evolved from the Anti-graffiti project), has done more to transform the lives and neighborhoods of Philadelphia than anything the City or the Art Museum has ever done. Art lives everywhere in Phila – especially in the places where it is needed most – thanks to MAP. It has been an inspiration that transcends all classes, races, religions and reaches beyond Philadelphia in a way that the hoopla of saving “Gross Clinic” never will. Anne d’Harnoncourt was a great lady and by all means build your tribute. Jane Golden has committed herself for decades to using Art to save and enrich the lives of those who may have been discarded in this world while fighting for her own life along the way. Jane will need no monument when she is gone. Her blood is on the walls and her love flows through the streets.

  21. dogsteps says:

    let artists have more design control and communities get frustrated. let communities have more design input and artists get frustrated. let administrators have design control and you get pablum

  22. Admin says:

    what a senseless rant. start by criticizing the MAP and then go on to write some poetry to avoid defending your position?

    the murals are one of the finest parts of philly. everyone can enjoy them, everyone can interpret them – what percentage of the city honestly cares about rothko?

    how can this [supposedly] distinguished professor pretend to speak for ALL OF PHILADELPHIA and say that we don’t care about pirates? i love pirates, i love community art, and i don’t care about venturi.

    but i’m also using the pronoun “I”. sid, don’t pretend to speak for the entire city – we’re not a solitary actor

  23. libby says:

    Gosh, that’s funny. I never assumed Sid was talking for everyone, although I take your point on the grammatical choice of using we. I always assumed Sid was talking for Sid.

    Surely it’s not an either or situation on the murals. Some are excellent, some are good, some are not so good, many are totally predictable. Some help build community, some never achieve lift-off on that count.

    What worries me is whether the people who sprinkle money around for things in this town imagine that by supporting Mural Arts they can then wash their hands of supporting daring public art installations of the sort that give Chicago and New York some sizzle.

    There are plenty of murals I love and admire–and some I’d rather not look at quite so frequently. I can say the same for some of the work hanging in the PMA.

  24. cmp7west says:

    Once again the Point of the MAP is trivialized to only being about Art. The reason why money is given by so many to the MAP is not because they don’t want to support “daring” installations, it’s because tey understand that through art lives are transformed and the communities are involved because they not only come to embrace the work, but also protect it. With 2700 murals in the City less than 100 get defaced each year. BTW – one of the top philanthropist to the MAP is also some of the most ardent supporters of art in throughout the city.

  25. roberta says:

    I’d like to say that I don’t hear anybody decrying MAP for its good works with the community. What I think people object to about the murals is that they are public art — but public art that in many cases falls short of what public art can do which is to reach the biggest audience possible and aim to provoke, excite, puzzle and amaze.

    Many people benefit from the MAP — community members and artists alike (who else employs 400 artists??!!)

    Nobody is asking MAP to close up shop and go away.

    It’s the quality of the depictions on the walls that is under discussion and that’s valid. We all want the best art on our walls inside our houses. Why shouldn’t we want the best art on our walls outside in our neighborhoods?

    Clearly from the level of heat in the last couple comments Sid’s rant and this discussion have touched raw nerve. Clearly we all care about the murals or we wouldn’t be having this dialog.

  26. Daniel says:

    wow its about time some talk has been raised about philly’s murals… and mural arts program which i concept is a great program… however i personally agree these photoshop murals are played out they lack any true identity whoever started this way of producing murals was deemed successful and now that has become the standard… it’s obvious that its time for map to shift gears… being politically correct is not always the answer… art is supposed to provoke our minds and inspire us to grow and think differently…i understand change can sometimes be a fearful but over come the fear and take a chance with some different artist who have something different to say lets broaden the visual conversation!

  27. Ed Gruberg says:

    Thanks so much for posting Sid Sachs’ “Rant,” which I just read. I guess he has liberated me and will save me a bundle of time now that I don’t have to take murals seriously anymore. On his authority and by his syllogism, murals are billboards, billboards are illustrations, and illustrations are out. I assume it doesn’t matter that many different artists with different styles and ideas and approaches have produced murals. His rant reads like those puerile lists that appear occasionally in the Inquirer – What’s in/What’s out. Anybody can make them up. Amy Winehouse is out/Madonna is in; Phillip Glass is in/Franz Schubert is out.
    He adds his own hackneyed opinions in still-another-list. High art is in/mass production is out, monuments to dead museum directors are in/WIFI is out, Italian murals are in/Philadelphia murals are so out. Huh? So it’s not murals per se, just his pathetic combination of xenophilia and allophobia. The Robert Venturi who has designs for Washington Square is in/the Robert Venturi who wrote “Learning From Las Vegas” is presumably out. Ugh.
    The other day I was talking to a post-Freudian psychiatrist friend of mine who is writing a paper for Archives of Psychiatry. It is based on therapeutic sessions with several of his patients who are male and gallery directors. Their common characteristics are that they have inflated opinions of themselves, they have a tendency towards grandiosity and they can’t stand seeing successful art they don’t control. The working title of the draft of the paper is “Mural Envy.”

    Ed Gruberg

  28. Admin says:

    As far as reforming the MAP, mural artist Michael Schwartz has some radical (and inspiring) ideas. He spearheaded the Collective Imprints Project at The Rotunda in West Philly and completely transformed my concept of what a mural is.

    instead of the artist holding a community meeting, gathering ideas, working out a design and then maybe bringing the community into the fold at a paint-by-numbers day, Collective Imprints was designed and executed 100% by whoever showed up. the mural then became so much more than a mural – it was a process of meeting your neighbors, venting frustrations, sharing excitement (how many hours did we spend talking about U City vs. West Philly?!)

    this is the type of community arts every city could use, and while some criticize the final piece as “amateurish”, i see that as a compliment. this format of making art forced me to re-evaluate my aesthetics – if a work of art looks like it was made by a 4 yr old working next to a doodler working next to a “real” artist, isn’t that a good thing?


  29. roberta says:

    hi admin, thanks for adding the info and the link about the collective impact project. it seems a new paradigm and worth watching.

  30. libby says:

    I’m not so sure it’s a new paradigm. The end result looks like a lot of the early murals, which MAP did with the community, using lots of kids.

    What do all the people who aren’t participants and who aren’t close relatives to participants and who have to live with the end product think about what they see daily? I mean the neighbors and I also mean passersby.

    Also, are the money sources for Mural Arts interested in investing in a product that looks like the Rotunda piece or in something more professional looking?

    I admire the idealism here in all these comments, but these are not such easy questions, and it seems to me that Mural Arts has done something extraordinary in finding a way to engage not just kids and their parents but entire communities, and still find funding sources.

    Jane Golden is an idealist, a true believer in the transformative power of art. But she has changed her M.O. over time to fit the realities of funding and community. The child-like work admin describes has fallen out of the MAP picture.

    Part of why this conversation here is taking place, I believe, is that the art community of Philadelphia–the non-mural-arts faction–has new-found power and new-found voice, and is measuring MAP by the same ruler that it measures all public art. It is asking what public art is and what (and who) defines quality in public art.

    These are issues that are always worth discussing. From top to bottom here in these many comments, from insider to outsider, there are a lot of comments that are worth weighing seriously.

    Unfortunately, I always find this format encourages extreme comments.

    Even so, perhaps its time, within MAP, for some self-examination, to decide what comments make sense, what do not, and to keep what works and question what has become trite.

    I for one am not anti-mural. I like many of them. But some of them make me cringe. Some of it has to do with taste, some with values. These murals are on public spaces, and like all public art, they need to reflect community values. Some communities have different values than the “art community.” Somehow, this needs to be discussable–without snarls and snarkiness and self-congratulatory pomposity.

  31. cmp7west says:

    Even in your response to defuse the sharpness of these posts, you again take a stab yourself. To say that Jane has changed her MO to fit the realities of funding and community makes her sound like a sell-out. That’s hardly a fair statement. The Mural Arts Program has had the rug pulled out from beneath it’s feet so many times they have permanent rug burns. And they have learned an important lesson that is lost on many the other publically funded efforts – with change comes opportunity if you look for it. The changes to the MAP program over the years isn’t because they had to pander to find money, it’s because they don’t see the glass as half full. Instead of reacting to graffiti and the penal code enforcement, MAP has become proactive to teach kids and communities about Art. Instead of waiting for a community to fall into desperation, MAP has sought to provide inspiration and a sense of community worth. They are even transforming the visage of police stations from a ominous outpost to a identifiable safe place in the community.

    This is not self-congratulatory pomposity as you put it as I am not part of MAP. And while my Art is created with sound and energy, I still stand in awe of the humanity of what MAP is doing.

    Can a group of artist really hold court over the content of public art that is about more than art itself?

  32. libby says:

    I did not intend to say that Jane was pandering. I think she is pure in her motives, and I also think that finding a way to make things work is proof of her sanity, not pandering. That may be how you see working in the real world. It’s not how I see it.
    In fact, if you interpret artblog’s position as anti mural arts, you haven’t been reading us. But if you think supporting MAP requires not questioning, well then, we’ll part company. We are all about questioning everything we see, in order to think about it better. Our goal is certainly not to undermine MAP, but to find ways to keep it rolling. If it doesn’t change to fit the community’s needs, it will lose its support, whether we are out there saying something or not. Our view is, raise questions before that happens, and give a good program some honest, non-pandering feedback.

  33. allie says:

    i have both worked for mural arts — actually painting murals along with various lead artists.

    as well as have had sid sachs as a professor at The University of the Arts.

    I find that I agree with Sid. I never was very fond of the murals throughout Philadelphia.

    I find most of them cheesy. — basically if you take a picture into photoshop and use an effect – you’ve ‘successfully’ designed a mural.

  34. Michael Schwartz says:

    Libby –

    Have you seen the Collective Imprints (CI) artwork? Are you familiar with the process we employed? Did you interview participants and people who have seen the work? Somehow I think not.

    The mural is an interior – its about animating a specific place – the Rotunda – a place that supports, encourages and fosters civic participation. Collective Imprints was designed and painted by a group of people. It is unlike any other mural – ever done – in Philadelphia. CI employed a methodology and artistic philosophy that has NEVER been attempted in Philadelphia. What better place to introduce a new idea than the Rotunda. I challenge you to name another mural where participants used movement, discussion, poetry, writing, drawing, painting and music (and lots more) to collectively design a work of art ?

    The field of community based cultural development has been around for some time and we can see some great results in theater, dance and film – but it is very rare to see murals designed and painted by an intergenerational group of people over an extended period of time. The ability for a group of people to come to visual consensus is profound. One sign of success of any project is if it inspires the participants, friends, family and the community at large. There were six well written pieces by CI participants, all these works describe a sense of pride, growth and accomplishment. These are testimonies to the power of the arts to heal and mend, transform, inspire and transcend differences.
    CI built social networks and whittled away at the social isolation that plagues our society.

    CI is a model – and just the start of something big. A new generation of civicly minded artists is pounding at the disintegrating door of the art industrial complex. The movement for cultural democracy is often seen as producing low/outsider/activist art. I think not, I think some of the most exciting art being created today – worldwide – is by those who break down the walls of the ordinary and expected to create extraordinary phenomenon. CI is one of the great beacons of hope and inspiration in an art world too often fueled by greed and consumption.

  35. libby says:

    Is this the post that will not die, or what?

    Anyway, Michael, I hope what you say is true. And next time I stop at the Rotunda, I’ll take a look with your comments in mind.

  36. Angeles says:

    Its funny that you mentioned how much you hate Philadelphia’s murals today in class and then the first thing that pops up when I googled your name is this thread. I think the idea of the Mural is good. In a colorless urban environment, its nice to see some vibrance every now and then. I just wish they could get some decent artists to work on them. The aesthetic of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is absolutely terrible. And incidentally, I applied to the program last year and got rejected…

  37. Sid Sachs says:

    I thought this little rant was exhausted. Perhaps the urban environment should not be colorless. That is the function of architecture and landscape architecture and urban planning. The idea of a mural is just that- an idea. What is done with it is important. I just disagree with what has been done (and its quantity). (Steve Powers right on!)
    What exactly would happen if walls were painted wonderful hues? Just color. Wouldn’t that add to a colorless urban environment? Isn’t that what is happening with light on the Avenue of the Arts. But without the illustrational aspects of the murals. What would happen if Olafur Eliasson made a public work for the city?

    And what’s up with the City Arts Commission approving a sign in front of the Kimmel Center which is a rip off of Bernard Rosenthal’s sculpture? Lincoln Center gets Bontecou and we get a sign. Doesnt anyone remember how wonderful the Jenny Holzer was during the Kimmel’s contruction? And they think Stravinsky is radical to play during the festival? Le sacre du printemps is nearly a century old. Let’s get it right gang.

  38. libby says:

    I do love the idea of colors. It’s happening already with some of the nice fresh architecture that Inga Saffron wrote about in the Inky Jan. 17: http://www.philly.com/philly/news/homepage/81906957.html
    And that’s what paint trim is all about. When I moved to my neighborhood in the ’70s, the trim on most of the houses was brown! Although those colors are hardly Olafur Eliasson, they’re still worthwhile.
    Oh, just keep ranting, Sid.

  39. roberta says:

    I love the idea of colors, too, Sid. Great idea. And Libby I’m happy to have that link to Inga’s story–great stuff.

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