The secret behind the endangered school murals program

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That's Deborah Zuchman behind the podium speaking, in front of a mural created in 2005 by Eliseo Silva and the students at Spruance Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia.
That’s Deborah Zuchman behind the podium speaking, in front of a mural created in 2005 by Eliseo Silva and the students at Spruance Elementary School in Northeast Philadelphia.

Every time I read one of the articles about the school mural program, whether it be focused on the program itself or sadly, today and yesterday, the cutting of the program, I look for my friend Deborah Zuchman’s name. It’s usually not there. What the hell? Zuchman is the project coordinator for the collaboration between the School District and the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. She basically works in the background behind all the PR that goes out about the program. But she is the hands-on person, keeping this program going, matching artists and schools and then pushing the artists, the teachers and the administrators in each school to keep the projects on the move so they are completed by the end of the school year.

Yesterday, the story of how this program is being cut was all over the news. What a mistake to cut this excellent program.

Two years ago, I wrote a post about the community celebration of the mural created by artist Eliseo Silva with the students at Spruance Elementary School. The pride everyone there felt about this mural was reason enough to keep this project going. I found the whole event very moving.

silva spruance
Here’s a view of the kids, raising their hands to be counted among the students whose parents were not born in America.

This was only one of 20 murals created that year–the first year of the program. The goal for the program was 100 murals over five years. This is year three. At that rate only 60 of the hundred have been created.

(The collaboration between Jennie Shanker, the McKinley School and Mural Arts that Roberta mentioned was a separate program, but it inspired the murals in the schools program that was just cut).

Anyway, Debbie, who is herself an artist and a retired teacher, is pretty amazing. When she taught, she regularly participated in the other program bringing artists into the schools that is also being cut. As a result, William Penn High School’s oppressive concrete lobby has a beautiful mosaic mural that lends a human a personal note. I just wanted to give her the props she deserves. I also want to add another voice to the dismay and outrage. Other budget cuts that perhaps should not have been restored somehow got their money back. This project, which should be restored, is out in the cold.

The city’s priorities continue to amaze me! Like I said, What the hell!

Tags

deborah zuchman, philadelphia mural arts program, philadelphia school district

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