Talks With Juggernauts: Golden, Updike At Free Library For Mural Arts @ 30

 

ma30-cover

Unless you’ve been doing field research in Antarctica, you’ve probably heard that Inga Saffron is no fan of the Mural Arts Program. In last Friday’s column, she minced not her words regarding the The Philadelphia Rowing Mural, the two-part mural soon to adorn the support walls of the Girard Avenue Bridge over the Schuylkill River, nor the process by which it came to be. Inga’s disdain of Mural Arts is well documented, perhaps none better than the summary then-editor Liz Spikol offered when Curbed Philly still existed, “Will Jane Golden and Inga Saffron Simply Throw Down One Day?

While promoters have tried in vain to align schedules and venues for the hyperbolic heavyweight showdown, Mural Arts has been busy celebrating their thirtieth anniversary—with an endless series of events, symposiums, and planned projects, plus a PAFA show and a “lavish coffee table book” which takes the stage at the Free Library this evening. David Updike and MAP Executive Director Jane Golden, who co-edited Philadelphia Mural Arts @ 30, out now from Temple Press, will read from and sign the book at 7:30. (For more info, see the library’s web site HERE.)

The essays that make up the book, like the roughly 3,800 murals the program has bedecked upon the city, come from many hands. And like the murals themselves, some of the essays are better than others. Some, like Updike’s introduction, read as art theory by art theorists; others, like Cynthia Weiss’ “Murals and Learning,” flesh out the collaborative, aesthetic process by using examples of specific mural projects. Throughout the book’s 208 pages are vibrant, full color illustrations, including dozens of excellent photos by Steve Weinik.

Golden’s own six-page essay traces the program’s evolution, “[a shift] from an ‘anti-graffiti’ effort to the ‘pro-art’ Mural Arts Program.” She cites specific turning points, including the 1990 Dr. J mural on Ridge Avenue and its use of ‘parachute cloth’ by Kent Twitchell, an LA-based muralist under whom Golden studied, and Mayor Ed Rendell’s placement of the program under the Department of Recreation, headed by Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis—who Inga’s column reminds readers is married to Mural Arts’ current Chief Operating Officer.

Most interestingly, however, the book covering Mural Arts’ 30 years does so primarily by discussing the work of the past five years. Large scale projects provide colorful context for conceptual essays—milestone murals like Steve Powers’ A Love Letter for You series, Haas & Hahn’s Philly Painting, Desirée Bender’s Design in Motion (the fleet of psychedelic recycling trucks), and How Philly Moves, the collaboration between photographer JJ Tiziou and muralist Jon Laidacker.

Before the mural: looking across the river under the Girard Avenue Bridge | Photo: Bradley Maule

Before the mural: looking across the river under the Girard Avenue Bridge | Photo: Bradley Maule

Laidacker, now a Mural Arts veteran, will oversee the Philadelphia Rowing Mural project on the Girard Avenue Bridge later this spring. While not on the grand scale of that of an airport parking garage or a full city block of three-story buildings, it’s nevertheless a major mural, 16 by 100 feet (x 2) of color where city and nature merge. (Worth noting: while Philadelphia Rowing Mural is intentionally positioned to not face traffic, Meg Saligman’s 2004 mural Passing Through, not 100 feet away, looms directly over the Schuylkill Expressway at the sharp curve above Girard Avenue.) More directly, exercising an easy rowing motif, it recalls the past and Thomas Eakins’ many paintings of the subject with a modern skyline-and-Boathouse-Row bent. And of the bridge itself—whose predecessor Eakins included in many a painting—only the rusting steel-and-concrete rectangular portion will be painted. That is, the circa-1969 bridge’s signature stone foundations and handsome V-shaped steel trusses will remain untouched.

Considering Eakins brought his easel to work at this very spot and there is art aplenty throughout Fairmount Park, it ain’t so bad. And considering the Mural Arts Program resides in Thomas Eakins’ own home, renovated through $2M raised in a capital campaign, the Rowing Mural reads as MAP’s way of giving Eakins a more visible presence in a place he already resides.

* * *

Jane Golden and David Updike will read from Philadelphia Mural Arts @ 30 at the Central Branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia, 1901 Vine Street, at 7:30PM this evening.

About the author

Bradley Maule is co-editor of the Hidden City Daily and the creator of Philly Skyline. He's a native of Tyrone, Pennsylvania, and he's hung his hat in Shippensburg, Germantown, G-Ho, Fishtown, Portland OR, Brewerytown, and now Mt. Airy. He just can't get into Twitter, but he's way into Instagram @mauleofamerica.



1 Comment


  1. FYI, pretty sure Curbed Philly still exists.

Leave a Reply

Comment moderation is enabled, no need to resubmit any comments posted.

 

Recent Posts
Rare Views And Vivid History Of Independence Hall At The Athenaeum

Rare Views And Vivid History Of Independence Hall At The Athenaeum

June 30, 2016  |  Buzz

The history of Independence Hall is told through an exhibition of visual architectural archives from the collection of the Athenaeum of Philadelphia > more

LOVE Park Renovations Hit Small Snag

LOVE Park Renovations Hit Small Snag

June 29, 2016  |  Morning Blend

LOVE Park renovations halted temporarily, DNC protestors not to limit themselves to FDR Park, mismatched styles on Ridge Ave, and applying the metric of hipness to Philly’s neighborhoods > more

Hidden Lens: Under The Spell Of A City Abstracted

Hidden Lens: Under The Spell Of A City Abstracted

June 29, 2016  |  Hidden Lens

In this first installment of Hidden Lens, a new series showcasing the captures of local photographers, we set our sights on the work of Rob Lybeck > more

Upscaling The Italian Market

Upscaling The Italian Market

June 28, 2016  |  Morning Blend

Squilla introduces legislation for Italian Market BID, PMC to pay up, church building coming down at 12th & Fitzwater, painting with light on Laurel Hill, and an illuminated mural on Percy Street > more

Long Before The SEPTA Key: A Penny Ride On The Omnibus

Long Before The SEPTA Key: A Penny Ride On The Omnibus

June 28, 2016  |  Harry K's Encyclopedia

Harry K. gives us a ride back to 1831 on Philadelphia's public transit predecessor > more

Learning From Dilworth Park's Water Magic

Learning From Dilworth Park’s Water Magic

June 27, 2016  |  Soapbox

Thérèse d'Auria Ryley examines how Philadelphia's relationship with water fountains and rivers is redefining the way urban planners design public space > more