Shouldn’t Philadelphia’s public art projects be just as diverse as our communities?
The City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program is the largest public art program in the United States. We have murals on schools, homes, airports, abandoned buildings, on sidewalks, along train routes, on garbage trucks, trash cans and beyond… The content of these pieces varies tremendously, from abstracts to landscapes to portraiture, with everything from inspirational themes up to and including Larry from the Three Stooges. Every week it seems the word mural is being redefined from a simple wall painting to something more esoteric and unique. Philadelphia is indeed the “mural capital of the world” with over 3,000 and counting, averaging about 150 new works each year.
By all accounts, the Mural Arts Program does tremendous good in the city, not only beautifying neighborhoods and helping define our place in the art world for tourists, but also working with Philadelphia’s (especially at-risk) youth for the last 25 years.
But at what point do we try something else? Public art projects abound in communities all over the world, helping to reduce blight, develop neighborhoods, build business/civic/private relationships, teach art to adolescents and children, and generally enhance the public environment. And they’re not all murals. Media vary wildly from the the familiar, sculpture, to the more obscure: performance art, dance, music, illuminated works, and more. (Even the Mural Arts’ raison d’être, grafitti, is now an established public art form.)
All of this begs the question here at home: what other artistic endeavors could our city be promoting? Are there artists, designers, artisans and other inspired individuals/organizations in Philly whose worthy projects go unnoticed? What if they were as well-funded as the largest public art program in the US? How might that change the fabric of Philadelphia?
If we truly want to promote and represent our city’s Arts, Culture, and Creative Economy, shouldn’t our public projects be just as diverse as our communities?