Friday, December 19, 2008

Muralists and Wastewater

Many muralists are environmentalists. We understand that we are creating works that impact our cultural environment. We are also impacting the air and water where we create work with our materials. My average mural produces 2.5 gallons of solid waste (paint skins) and 20 gallons of liquid waste (water to clean brushes). I’ve worked on projects where artists simply dump their paint water into the sink, usually a janitors closet. Where does this waste end up? In a wastewater treatment facility, that you could probably sniff out in your area, unless you live in Arcata CA or other visionary places that have advanced systems.

For several years I’ve been experimenting with ways to safely dispose of wastewater. The idea is that before we dump our paint water we can put it through a hand made filter with sand and ground charcoal. While this filter doesn’t remove all the toxins from the water, there is a noticeable difference in the color and odor of the water. There are a number of commercially available filtration systems, that are advisable if you are using oil paints, or large amounts of acrylics. Fortunate for printers there are now entire lines of nontoxic organic printing pigments.

Unused paint skins and paints can be taken to a hazardous waste facility. From there at least there will be some degree of remediation. I’ve done some experimenting with dissolving acrylic paints into water over a period of time to try and restore them. To some degree this can be successful, especially with large amount of paints that are still a little crumbly. The pollution caused by our trade takes place in the production, use and disposal of paints, varnishes, gels and other assorted goodies. Hats off to Golden paints for being socially responsible, and for their advanced wastewater treatment facilities.

So if your looking for a place to safely dispose of your toxic art supplies here are some links to Household Hazardous Waste Drop-Off Centers

San Francisco

Here is a challenge, and eye opener for you, on your next mural project do a carbon count. You can calculate the impact of your project and then make a list of things you need to do to offset the pollution you have created.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

National Green Arts Corps

There is so much to report on in the community mural world. Every week I get an email or phone call regarding a new project or program that seeks to employ the visual arts in healing and mending the word in some way. Here are some highlights.

A project by Rima Malallah called Mural Mural on the Wall has transformed the streets of Amman Jordan.
Last May in Indianapolis Eli Lilly employees painted a 1,230 foot long mural designed by artist Patrick Viles. Get out your tape measures - this is now considered the world's largest paint-by-number mural. This project illustrates a growing trend in service and art related projects.

The National Campaign to Hire Artists to Work in Schools has started a facebook page.
You can read more about this exciting national organizing initiative on APInews.

Kiff Gallagher has put together the Music National Service Initiative. Their site is hosting a conversation entitled “Who Wants an Artist Corps”. You can participate in the conversation here.

Consensus seems to be building for a national work program that includes the arts in a Federal One /WPA/CETA type project. How about developing a program that integrates artists and cultural workers into a Green Jobs and Growth stimulus package? Our future lies in developing programs that are specific to bioregional culture. The ideal National Artists Corps would be one that embodies the idealism of the Obama era, one that funds grassroots and neighborhood based organizations and artists and takes Cultural Democracy into consideration. In this model artists work with Green Job Training Centers to identify areas for innovation and collaboration in all areas of the arts.

The possibilities are endless, and artists have this unique opportunity to advocate for a program that recognizes their unique creative sensibilities and skills.

Your homework tonight: Dream up your most amazing, empowering green participatory arts project that will help revitalize the economy.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

New Fire- Mexican Cultural Mural

Photo by Jack Ramsdale

One of my (many) favorite murals in Philadelphia is by my friend and colleague Cesar Viveros-Herrera. This project is one of more than 3000 beautiful works of art created through the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. His mural New Fire- Mexican Cultural Mural located at 223 W. Girard Avenue. The mural includes cement elements, horticulture and extentions. Its one of those works you have to see it in person to fully enjoy.

danza azteca philadelphia

This video that animates the mural, and connects it to place, culture and history. I think this project operates on many levels, using a multi-disciplinary approach to mural making. Yet another great example of the power and need for murals as we investigate how the arts play a role in revitilizing communities.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Imagining a National Artists Corps

We stayed up way too late last night, enjoying the static air, dancing, speeches, cheers, students running by shouting “Happy Obama Day”, strangers hugging.

Today the work started, for me it was making advocacy calls for a National Artists Corps as outlined in the Obama Biden Arts Platform.

What is exciting about this proposal is that the structures needed to administer a National Artists Corps/ Community Artists Corps are in place. The passion, desire and talent exists to facilitate local multi disciplinary arts programs that pack a punch. We have a president-elect that understands the value and power of the arts.

I feel our greatest challenge will be to demonstrate how our
proposals can be integrated into the calls for a Conservation Corps and the creation of Green Job Training Centers. Artists are natural holistic thinkers, seeing the interconnection between all things. If necessity is the mother of invention, we in the arts are her midwifes. Community based artists in the trenches have much to contribute to this discussion and I hope many of us will be called upon as this program takes form.

I encourage readers to write their elected representatives in support of a National Artists Corps.

LOTS more to come on this subject....

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Jose Ali Paz, artist and activist, dies at 51

The Mural Arts Community mourns the passing of our colleague and friend, Jose Ali Paz

October 16, 2008
Photo of
Posted on Wed, Oct. 15, 2008

Jose Ali Paz, artist and activist, dies at 51

By John F. Morrison
Philadelphia Daily News

THE NORTH Philadelphia mural seemed like a daunting project for a man who had just had brain surgery - 120 feet long and 25 feet high.

But Jose Ali Paz had something to prove. The cancerous tumor that was removed by surgery was in the right side of his brain, the side that affects speech and creativity.

Jose was an artist. His whole life, his reason for being, what made him who he was, centered around his art.

The mural, on 5th Street near Allegheny Avenue, was his chance to prove that he could still create art.

"I wasn't sure he was able to do it," said fellow muralist Michelle Angela Ortiz. "I offered to do it on my own, but he had such a strong will, so much determination. He wasn't going to let his physical situation impair him."

Jose remained as the lead artist on the mural, "Life Reflects Nature: Memories of the Past, Traditions of the Present," which was dedicated in October 2005, a testament to the courage and resiliency of a determined will.

Jose Paz, who came to Philadelphia in 2000 to escape the political upheaval in his native Venezuela and found the ideal setting for his pursuit of art, died of brain cancer Saturday. He was 51 and lived in the Northeast.

He worked on numerous murals for the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, undertook a wide variety of other art projects, including a poster depicting the Phillies' Latino players, and exhibited his own oils widely.

His paintings were mostly of scenes from Venezuela, landscapes and the people who worked the land and walked the streets of its cities and towns.

"It was great working with him," Ortiz, 29, said. "I'm the age of his oldest daughter, but he never treated me as an inexperienced artist. He always treated me with respect as an equal.

"After his surgery, he fought hard to retain his ability as an artist. Working on that mural was definitely therapy for him.

"When he saw what he was capable of doing, it gave him back his confidence."

Jose remained active in the mural program as late as last summer when he helped with the planning of the Girl Scout mural on Callowhill Street between Broad and 15th streets.

"He loved to paint," said Ortiz, an art teacher. "He would do anything in his power to keep going."

Taller Puertorriqueno is among the many organizations that benefited from Jose's talents and generosity. Dora Viacava, outreach coordinator for the group, said that Jose did volunteer work that even included acting in a street-theater demonstration.

He taught a water-color class for seniors, created a huge banner for Taller with the logos of companies and organizations that contributed to the group, and even painted the walls of Taller's headquarters on 5th Street near Lehigh Avenue to display the work of his senior students.

"He was a really wonderful, very humble person, very generous and friendly," Dora said. "I admired the way he was able to balance his life between his family and his work."

"He was an extraordinarily talented artist," said Jane Golden, director of the Mural Arts Program. "But most importantly, he was one of the nicest, most thoughtful people I ever met.

"He was generous and kind. The world is a sadder place with his passing."

Jose and his family were among the founding members of Casa de Venezuela, an organization of immigrants from Venezuela. He taught art to children and volunteered his talents in many ways for the group.

"He was a really happy guy," said Emilio Buitrago, president of Casa de Venezuela. "He loved to talk to people. He had a big smile. People knew he was there.

"He was always willing to help people whether he knew them or not. He was an amazing father and a great community activist."

Jose's daughter, Viviana Paz, one of his four children, said, "He was the best father. He was my friend, a person I could sit down with and talk about everything.

"He was full of experience, a very wise man. He knew about everything. Sometimes I would wonder how he knew so much. His head was like a whole library.

"He was not afraid of anything. When I feel I can't do something, I remember that my Dad did so many things. There is nothing you can't do, he told me. Everything is possible if you try it."

Jose came from the town of Merida, in Venezuela. He and his wife, Mary, were married 28 years ago. He began working as an artist in his native country, where he also was a magazine publisher, did photography and other commercial art work.

He didn't want to leave Venezuela, but with the political situation and the rise of president Hugo Chavez, he felt he had no choice. "He tried everything to stay," said his daughter, "but nothing worked."

She regretted that her father was "at the top of his profession when he got brain cancer."

Besides his wife and daughter, he also is survived by his mother, Esther; a son, Jose Jr.; two other daughters, Rusmery and Daniela; two sisters, Luz and Alba Paz, and two grandchildren, Diego, 5, and Davya, 3 weeks.

Friday, October 17—5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Viewing Service

A. Andrew Compagnola Funeral Home

4405 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19140

Saturday, October 18—10:00 a.m.

Funeral Mass

Incarnation of Our Lord Roman Catholic Church

5105 N. 5th Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120

Saturday, October 18—3:00 to 4:30 p.m.

Tribute to Jose Ali Paz

Taller Puertorriqueño—Education Building

2557 N. 5th Street

Philadelphia, PA 19133

Flowers, cards, and donations can be sent to the Paz Family in care of 451 Van Kirk Street, Philadelphia, PA 19120.


Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Murals in Oregon


Throughout our trip we were inspired to see murals in communities large and small. Some are designed in a collaborative manner others by a lead artists. Oregon is home to numerous murals. Every city small and large that we stopped in had a mural of some sort. Most of our time was spent in Eugene visiting family. We had a chance to see lots of works and go on the First Friday Art Walk visiting galleries, hearing live music and meeting artists.

Murals are everywhere in Eugene. They are woven into the cultural tapestry of the city. Eugene is a unique place thriving with life and creativity. In addition to the natural beauty and intelligent urban planning there is a strong local economy. The weekly Saturday market and regular farmers markets provide a great window into the social life of the community.

One of the muralists we saw in Eugene was Kari Johnston who has painted a number of works in the area. She painted one of the most loved murals in the Whiteaker neighborhood.

Kari Johnson mural in the Whiteaker neighborhood

Kari gave us a tour of the in-town land trust where she and several dozen others live. She designed the commons house that sits next to one of the gardens where a parking lot once stood. Now you can enjoy a maze of gardens and fruit trees. Seeing this really helped us get a feeling for the spirit of her murals.

You can find a list of Eugene murals here but you might need the help of a local in planning your mural tour of Eugene. A good place to start is by visiting the Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts (DIVA).


We had the delight of spending a day touring Portland, OR. Portland is home to many beautiful community murals. It was synchronicity that helped us find a mural in progress by artist Robin Corbo at the Community Cycling Center .

She told about another mural she had just finished entitled Women Making History in Portland. The mural depicts women who have, or are making history in Portland. A ton of people were involved in this mural. If you click on the image below you should be able to make out the text.

Women Making History in Portland
2335 N. Clark St.
Artists: Robin Corbo with assistance from artists Mark Meltzer, Sherri Shaw, Emily Lux and Jason Greene

I like the design and richness of these murals, they tell a story, make a statement and are visually fun to spend some time with. Other muralists in Portland include Joe Cotter and Joanne Oleksiak. They are involved in the Portland Mural Defense group . This group has been active in an epic struggle to keep the mural movement alive in Portland.

I would suggest that you visit the Regional Arts and Culture Council mural gallery to plan your mural tour.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Images of Our Mural

There will be more images of the finished mural coming soon, but I wanted to get a few images posted.

Click to Enlarge

Monday, August 18, 2008

On the Road Looking for Murals

“To the Glory of G-d” Mural in Springfield, MO

Murals in Missouri and New Mexico

Over the past few weeks we have been in transit from Philadelphia, PA to Tucson, AZ. Along the way we have been visiting communities to try and get a feeling for the status of the arts in America. How are artists and community arts programs making their way in this new global economy?

One of our first stops was in Louisville KY. There is an active arts scene there with several community murals on underpasses and at least one "free" wall where aerosol artists work on ever changing images. There are several arts centers, galleries and performance centers. Its a beautiful town that seems to offer a full array of cultural activities.

We discovered several murals in Springfield and Joplin Missouri. The mural in Springfield was huge and located on an abandon grain silo. We met a few guys who maintained the property. They told us that Springfield was going through a revitalization of sorts. The old was being demolished for new upscale shops and apartment buildings. The mural was painted by local artists Obie Harrup III and Farley Lewis and sponsored by something called the Messiah Project. It was painted 10 years ago and is entitled “To the Glory of G-d”. Springfield MO is home to a number of religious collages, and felt like a deeply spiritual place. As we walked around the beautiful downtown I don’t think we saw one piece of trash. We noticed several other murals on businesses but no evidence of an organized program.

The next day we stumbled on a masterpiece in Joplin MO. “Joplin at the Turn of the Century 1896-1906” was painted by the great American artist Thomas Hart Benton in 1973 at the age of 82. The interior mural is located in the City Hall building. The 5 1/2’ x 14’ mural was the centerpiece of Joplin’s 100th Birthday. Benton began his career as an artist working as a cartoonist for the Joplin American newspaper in 1906. This mural was his last signed large scale work.

“Joplin at the Turn of the Century 1896-1906”

A few days later we found ourselves in Socorro, New Mexico. This small town is a beautiful piece of Southwestern culture and features many historical buildings including the San Miguel Mission, restored in the 1960’s. The original mission was burned during the Pueblo Revolt in 1680. A second mission was built between 1819 and 1821. The center of town is the Kitrell Park Plaza. On one corner of the Plaza we discovered a mural painted on the side of the Manzanares Street Coffee House and bike shop.

The shop was closed and we didn't see an artists name on the mural. It’s a beautiful work of art with rich color and detail. We walked around the town enjoying the ambiance, imagining that many years ago this could be what Tucson or Santa Fe looked like.


Friday, July 25, 2008


AGAPE Mural ©2008 Philadelphia Mural Arts Program/ Michael B. Schwartz

I just finished this mural today. It’s located at the AGAPE African Senior Center 229 N. 63rd St. in Philadelphia and is a Philadelphia Mural Arts Program project.

The mural tells the story of a Liberian immigrant’s experience of coming to Philadelphia. From the mango tree filled streets of her hometown, to a pensive ride on the airplane, to arrival in Philadelphia. She experiences the cold hard realities of life in Philadelphia before finding her peace in the city. This project included several community input sessions where participants shared ideas through drawings and brainstorm sessions, food and story telling.


Monday, July 7, 2008

National Artists Corp, Participatory murals, democracy and development. What the hell ya talking about kid?

This is a time of great transition and possibility. In this election year there is talk of a National Artists Corp and arts education was mentioned in nationally televised debates. Could it be that the movement for cultural democracy may finally have the momentum needed to take a quantum leap? Is this a sign that our collective years of hard work is paying off? Hmmm. Before you answer check out Arts Vote and see where the candidates stand.

If there is to be a National Arts Corp we all can help insure its success. This means that everyone involved in defining, advocating for and designing the program will have to fit a rather large spontaneous circle into a tiny static square.

Exactly what sort of social impact do we seek to have? What skills and histories will be taught? Will we allow for spontaneity and innovation? Will we connect the dots between culture, democracy, war and climate change? Are we talking about starting new programs or funding existing ones? Will rural and suburban communities be fully included? How will we network and dialogue among the programs? How will we insure that the program is authentic and rich? How will we mitigate the questions of community arts aesthetics? How will we insure that our process results in a product that participants are proud of? What training will these young teachers receive? What about all the older un- and underemployed cultural workers?

As our field becomes more institutionalized the contradictions we face are more severe. The positive is that with this institutionalization comes greater opportunity and a broader acceptance of participatory and interactive arts in general. None the less most of us who are working in this field lack job security, fair pay, health care or adequate housing and work space. These are nice problems to be having in one sense, but we have to be even more diligent in navigating the contradictions and black holes that litter the stage upon which we work. We have to do more than just have good intentions and ideas, we must begin to think of ourselves as a movement again. We have to organize to demand our rights, to advance our field and articulate why our work is so critical.

A fantastic resource and one I would encourage everyone to use as an organizing tool is Arts in the Public Interest. The site includes listings of opportunities, discussions, where people are meeting and weekly updates on what is happening in the field.

Also check out Just Seeds - a sizzling hot network of DIY artists and cultural workers. We saw Josh McPhee at the opening of a new show of posters at Space 1026 in Philadelphia. He mentioned that there may be a conference in Pittsburgh some time in early 2009, a possible mecca and time to organize?

As we further untangle the web of Art Corp programs check out Art Corp Seattle founded in 2000 . Also founded in 2000 is an academic consortium called Imagining America .
Then there is ArtCorps out of Beverly, Massachusetts a group that places emerging artists in host communities to facilitate community based cultural development projects.
I have to give props to the Tucson Arts Brigade, a group well ahead of its time that dared cross wild rivers long before funding bridges were built.


Thursday, May 29, 2008

Celebrating our Work

We had a great article in the Philadelphia Daily News on May 20, check it out.

On May 1 we had a great community celebration, with many people helping tell the story of this project. A film and slide show about the project was being projected on the wall as we listed to live music, ate and shared stories with new friends.

It was one of those special and authentic community arts events where you had to be there in person to fully appreciate the feelings of pride in our work. There have been a number of participants who wrote lengthy articles about their experience in Collective Imprints. This project really was a ground breaking experience, and something that I hope will live on not only on the walls of the Rotunda but in the hearts and minds of all who participated in the project in someway. Until the very end new people were coming to get involved. Clearly people in Philadelphia love community arts.

Rashida describing the mural.

Jodi leads a community movement response to the mural.

Ben describing the mural.

Lion of Jerusalem Project

The "Lion of Jerusalem" will be dedicated June 1 at Congregation Anshi Israel in Tucson, AZ. The life-size sculpture will welcome all who enter Congregation Anshei Israel.

This design is inspired by the tradition of Jewish Paper cut outs. These works often had a religious, ritual, or mystic purpose. This particular design has Sephardic and Northern African roots. If you look closely you will find similar patterns on buildings throughout the southwest. I selected two colors that flash or flicker like a candle, colors that speak to the Jewish American spiritual history and experience. You may notice slight color changes in various types of light. This vibrancy is achieved through the careful layering of paints. I knew that most people would be seeing the lion from a distance, so I enlarged the designs. The lion looks different from all angles, and the colors change throughout the day.

The earliest known reference to Jewish cut paper dates to 1345, when Rabbi Shem-Tov ben Yitzhak ben Ardutiel composed The War of the Pen Against the Scissors. He tells a story that when the his ink froze one winter night he started cutting the letters out of the paper.

This project was part of The Jewish Arts Alliance (JAA) , dedicated to supporting and inspiring Jewish artists and artistic Jews in Southern Arizona.


Thursday, May 8, 2008

RW Brown Community Center Murals

April 30 was a busy community paint day at the RW Brown Community Center where I am the lead artist on a project with the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program . I had the privilege of working with Cathy Harris, Director of Community Murals at MAP, artists Josh Smith and Colleen Kane as well as a team of people from City Year and Aramark . Throughout the day about 45 people participated, painting in a good part of the mural. The mural is being painted on a cloth that will be adhered to the wall.

This was part of a day of service sponsored by Aramark as part of their 2008-9 Building Community North American Tour. As we painted the mural other teams were working on planting garden beds, creating benches and picnic tables, planting flowers, painting and much more.

The theme of the mural is strong families supporting community. We see a student writing some thoughts. His thoughts reflect his idealism, aspirations and daily life. We see a family walking in a commons field, kids planting community gardens that are harvested with produce being transported to local restaurants and stores. Also depicted are kids playing sports under the watchful eye of neighborhood elders. Implicit in this mural is the idea that it does take an entire city to raise a child, and that this community center is providing critical support to families.

An interesting aspect of this project is the collaboration of organizations who made this mural possible. Clearly the message is out that murals are one important ingredient to building community. People feel a real sense of accomplishment, and as we did today, the team is stronger through a shared experience.

As the day ended several people said - OK - so when is the next paint day? - that was fun!

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

1 year. over 100 imprints. 1 unique art installation. community arts

The Rotunda unveils Collective Imprints
1 year. over 100 imprints.
1 unique art installation. community arts
PHILADELPHIA - On Thursday, May 1, 2008, The Rotunda will unveil the
Collective Imprints
art installation, a
collectively-produced work of visual art that celebrates the life and history of The Rotunda, local history and folklore, and visions for future neighborhoods and communities.
pictured: collective imprints participantThis piece will remain on permanent display at The Rotunda (in a most interesting place), reminding audiences and performers that The Rotunda is a vital connector that inspires genuine dialogue and social change.

Collective Imprints, the first project of its kind in Philadelphia, is unique in that it employed dialogue, movement, music-making, and holistic collaboration from all participants. Everyone was welcome to brainstorm, move, make music, draw, paint, and collaborate on designs. Never before has such a long term multi-faceted and inclusive project been open to the general public in this city. We believe that future projects will be born of this, fostering long lasting connections between disparate communities.

About the Unveiling
Please join us on May 1, from 6pm until 9pm at The Rotunda, 4014 Walnut Street in Philadelphia.

The unveiling will kickoff with music, light refreshments, a photo slide show, and a short presentation by some of the Collective Imprints participants, followed by an open jam session (bring your own percussion instrument).

Everyone is welcome and encouraged to attend as we celebrate this historic project.
More about Collective Imprints
pictured: collective imprints brainstormingCollective Imprints was conceived last year by, among others, local community artist, muralist, and activist Michael B. Schwartz, and launched its first collaborative session on November 6, 2007. The work did not stop until the paint was dry last week.pictured: paint table
The project started off with eye-opening and inclusive conversations about notions of belonging, place, community, activism, The Rotunda's mission, the arts, power of the people, and more. We also brought movement into the work as we explored new ways of brainstorming, using exercises shared by West Philadelphia multi-faceted artist Jodi Netzer. In addition, Bill Feiger, of Stares to Nowhere and other local acts, shared his musical instruments from around the world as we used sound and music to evoke even more ideas.
Shortly thereafter, we began to draw and paint images based pictured: collective imprints journal on ideas spawned during conversations and movement exploration. Nearly 150 people participated, seeking to strengthen connections within the greater Rotunda community while building a sense of ownership and interconnectivity to the surrounding area.
Participants ranged from 5 year old school children to college students, teachers, doctors, professors, truck drivers, homemakers, and much more. On Martin Luther King, jr. Day alone, nearly 80 people spent their Day of Service working on Collective Imprints!

Support for this project was provided in part by The Puffin Foundation Ltd. and the 40th Street Artist-in-Residence program.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Installation Time!

Well its the final stage of the Collective Imprints project, more opportunities to finish up your project, eat, paint, listen to music and install the work!

THIS Wed, April 9 at 6pm at the Rotunda
We will be doing a final touch up paint night, and meeting to talk about the unveiling

Tues April 22 6-9pm at the Rotunda
We will be listening in to election night results and starting the installation of the panels.

Wed April 23 12-6pm at the Rotunda
Installation - we need your help! Please let us know if your available!

MAY 1 - at the Rotunda
Grand Unveiling and Celebration - time TBA

Hope to see you soon! Congratulations to everyone on a successful and beautiful project.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Hello Tucson, Hello Philadelphia Murals: Part One

Exchanges among students have been greatly enhanced by technological advances. With cell phones, laptops, and digital cameras we can communicate with anyone in the world. In this project we are taking advantage of these devices by creating a cross country dialogue among young artists attending Kirkbride Elementary School in Philadelphia, PA and Drexel Elementary in Tucson, AZ. Students have created written, recorded and painted descriptions of their respective communities. I asked students to describe themselves, their school, their neighborhood and what was unique about their city. All this information was compiled to be used as reference material for a mural at each school. Students will get to see their work in on permanent display on the other side of the country. In addition to being a great arts project we are also learning about the cultural and ecological diversity of the United States, geography and social studies.

Hello Tucson Video - "In my neighborhood"

Hello Philadelphia Video - "In my neighborhood"

Last week I worked on the Tucson mural with students during the annual Arts Day. This amazing school wide arts festival immerses students in a day long exploration of the arts in a variety of media. The school principal Mrs. Escarcega (Mrs. E.) gave us gifts to bring back to the students in Philadelphia, as well as music and peacock feathers.

Drexel Elementary School is one of only 12 schools in Arizona who received the 2007 A + Exemplary Program Award for its Arts Day Extravaganza. This awards a testimony to the dedication of Arts Day coordinator Lupe Pressey and the school Principal Mrs. E.. Arts day features dance, music, story telling and visual arts. It is certainly a model for other school looking for ways to bring the arts into their schools.

The design for the Tucson mural features a central panel that I designed based on input from school staff, with the students images in the borders. The finished mural is on display in the library it celebrates the wonder of libraries, and the worlds that can be opened by books.

When I returned to the Philadelphia classroom I brought gifts of T-Shirts, music and images from Tucson. The kids watched in fascination as the Tucson students introduced themselves.

The project now continues with a mural in Philadelphia, that I’ll be reporting on in a few weeks.



Monday, March 24, 2008

Something about Tucson Murals. The Linda Avenue Mural

Tucson has a rich history of participatory, grassroots murals popping up on homes, retaining walls, businesses and community centers. Sometimes these are funded projects, sometime not. Many of these murals are infused with the spirit of this community. Tucson was one of the birthplaces of the Chicano mural movement in the mid 1970’s. This movement continued to grow and spread as part of a larger movement in the American west and southwest. Master muralists include Antonio Pazos, David Tineo, Alfred Quiroz, Luis Gustavo Mena, Martin Moreno and Roberto Castillo.

“Early murals celebrated Chicano cultural identity and such important political victories as the establishment of City-sponsored neighborhood centers in predominately Mexican American neighborhoods. (The term "Chicano," a slang pronunciation of "Mexicano," is taken here to refer to politically active Mexican Americans of the generations that are currently in their fifties and younger.) Many murals are created with community input, often with actual painting tasks being shared by neighborhood youth as well.” (source: Chicano Murals in Tucson )

While many of Tucson’s murals have been destroyed new works continue to sprout up. A great example is the Linda Avenue Mural led by David Tineo. It tells the multi layered story of Tucson. The mural is hard to find, you have to go into the neighborhood and look. It’s in the backyard of a county owned building that is slowly being transformed into a neighborhood arts and cultural resource center. Jodi and I met Mac Hudson to get a tour of the area and learn more about this fantastic mural. Mac had played an instrumental role in starting off the center and mural project.

The image that started the mural.

Originally the mural was only supposed to be a few feet wide. In the end the mural spanned more than 120 feet and hundreds of people had painted. The content of the mural was inspired by writings and interviews conducted by participants. The mural beams with life and energy and reads like a visual history of Tucson.

Another work recently unveiled adorns an overpass at 36th and 6th street in Tucson. It celebrates Tucson's radical roots, and continued struggle to preserve the unique history of the Old Pueblo amidst mass development. Tucson's murals and artworks tell a unique story, they represent the natural urge to paint murals that honor the places we live, our multi layered and interwoven histories. They are images that emerge from the grassroots with joy, warmth and passion.

To see other Tucson murals check out:

Randy Garsee's Tucson Murals Project
Chicano Murals in Tucson
Tucson Arts Brigade Murals


Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Carpe Diem

I was recently contacted by new friends in Greece who are working on some interesting projects. Their work brings together Graffiti and community art to result in some amazing murals. Here is more about their work.

The Carpe Diem was established by a group of people who keep on trying to push art and techniques of alternative form of culture. This group has an active presence in Greece since 1991 in different sections, from the art of Graffiti to skate and bmx.

The spring of 2002 and through collective procedures the group obtained the legal form of an association with the distinctive title "Carpe Diem' aiming at a more completed saying and presence on this field.

The Carpe Diem's intention is to push art and techniques of an alternative form of culture like for instance: graffiti, aerographic, tattoo, the sports of bmx , skate and inline, dance and music, the road theatre.


One of the first aims of Carpe Diem is to push the culture of graffiti.

The "Carpe Diem graffiti group" was established unofficially in 1995 by the photographer Kiriakos Iosifidis and the graffiti artist Vangelis Hoursoglou (Woozy) with the intention to support fine art interventions and graffiti creations, legally, giving the artists the choice and the place to express themselves.

The group is surrounded by artists of the graffiti field from Greece and foreign countries.

The "Carpe Diem graffiti group' with the technique of graffiti and the professional artists of international validity, available by its classes, has proceeded to fine art interventions on the gray sites of the big cities. For instance the "Carpe Diem graffiti group' has made two fine art interventions with big wall paintings, one at the municipality of Taurus on Piraeus st. and another one at the Vasdekion athletic center of New Ionia municipality at Magnesia.

The festivals the Carpe Diem graffiti group' organizes are complemented with displays and completions of skateboard and bmx with music by dj's and break dance.

This is succeeded with the close cooperation the group has developed with people all over the range of those of the x-treme games.

Carpe Diem has published two books with photos from the beginning of the graffiti scene in Greece. Also Carpe Diem publishes the wellknown graffiti magazine Carpe Diem, quarterly.

For more information check out the link above or contact:

Text and images © copyright 2002 Carpe Diem and the artists.

Monday, January 21, 2008

Day 11: Martin Luther King Day of Service Paint Day

Today more than 70 people participated in our third Community Paint Day from 11am-3pm as part of the 13th annual Martin Luther King Day of Service.

You still have time to be involved in helping with this amazing community driven arts project Tuesday Jan. 22 from 6-8pm at the Rotunda.

Stay tuned to this blog for the installation and unveiling dates.

Here are some more great links to images that Bonnie Macallister sent in: (1) (2)

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Day 10: Painting Builds Community

As we enter the final mile of our project we invite everyone to come out to celebrate MLK Day by painting as a community. We are expecting a huge turn out, so bring your paint clothing and some friends and family.

Jan. 21 from 11am - 3pm at the Rotunda

To date more than 40 people from all walks of life have helped to design and paint this fantastic project. Each person brings their own style of painting, ideas and creative sensibilities.

The final workshop will be Jan 22 - 6-8pm, at the Rotunda, but it looks like we will add some more sessions to do final details, then install and seal the work. Stay tuned for information about the project unveiling as well.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Community Paint Days

Just a reminder that we will be having three *community paint days* for Collective Imprints in addition to the Tuesday sessions. All workshops are at the Rotunda. Please bring your friends and family, open to the general public.

* Sunday Jan 6, from Noon - 6pm*

* Saturday Jan 12, from Noon - 6pm*

* Monday Jan 21, 11am - 3pm* MLK Day of Service