Mar 25, 2014

A Letter to the Editor From Our Board Chair

by: Joe Goldblum

In response to Philadelphia Inquirer Architecture Critic, Inga Saffron’s March 20th Changing Skyline column: Mural Arts Philadelphia’s entry into Fairmount Park crosses boundaries


As board chair of the Philadelphia Mural Arts Philadelphia, I am among those who are excited to see Jon Laidacker’s beautiful work of art, honoring a significant and valued aspect of the city’s culture, installed on the Girard Avenue Bridge.

Philadelphia is a rowing city, as much today as it was in the 1800’s and this is a distinction worthy of a mural and something we Philadelphians should be proud of. In fact if you have ever taken the train out of Philadelphia or walked or biked along the river, you’ve seen Boathouse Row, a section of the city comprised of 15 Victorian boat-houses on the banks of the Schuylkill. These buildings and our wonderful river have been the center of rowing in the United States for generations. Evidence of the sport’s long connection with the city include paintings by Thomas Eakins who featured rowers on the river in some of his most widely known works of art. Today, the community of rowers is as broad and diverse as our city, from high school students to senior rowers, the river is continually alive with the grace and beauty of people cutting dramatically through the water.

At Mural Arts we realize that not all art is for everyone, that taste is subjective, but in spite of that the scale and scope of what Mural Arts accomplishes in Philadelphia is truly remarkable. The organization has led projects in every part of the city, involving thousands of residents from all socio-economic backgrounds. Its process is open and inclusive, and designed to produce high quality artwork that carries great meaning for those who experience it.

Our value for diversity extends to our stylistic choices, which include a wide range of influences—graphic, narrative, scenic, abstract, and folk, to name a few. All projects are led by experienced, professional artists. Many are Philadelphia-based, contributing millions to the region’s creative economy; others come to us from across the nation and around the world, like Lucy & Jorge Orta, Katharina Grosse, Haas&Hahn, Steve Powers, Vhils, Gaia, and Kenny Scharf.

Prior to installation, every proposal goes through an objective vetting process led by Mural Arts’ Director of Design Review, who convenes a panel of art experts, educators, urban planners, community representatives, and other relevant stakeholders. In some cases, such as the Rowing Mural, the design is additionally reviewed and approved by Philadelphia’s Art Commission.

This commitment to rigor pays off. Not only do I see the process ignite change for people, communities, and places, but the organization is regularly recognized for artistic excellence. Three projects were honored by the Public Art Network’s highly competitive 2012 and 2013 Years in Review; one was included in the 2012 International Architecture Exhibition at the Venice Biennale; and two were featured as part of the Community Design Collaborative’s 2011 juried exhibition, Leverage: Strengthening Neighborhoods Through Design.

People from all around the world are impressed and amazed by the City of Murals. More than 12,000 individuals participate in a mural tour annually, and Mural Arts receives frequent requests for advice and consultation from organizations and municipalities from across the globe. I could not be prouder to be associated with an organization that carries out such a positive, ambitious mission.

Last updated: Oct 21, 2021

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