When we lived in Chicago, one of my biggest gripes was the lack of public art. Much of it is relegated to Millenium and Grant Parks and Michigan Avenue, conservatively doled out to mainstream consumers and tourist explorers. The city’s buttoned-up demeanor goes hand in hand with the obliteration of spray paint within city limits by the Daley administration years ago. In 1992, Chicago City Council passed to ban the selling of the graffiti artists’ medium, waging a hefty war from artists and Federal Court Judge Marvin E. Aspen, who deemed it unconstitutional. They subsequently lost when it was fully enforced starting in 1995 under allowance by Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. To this day, you still can’t buy spray paint within city limits but a few promising murals have popped up over the last couple years.
Don’t get me wrong. There is art in Chicago, it’s just not as spontaneous as one might think for a city its size. I like to visit Philadelphia for many reasons but one of my favorite past times is walking along South Street and seeing what new pieces have popped up. It’s a vibrant art scene which started in the 1960s by a group of artists that moved into the area, but most notably Isaiah Zagar who started the movement of creating mosaics on every surface.
Philly just has a flavor that’s all its own. Every year close to a hundred murals are created as part of the Mural Arts Program. Very impressive for a city its size, or any size, for that matter.
For us, it’s nice to just see organic and creative things happening whether it’s graffiti, tagging, wall murals, window painting or an impromptu performance. The other night we met Summer Medel, an artist and muralist, painting a new spring themed scene for a storefront. We were really happy to see creation happening, especially since it was a pretty damn cold out. That’s heart.
Cool, huh? What’s your favorite piece of public art – painting, sculpture, graffiti or otherwise?