Cultural Patrimony: Learning to Save Los Angeles’ Mural Legacy

Posted by Felipe Sanchez On September - 6 - 2014
Felipe Sanchez

Felipe Sanchez

By 2008, the world-renowned murals of Los Angeles metaphorically had a nail in their coffin; they had become a faded memory in the consciousness of the city. This amnesia of preserving the cultural patrimony of LA was a social epidemic that I later learned was happening to public art in many cities across the country. Mural after mural along the LA’s freeways and neighborhoods were disappeared and abandoned by the city – scenes so appalling that I set out to find organizations that could shed some light on the issue. Little did I know this small but significant action would set the stage for the next phase of my career in the arts. Read the rest of this entry »

Americans for the Arts’ Public Art Network Year in Review program is the only national program that specifically recognizes public art projects. Up to 50 projects are selected annually through an open-call application process and selected by two to three jurors. The projects are available on CD-Rom in our bookstore and include a PowerPoint, data and project list, and hundreds of project photos.

Our 2013 Public Art Year in Review nomination process is now open through April 5, so be sure to nominate a project as we continue spotlight former honorees on ARTSblog.

Today’s project is The Peanut Farmer which was honored in 2012.

"The Peanut Farmer" by Charles Johnston

“The Peanut Farmer” by Charles Johnston

Read the rest of this entry »

Creating, Collaborating, Connecting with Art, Activism, and the Internet

Posted by Xavier Cortada On December - 5 - 2012

Xavier Cortada

At the end of the last millennium, when the internet was young, I installed two webcams in my studio and invited people watching me out in cyberspace to share their ideas in a chat room. I would incorporate their views into the murals I was creating in my “webstudio.”

Back then, I was painting collaborative message murals to address important social concerns in different locations around the world (AIDS in Africa, child welfare in Bolivia, peace in Northern Ireland gangs in Philadelphia).

The collaborative murals mattered because I wanted to amplify people’s voices, share their concerns. I wanted to expand the circle of participants beyond those I could reach in person. The webcams and the webstudio were my way of trying to expand beyond geographic boundaries. Back then, I think the farthest I got from my Miami studio was Atlanta.

Since then, technology has developed to a level where online and human interaction has revolutionized communication to an extent unimaginable when I first created that early project. Art making can have exclusively online manifestation, reaching millions in space and time. It is indisputable that one can also build a sense of community online—ask Facebook.

We have even created realms where we can have second lives fully inhabit a completely virtual reality. And that is good: I find participatory art projects that engage individuals locally across communities to be address global concerns very powerful. Read the rest of this entry »

Storytelling: Marriage of Data and Personal Narratives

Posted by Ryan Hurley On June - 18 - 2012

Ryan Hurley

During our Americans for the Arts Annual Convention ARTventure to San Antonio’s culturally rich Westside neighborhood, we spent the afternoon with San Anto Cultural Arts, a local organization that builds community through the process of creating murals. Outside of their small office there is a large religious mural featuring a profile of Jesus surrounded by two angels. One of the organization’s co-founders, who was kind of hanging in the background of our tour, was encouraged by the tour guide to tell this story.

When heading back to the office one day he noticed a woman, whom he later found out was a prostitute, hanging out on the border of their property near the mural. As soon as she saw him approaching she apologized for loitering and promised to leave right away. He told her not to worry and began talking with her. She told him that the church down the street wouldn’t allow her to enter, so she would often come to this outdoor mural to pray.

The storyteller wasn’t trying to commodify this story or use it as a sales pitch. He shared this experience so we could understand the human element of their work. Those moments that we experience everyday and assume that others can summon when we talk about that abstract “power of the arts,” need to be shared, built upon, and married to supportive data.

During the Emerging Leaders Preconference, Americans for the Arts President and CEO Bob Lynch said something to the effect of “…for a group of artists, we need to become better storytellers.” I think this was said in the context of arts advocacy but I believe it is interrelated to growing as a community.

It was probably because of our own personal narratives or the persuasive narratives of others that convinced us to spend our lives in a financially (and emotionally) unstable field taking up the banner for the arts. This is not to underestimate the power of studies such as the new Arts and Economic Prosperity IV (4.1 million jobs are supported nationally by the nonprofit arts sector, nice!). These studies are invaluable to a diverse field that hosts a diverse audience, but these two quantitative and qualitative narratives could benefit from becoming more intertwined. Read the rest of this entry »

Art Provides Healing, Creates Dialogue in State College, PA

Posted by Tim Mikulski On December - 21 - 2011

A solitary blue ribbon replaced Jerry Sandusky in this mural by artist Michael Pilato. (Photo from

We often see examples of art used as a way to heal a community following tragedy, whether it be something catastrophic like war or a sudden death, all of the arts can be used as an escape, a catalyst for further examination, or in countless other ways.

While reading through news articles last night, I happened upon a piece written for a student newspaper of Penn State.

It wasn’t very long ago that the name of the institution wouldn’t cause a shudder within me. Having grown up across the Delaware River from Philadelphia, the school’s football (and sometimes basketball) program often appeared on the local news thanks in part to sharing a state with Philly and a huge number of alumni living the the Delaware Valley.

Having gone to a small, liberal arts state school in New Jersey, I will probably never understand the culture of an enormous university like Penn State (although I think NPR’s This American Life shed some light on that for me a few weeks ago).

As most of America sat on the proverbial sidelines watching the fallout from the horrifying child molestation scandal unfolding in State College, PA, you could see that the town has a lot to work through as the case continues on into 2012.

This is where an artist can make an impact.

Local muralist Michael Pilato revisited a previous work (pictured above) and created a new one to honor victims of sexual abuse… Read the rest of this entry »

Helping to Define a Sense of Place in Communities

Posted by Tatiana Hernandez On November - 9 - 2011

Tatiana Hernandez

People have looked to the arts to help define their communities and create a sense of place for generations. So, why are we so excited about creative placemaking today?

Perhaps it has something to do with context. In this digital world, many are reexamining the fundamental nature of “community” and our relationship to place. We now know, based on findings from the Knight Soul of the Community report, that social offerings, followed by openness and aesthetics explain why we love where we live. What does that tell us about the essential importance of our connection to place?

“Vibrancy” is popping up as a way of describing the intangible nature of a neighborhood’s character. Here are three projects working to help define a sense of place in each of their communities:

Philadelphia has a strong tradition of mural work, and thanks to Mural Arts, artists and residents continue to come together to help define “home.” As part of their Knight Arts Challenge project, Mural Arts brought two Dutch artists, Haas&Hahn, to North Philadelphia to live, work, and engage the community around a large-scale mural that will span several blocks of Germantown Avenue. Read the rest of this entry »

What Can We Do…Now? Cultural Asset Mapping in Los Angeles County

Posted by Erin Harkey On November - 7 - 2011

The Los Angeles County Arts Commission was recently awarded a grant through the National Endowment for the Arts’ Our Town initiative to produce a cultural asset map in the unincorporated community of Willowbrook, CA.

Located just south of Watts and west of Compton, Project Willowbrook: Cultivating a Healthy Community through Arts and Culture will capitalize on the county’s over $600 million investment in health services and infrastructure. This includes the Martin Luther King Jr. (MLK) Medical Center Campus Master Plan and the Wilmington Streetscape Plan that will link the campus to the nearby Rosa Parks Metro Station.

The arts commission and primary project partner LA Commons will use community engagement activities to identify artists, organizations, programs, and artworks, with the understanding that “art” and “culture” should capture both the formal and informal ways that people engage, this information will be compiled in a final report. The report will provide recommendations on long-term, sustainable strategies that will integrate art into development and achieve overall community objectives. Read the rest of this entry »