Can Historic Murals Be Divisive?

There is an ongoing issue with racial division coming to the forefront lately. I usually don’t take on such political topics and it is not my intent to do so here but simply report and as usual show some connectivity to how art really is everywhere and relates in our lives.

There is controversy a-brewing at the Jefferson County Courthouse in Birmingham, Alabama over the historic murals that were painted by Chicago artist John W. Norton. He painted the large-scale, eight-foot murals to depict the story of the Old South and the New South in the 1930’s when the courthouse was being built.

Old and New South Murals via BhamWiki on Art Is Everywhere

Old and New South Murals via BhamWiki

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 1_Art Is Everywhere

Old South section via

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 2 _AIE

New South via

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 3_AIE

Old South full mural via

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 4_AIE

New South full mural via

They have existed without complaint until recently when Anne Garland Mahler, a Birmingham native who teaches now at the University of Arizona, started an online petition on to have them removed because she cites them as being racist.  She indicates, “These murals have been described by scholars as white supremacist images and even the Chicago firm, Holabird & Root, that originally designed the courthouse and commissioned the paintings, has stated their support for the removal of the murals.“…”Since these murals are works of art and were painted by a famous muralist, we are not necessarily advocating for their destruction.”…”Most importantly, these images do not belong in the courthouse.”

There is precedent here with a twist when the now famous Maine Labor History Mural by artist Judy Taylor painted in 2008 was removed by then Governor LePage in 2012. It caused so much controversy that a lawsuit ensued by artists to keep it in place. Here was what resulted after a long battle, reported in Yankee Magazine:

The solution to many problems in this life is simply for enough time to pass for the problem to disappear on its own. What seems to have happened in the case of the Maine Labor History Mural is that, with litigation at an end, new Maine State Museum director Bernard Fishman, former director of the Rhode Island Historical Society, approached new Maine Labor Commissioner Jeanne Pacquette about exhibiting the mural in the museum lobby. Artist Judy Taylor was consulted on the move and consented. Gov. LePage apparently had no objections. And the U.S. DOL, which paid for the mural and had been demanding its money back if the mural were not exhibited, agreed that it would be okay for the mural to hang, at least temporarily, in a non-labor department facility…. And, with its new-found fame, the mural will now be seen by thousands more people than would ever have seen it in the tiny, airless DOL waiting room.

Maine-Labor-History-Mural_via Yankee Magazine on Art Is Everywhere

Maine Labor History Mural’s current home_ via Yankee Magazine

I would also say that controversy can be resolved with respectful dialogue — communication “with” rather than “at” one another.

It remains to be seen what will happen with the Courthouse Murals because removal can cause extensive damage and the cost can be exorbitant at an estimated $100,000, when that money and effort could be possibly better spent on the citizens and their community.

 County Commissioner President Pro Tem, Sandra Little Brown, writes an impassioned plea for their removal and makes some valid points for everyday living with the murals and what they represent. I’ve even tried to envision myself having to view them daily and recalling painful past struggles — if that is the only thing you see. However, they provide a beautifully rendered, stylistic depiction that is indicative of the Industrial Movement post Art Deco, despite the subject representing America’s honest history. They also show progress and historically represent the mindset of the 1930’s, not present day era, as they were painted then, not now. Diego Rivera also painted the American Worker in the 30’s during the industry labor movement. Detroit fought hard and won to keep these murals intact as their many other museum acquisitions had to be sold during the city’s declared bankruptcy. However, these are one of the main tourist attractions to the museum and have since become even more so visited.

Diego Rivera Murals at Institute of Arts in Detroit_via Huffington Post on Art Is EverywhereEqually persuasive is Wayne Flynt’s argument that,”Addressing systemic issues involves confronting policies, but dealing with historic symbols is more complicated and divisive.”  He is Auburn University’s professor emeritus of history. His closing phrase is poignant, “What, as a historian, I find wrong about that is this no longer allows us to have a conversation about the way we were,” Flynt said. “And the way we were is the problem.

Perhaps this is a solution, as stated on

Linda Nelson of the Jefferson County Historical Commission has suggested installing educational materials near the pieces and a third mural documenting Southern progress. Jackson told the commission he’s open to that idea.

Nelson and Flynt say they understand the emotions that the artwork stirs, but they would rather preserve reminders of the region’s past than wipe it away.

Until a resolution can be found, at least there is comfort in enjoying the beautiful building and some of its many details.

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 7_AIE

You can almost see Atticus here.

Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 6_AIE Jefferson County Courthouse Mural 5_AIEI’m from the South, a New Orleans gal, and I currently live in a Southern town of Alexandria, VA, right outside the most political town of Washington, DC. We are grappling with our own “Confederate” symbols that became controversial in the sad wake of the senseless Charleston church murders. Although some landmarks, streets and Confederate flags are being removed or replaced, this beloved statue, where the Confederate Soldier, entitle Appomattox stands in the middle of a busy street with his back to the North, is totally symbolic of the Civil War when the North and South were at such odds and pays tribute to VA’s dead in the wake of such a horrific war. It would take more than just a city order to remove as it is on the historic registry of landmarks and is owned by the state, so it is staying.

Appomattox via on Art Is Everywhere

Appomattox via

There are countless other murals and artwork that resonate with people because they precisely depict a figure who or an image that represents a time and place in America’s history that should not be forgotten.

As I write this piece and with these controversial racial times, I am reminded of one of my favorite books, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera. I learned from reading it how Russia used the everyday tactic of simple changes to erase history, like changing street names, renaming and removing landmarks. The next generation never knows its past and does not reflect on it. Therein mistakes are often repeated. It has a striking similarity.

Recently in Seattle, James Crespinel, the original artist of his tribute mural to Martin Luther King below was touching it up and so many people stopped to complain because they were worried he might be damaging it. Once he explained his purpose, the passersby were welcoming of his careful and loving preservation.

MLK mural via TheStranger on Art Is Everywhere

MLK mural via TheStranger

The Art of Plating Food

If you’re a world renown chef, you’re used to plating (arranging food in a pleasing manner); although, what is your creative process for arranging such an artistic plate?

scallops-platedThere is an art to plating food.

Helen Rennie‘s Youtube channels does a good example of explaining just how it is done.

Even more visual is the exhibit, Ferran Adrià: Notes on Creativity. detailing chef Ferran Adria’s plating process starting from when he was the chef of el Bulli, now shuttered but it was one of the most famous restaurant in Spain in the 80’s.

I first learned about this exhibit in 2014 and it’s taken this long to come to the US.

Ferran's plating diagram on Art Is EverywhereBrett Littman, the exhibition curator, “has been constructing and deconstructing  Ferran’s visual concepts. In fact, out of this exhibit comes a 2,720-page catalogue raisonée, elBulli: 2005-2011, that details all the recipes and techniques of the restaurant from its final seven years. This will be a food lovers visual delight.”

In the meantime, it is interesting to see that the exhibit uses plastine models to visually prep-create the food to give a 3-D perspective of what the plated food will look like.

Plasticine used for the Art of Plating exhibit_AIEI can relate to Helen Rennie’s approach and philosophy, “it’s all fluff” but have fun with it. Plating certainly makes preparing any meal more fun. In some ways it is similar to me needed a Facebook page for my business, it is expected for chefs these days to have a pleasing food presentation. Not only this, as a diner, you’ll remember and possibly come back — if it tastes even better than it looks — so good for business.

You may see other interesting appealing food presentation examples in these previous Food category posts.

Duck, Duck Murals Nearby

While vacationing in Ocracoke, North Carolina, it was coincidental to read this article about Hitnes, the Italian street artist and his duck murals recently painted in Pine Island Sanctuary in Corolla, NC. He is retracing John Audubon’s footsteps while traveling across the US, painting murals as he goes. You can read the full article with links for his inspiration on Image Hunter article and photos by Jessica Stewart.

Hitnes Duck Mural on Art Is EverywhereHere’s an interesting video regarding the decoys that inspired his artwork.

The Image Hunter / Voodoo Duck from magicmindcorporation on Vimeo.

Although Corolla was a little out of our way to travel to on the return route back home we saw plenty of Nature’s everyday art.

Pre sunset porch time_AIE

Pre sunset porch time

Sailboat view from dock on AIE

Sailboat view from dock

End of day starting on AIE

Sun Rays – End of day starting

Picture perfect sunset and kayaker in silhouette on AIE

Picture perfect sunset and kayaker in silhouette

10 Year Reflection on New Orleans

I’ve been so busy and just coming back from vacation to have much reflection on New Orleans 10 years after Hurricane Katrina. Sometimes painful memories are too difficult to relive but still deserve recollection and at the very least acknowledgement, which is what I’m doing (as I write this on 9-11) and at the first opportunity I’ve had since the August 29th anniversary, when my world and beloved city broke and it took a while to put back together.

On this note, rather than recount my own experience, I’ll note a really wonderful essay I read by Adam B. Kushner, who happens to be from New Orleans and the editor of PostEverything and the Outlook section of the Washington Post.

His refection in his article, “I didn’t know what it means to miss New Orleans” (the same title of one of songs that always tugs at my heartstrings), read as if he was writing my own (except maybe without having elderly parents and a dying father who at first did not want to leave and friends who were stranded). The difference is that I didn’t think that we shouldn’t rebuild.

He has since changed his mind, with reasonable thought and reflection on New Orleans, its heritage and it’s significance to all of the country.

This exuberant image of a Mardi Gras Indian embodies the New Orleans Spirit.

Mardi GMardi Gras Indian via Getty Images__on Art Is EverywhereNew Orleans is still struggling but we’re survivors and after 10 years we’re stronger and striving.

Down by the Sea

While vacationing in the OBX what better way to celebrate life than posting about a recent discovery about Google’s Ocean Project and in the process finding this Men at Work song that I hadn’t heard before — jazzy and reflective of the beach’s beauty and beyond.

Down by the sea
I found your hidden treasure
Just you and me,
We overdosed on pleasure…

Imagine searching for directions to somewhere on Google Maps and looking at the street view so you’ll know what your destination will look like in real-time as you drive to it. Google’s Ocean Project gives you this street view in the ocean — under the water. They are mapping the world’s oceans and I can’t think of anything more other-worldly, right here on earth and without having to travel far to find. Truly fascinating!

When you go to the site, click on any map marker in the bottom left and it will take you to a 3-D panoramic view of that underwater spot. You can click on any thumbnail picture view and go there as well.

Google Ocean project_2 on Art Is Everywhere

Google Ocean project_1 on Art Is Everywhere

Have fun searching and discovering a whole other word that most of us will rarely see in person. Here’s a magical spot in the Florida Keys, where I hope to visit someday in person.

Florida Keys_Google Project_Art Is EverywhereIn the meantime, I’m enjoying this Australian sea-side video set to Down By the Sea and the ocean at Ocracokein real-time. Just hope not to see any sharks this trip.

…Down by the sea
I found your hidden treasure
Just you and me
We over-dosed on pleasure

Listen to your heart
Screamin’ at the sky
Can’t you feel it tremble?
Don’t you wonder why?

Global Weather Art

What’s one of the first things the news broadcasts on a continual basis? And what do you want to know — besides traffic? What info can help you for what to wear, what to pack, and what to prepare? Weather!

NOAA, the National Ocean Atmospheric Administration, has created a new global weather view map that is interactive. It’s not only fun and informative but beautiful and art in motion. Look at these views and check out the real-time animation for yourself.

NOAA_interactive global weather map via NOAA Environmental Visualization on Art Is Everywhere

NOAA_interactive global weather map via NOAA Environmental Visualization

Don’t forget to move the earth with your cursor to see other countries.

Who knew pressure could be so pretty!

NOAA_global weather winds on Art Is Everywhere

NOAA_global weather winds

NOAA_gloabal weather precipitation on Art Is Everywhere

NOAA_gloabal weather precipitation

NOAA_global weather moisture on Art Is Everywhere

NOAA_global weather moisture

NOAA_global weather Temperature on Art Is Everywhere

NOAA_global weather Temperature

 I’m hoping the weather this week during vacation in Ocracoke, NC will make some memorable artwork on this global view map or at least be.

An Oakland Mural Mess

I’m always sad to see a lovely mural painted over but I’m equally interested in following a legal battle that has ensued. This one is between artist Dan Fontes, who is suing previous and current owners of the Nissan Dealership in Oakland, California for $400,000K for damages for painting over his well-known, Lake Merritt cloud-skyline mural.

Dan Fontes Oakland Mural on Art Is Everywhere

Dan Fontes’ Mural_via Contra Costa Times

Evidently there is a copyright issue at hand, where the dealership did not give the artist a required 90 day notice before whitewashing the mural. The dealership, under new management since the mural was originally painted, claims extortion and that the mural had to be painted over because it had been tagged and was unsightly. However, what is interesting about this case is the artist took measures to paint the mural on panels that could be removed and used a special German paint that can last hundreds of years. It is the same German paint I used to paint this public mural on panels that were installed on the side of the neighborhood school, then I know there is a coating that was probably and precisely used to mitigate tagging. It allows the top, protective layer that might be tagged to be removed without damaging the mural. I used this coating to help protect the mural from outdoor weather conditions as well as possible tagging, that never did occur. The mural was based on images that the school children had submitted and represented the four seasons related to their student garden planted in front.

JH-Mural-Installed_by Ashley Spencer_AIE

Jefferson Houston public art mural by Ashley Spencer

A note about this mural, because there was major construction done to upgrade the school, the mural panels were removed to be used elsewhere. It remains to be seen where they are being used but here is the new school where they were located on the playground.

New Jefferson Houston School on Art Is Everywhere

New Jefferson Houston School

Getting back to the Oakland case, the artist had dropped by the dealership and left his card for someone to get back to him so he could repair the mural. They never did, granted the owner at the time was focused on his wife dying of cancer and then establighing a charity in her honor. Instead, the new owner simply painted over the mural and the artist was never contacted.

What a shame and what a mural mess that appears could all have been avoided with better communication. It will be interesting to see if the copyright issue wins this case and is worth noting for future reference.

On a positive note, the same day I ran across this story, I saw this one about Annapolis, known for his static historic sites, is “softening” their image to allow more public murals in their industrial district.

It seems to me that more and more cities are considering murals and artwork to help beautify and add interest to their streetscapes.

Color a Village

What a remarkable image! Artists color a village in Mexico to bring beauty and benefit to the small town of Pachuca. Quartz appropriately describes it as “color therapy.”

Pachuca village_via  Quartz on Art Is Everywhere

Pachuca village_via Quartz

Oddly named German Crew group is responsible for this urban renewal project with its youth graffiti artists who transformed 209 residents’ homes with swaths of broad strokes of color.

The village is located in the most impoverished area of the Palmitas about 100 miles outside of Mexico City. The project hopes to bring cultural awareness and tourism to help fend off crime while engaging the community to take back their town.

This part of the project has taken six months, from the design by Mibe, a street artist from Mexico City, to the whitewashed basepaint before to the bright colorization.

Pachura before via ArtNet / German Crew on Art Is Everywhere

before via ArtNet / German Crew

Pachura colored via ArtNet / German Crew on Art Is Everywhere

Pachura colored via ArtNet / German Crew

The second phase will add figurative murals to the streets scape. It’s a beautiful work in progress — putting artists to work and adding a beneficial facial “uplift” to the town — in more ways than just cosmetic.

Just look how this Pachura town stands out now. Photo via German Crew on Art Is Everywhere

Just look how this town stands out now! Photo via German Crew

In a previous posts, you can read about how a similar town of Favela was transformed with murals and color.

An Ai Weiwei and Charleston Mural Update

Here’s an Ai Weiwei and Charleston Mural Update.

I wrote an Weighing in on Ai Weiwei post back in June 2014. I recently read that this controversial Chinese artist was randomly given his passport back after four years (600 days) when the Chinese government first took it away, basically leaving him captive in his own country and after he served jail time. He is still barred from posting anything on the Chinese Internet. However, all this didn’t stop him from creating thought-provoking, ‘pain in the Chinese government’s rear and side’ type of art through instructions he gave to his minions to follow and set up exhibitions in other countries. I have to give him kudos for getting around the situation. Now that he can travel, no telling what he’ll do…

First stop, London.

Ai Weiwei via Washington Post on Art Is EverywhereAlso, here’s a quick link update to the post about the interactive public art “Power” mural in Charleston, SC along with a picture of how the mural came out. The initial information is published in the Metry Gets Muralized post near the bottom.

Power Mural Update_Charelston Gazette Mail on Art Is Everywhere

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