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Commentary Detail

Murals: Reflections of Socitey
Commentary by: Nancy Kranzberg
Aired October 01, 2010

Murals reflect the many aspects of our environment and society. They show both the good and the bad sides of our world and are a great way to involve people of all ages in expressions of their feelings through art.

When I think of famous political and social muralists of the modern era, Diego Rivera is the first name that comes to mind. He was a well known member of the Mexican Communist Party and his early murals reflected the country's 1910 revolution. He went on to make murals in other countries including the United States and was quite a controversial character. His mural, "Man of the Crossroads", begun in 1933 for the Rockefeller Center in New York City, was removed after a furor erupted in the press over a portrait of Vladimir Lenin it contained.

My friend Francie Broderick reminded me that the murals of Northern Ireland are truly the "people's art". Over the past 40 years they came to represent the fears, the triumphs, the losses, but mostly the hopes and aspirations of communities on both sides of the Northern Irish divide. In the days when it was illegal to fly the Irish flag or paint such murals, many were done under the cover of night.

For 13 years, Emerson Electric has provided the funding to send Craft Alliance artists to work with students in 25 schools throughout the City of St Louis to design and create ceramic tile murals that are permanently installed on school walls.

This past summer the latest mural was dedicated at the Innovative Concept Academy or I.C.A., a new alternative school that has brought together the efforts of the St Louis Juvenile Court, The St. Louis Public Schools, and Mers Goodwill to impact the lives of students who have reached a dead-end academically and have nowhere to go to school. The mural, designed jointly by the students at Innovative Concept Academy and young people incarcerated at the Juvenile Detention Center is a dramatically beautiful piece brimming with the hopeful spirit and energy of the students who created it.

COCA, the Center of Creative Arts, has a strong tradition in its outreach programs of partnering with schools and communities in the creation of public artworks, including murals. One can visit sites around St.Louis - Blumeyer, Jefferson Elementary, Dunbar Elementary, Adams Community Center, Columbia Elementary - and see these vivid expressions of community spirit.

Catherine Magel, a St. Louis artist, designed the mural "Reflecting On a River" as an opportunity for community residents to celebrate through art a profound, fundamental natural resource. Assisted by Grace Hill AmeriCorps Trail Rangers, Ms Magel worked with more than 1,500 youngsters and adults from all parts of the area to craft tiles for the 190 foot long permanent mural. Student interns in Fine Arts from regional universities also had a rare chance to participate in creating a public art installation that graces the downtown St. Louis floodwall with its celebration of the rich natural history of the Mississippi River.

It's been said that a picture says more than a thousand words. I think these murals say millions.

(The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. Louis Public Radio.)

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Nancy Kranzberg

Nancy Kranzberg

Arts Aficionado Nancy Kranzberg has been involved in the arts community for some thirty years. She serves on numerous arts affiliated boards, including The St. Louis Art Museum, Laumeier Sculpture Park where she is the Co-Chair, The Sheldon Arts Foundation and the Sheldon Art Gallery Board, Jazz at the Bistro, The Missouri Mansion Preservation Inc., The Mid American Arts Alliance, and the Contemporary Art Museum St. Louis. Nancy was named Women of Achievement and was awarded the Distinguished Alumnae Award at Washington University Nancy is a docent at the St. Louis Art Museum and is an honorary docent at Laumeier Sculpture Park. At age 60 she became a Jazz singer. She performs with the Second Half which features Chancellor Tom George on the piano.

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