Metro Cities: Why I hate street murals and you should too
Metro's creative director, Jason Logan, is done with uninspired, designed-by-committee public art. But all hope is not lost.
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The other day as I was passing under a bridge on my regular jog I noticed a team of painters under the overpass. A sign from the City of Toronto (cluttered with logos of other partners) explained that this was a new venture to beautify my neighbourhood with a mural called Seasons, or something like that.
Looking closely I realized: I hate murals.
Before you judge me hear me out.
The mural was only half done but the tell-tale signs were already there: over-bright graffiti-covering rainbow colours, a half-hearted attempt to reference turtles and the sort of 1970s abstract design that only a focus group of bureaucrats trying to make everyone happy could love.
My friend Angus calls me a snob and a whiner noting that the team of people working on the mural are part of a program to get youth off the streets. And maybe I am a bit of a snob, but couldn't it be better?
Picasso's Guernica commissioned by the Spanish government for the World's Fair in 1937 was one of the most powerful and moving anti-war wall sized pictures ever made, but since 1937 it's been mostly a slippery slope into mushy group-think.
Murals and their sister project "the big rusty thing that is made mostly of tubes of various sizes" fail at the most important test of good art: does it make you see the world in a new way?
So instead of whining I'd like to submit some favourites. Totally inventive public art projects across Canada that are NOT murals, and one mural (that does things in a really different way) thrown in for good measure.
The Drop, Vancouver:
It makes you see the landscape in a new way. Embraces the rainy. Redefines scenic art. Playful, whimsical and designed by Inges Idee (who made Calgary’s blue ring)
Electric Street, Philadelphia:
Art, safer streets, community policing, infrastructure and innovation. David Guinn and Drew Billiau’s neon mural is the future of public art, and might make me love murals.
Pause Platforms, Toronto:
This work by DeRail sets little stages for a shared sense of public landscape. They draw attention to the pockets of industry and nature in a changing city.
Library Cards, Halifax:
Cliff Eyland’s installation at the Halifax Central Library turns the whole library into a kind of art installation, laying out 5,000 mini paintings of book shelves.
Peace Bridge, Calgary:
Calgary's Peace Bridge is beautiful, useful and the red ball project drew attention to it as a hybrid infrastructure meets public art.