Updated: Apr 20, 2020
Living in Philadelphia, I have the pleasure of seeing a ton of brilliant mural work. Murals that span a variety of styles, means of creating, and meanings; all of them baring their own unique beauty. Even more neat than just seeing them, I often get to see these pieces in progress as they come together, I’ll go as far as to change up my routes if I know that a new piece of public art is going up.
Recently, in one of my many drives all over creation, I saw a wall being primed for what I presumed to be a new mural. The wall is perfect for a piece of art, it faces out towards a small back road in the suburbs of Philadelphia almost pointed at oncoming drivers. So, I took note of it and I’ve been watching this piece go up the few days a week that I’m in that area and, I hate to say it but, the piece is horrible. It’s not that it’s not my style, it’s not that it’s slightly off, it’s just a poorly done painting. It looks to have been done with something like house paint, paint not necessarily built for pieces of art, and really chunky brushes so lines aren’t clean and things are not blended well. I’ve actually seen the people painting the mural and it’s not a community project, or kids, or something that makes less than exceptional quality acceptable or understandable. It looks like it’s an artist and a crew or a team of artists, people who should be more competent in painting a piece of this magnitude that’s going to be seen by a lot of people on a daily basis.
Now I’m not going to say any names or where it is, I don’t want to make anyone feel bad and, in all fairness, this piece isn’t done yet so it may really come together. I don’t want to make fun of anyone’s work, or call anyone out, I want to question the decision making of the people in charge of hiring an artist for this piece. The team of people painting the work I referenced look inexperienced and unaware of what needs to be done to make a quality piece on a surface like this. So I really have to wonder who chose these painters and how could they not have found someone better. A big part of my job is finding artists, and it’s not that challenging to find competent, if not excellent, mural painters in your area. Even if you don’t want to, or you don’t have the ability to shell out the big bucks you should be able to find someone good! Shit, graffiti artists give out free art (an obvious over-simplification, but there’s some brilliant illegal work up that I’d much rather look at)!
Even at a level of consulting, there are painters out there willing to do work or help create work that is beautiful. I’ve seen artists advise kids, who have little to no artistic background, in creating magnificent murals and they’ve done it just to give back to the community. It just blows me away that people are accepting of bad art, or they feel like they can’t find someone good because they can! Easily! If you’re putting up art that’s going to be seen a lot, like a lot a lot, then put some pride into it, people! Do some research! There are amazing artists and resources for prices far lower than you assume and way closer than you imagine.
As I said, a big part of my work is finding new or up and coming artists and I’m constantly faced with the question of, “how do people not know who this person is?” I accidentally find amazing artists who work in all sorts of styles and mediums on a daily basis and most of the time I’m not looking super hard, or in some deep corner of the internet, I’m just scanning what’s there. So it’s really disheartening to see a great opportunity for artists go to waste because people didn’t take the time, or put the effort in to find someone good to do it. It’s even more frustrating with public art because with a gallery, you can just not go, with a brand, you can just not use the products, but on a big wall that’s right out in the open, people are going to see it and that should mean that you want what you’re putting up to be great! This is why art needs to be more accessible and people need to be made more aware; great artists are here, great artists are affordable, we can’t let people just take the safe/cheap route and put a pile of doodoo up because they didn’t want to put in the effort. We need to make people more aware, more understanding and give them easier access to good, high quality art!