“What Makes a Successful Mural?” Discusses Challenges of Effective Murals

By Caitlin Burns | September 30, 2016

Arcadia University is pleased to announce “What Makes a Successful Mural?,” a panel discussion featuring prominent Philadelphia-based public artists David Guinn, Keir Johnston of Amber Art and Design, Jon Laidacker, and Meg Saligman. Scheduled for Monday, Oct. 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the University Commons Great Room, this discussion is part of a fall program of public events titled “Exploring Public Art: Legacy, Community, & Innovation.” The series is designed to foster community engagement with a public art project to be completed in 2017 when David Guinn will lead a group of Arcadia students in the production of a work at the Glenside Station underpass.

Moderated by Elizabeth Ferrell, assistant professor of Art History at Arcadia, the panel discussion is intended to articulate the challenges of creating effective murals while also addressing the broader question of quality in public art.  The four artists will draw on examples from their work to illuminate the criteria they use to evaluate a project’s success. The conversation will also cover the different facets of mural production, including considerations of form, site, and community engagement.

The panelists bring a wealth of experience and diverse perspectives to the question “What Makes a Successful Mural?” Meg Saligman has created over 50 murals locally and internationally. Vast in scale and often distinguished by their imaginative use of figuration, Saligman’s many iconic works in Philadelphia include Common Threads (1998), Philadelphia Muses (2000), and Passing Through (2006). Always collaborative and site-specific, her art also includes temporary installations that bridge interior and exterior spaces.

Jon Laidacker has served as lead muralist on a number of high-profile works. These include the largest mural in the Philadelphia region, How Philly Moves (2011) at the Philadelphia International Airport, and a pair of rowing-themed images executed in 2014 under the Girard Bridge, the first murals sited in Fairmount Park. Laidacker’s expertise is represented by two recent efforts close to Arcadia. His mural Building Germantown (2012) on Chelten Avenue and his project on the West Mt. Pleasant Avenue train trestle, completed in 2013, both refer directly to the history of their respective communities.

Keir Johnston is co-founder of Amber Art and Design, a collective of six artists that collaborate with individuals and organizations to encourage positive and sustainable change within their communities. Amber Art and Design produces a wide array of public works, including prominent murals, such as The Roots (2013), as well as temporary projects, such as The Village Table (2014)—a four-course dining experience set in Meditation Park (in partnership with The Village of Arts and Humanities). No matter the form, their art tells stories often left out of history and under-covered by the media.

David Guinn, who will lead the project at Glenside Station this spring, has created over 40 murals in cities worldwide. Acclaimed for their vivid color, meticulous design, and sensitivity to site, they often fuse landscape and abstraction in inventive ways. Guinn’s murals in the Philadelphia area include No Place Like Home (2003), Summer Rendezvous (2014), and Electric Street (2016), an installation created with Drew Billiau in South Philadelphia that incorporates flexi-neon, an innovative product that combines the look of neon with the programmable features of LED lights.

Immediately following the panel, attendees are invited to an opening reception in the University Commons Great Room Lobby for the exhibition, “David Guinn: Before the Wall.”  On view through Jan. 8, 2017, the show will feature a selection of preliminary studies—drawings and paintings on paper—for his completed murals. Included are sketches for the mural Autumn Revisited (2012), his project for the Palumbo Park (Fleisher Art Memorial), and his 2016 mural for Wissahickon Station.

This event is free and open to the public but reservations are recommended.

“Exploring Public Art: Legacy, Community, & Innovation” Schedule of Events:

Monday, Nov. 14, at 6:30 p.m., Nato Thompson, artistic director at Creative Time in New York, will discuss the social dimensions of public art in the Great Room.

For more information about these events, please visit arcadia.edu/PublicArt.