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Posts Tagged ‘Diego Rivera’

Today is International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, and in cities and towns all over the world (except the USA, but that’s another story), workers and the dignity of the work they do is being celebrated.  It’s a federal holiday in Mexico and as I write, I can hear loudspeakers from the various marches taking place in Oaxaca city.  Given that non-citizens are forbidden by the Mexican Constitution from participating in political activity, I’m staying home.  However, to honor the workers of the world, I’m looking back to my visit to the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building in Mexico City and the murals of Diego Rivera.

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…Let the winds lift your banners from far lands
With a message of strife and of hope:
Raise the Maypole aloft with its garlands
That gathers your cause in its scope….

…Stand fast, then, Oh Workers, your ground,
Together pull, strong and united:
Link your hands like a chain the world round,
If you will that your hopes be requited.

When the World’s Workers, sisters and brothers,
Shall build, in the new coming years,
A lair house of life—not for others,
For the earth and its fulness is theirs.

 Walter Crane, The Workers’ Maypole, 1894

¡Feliz Día del Trabajo a tod@s!  Happy International Workers’ Day to all!

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I was recently in Mexico City, where I spent hours at the Secretaría de Educación Pública (Secretariat of Public Education) building marveling at the three floors of murals by Diego Rivera.  And so, in honor of International Women’s Day, some of the women in the murals…

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Happy International Women’s Day to the women of the world!  May your strength, creativity, intelligence, and love prevail.

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Mexico has a long and important place in the history of communication through murals — from stories related by pre-Hispanic civilizations…

Maya fresco circa 790 C.E. - Bonampak, Chiapas

Maya fresco circa 790 C.E. – Bonampak, Chiapas.

through the world-renowned and influential Mexican muralists of the twentieth century:  Orozco, Rivera, Siqueiros, and others.

History of Mexico by Diego Rivera, 1931 - National Palace, Mexico City.

History of Mexico by Diego Rivera, 1931 – National Palace, Mexico City.

And, as many of you know, murals on the walls of Oaxaca are part of the urban landscape, authorized or not, like them or not, they celebrate…

One of the murals in the pedestrian tunnel to the Guelaguetza auditorium.

One of several murals in the pedestrian tunnel to the Guelaguetza auditorium in Oaxaca city.

educate…

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca.

San Antonino Castillo Velasco, Oaxaca.

reveal past and present — and hopes and fears for the future.

Calle Tinoco y Palacios, between Vasconcelos and Niños Héroes.

Calle Tinoco y Palacios, between Vasconcelos and Niños Héroes, Oaxaca city.

Those found on the streets we expect to be ephemeral, but commissioned work, both inside and outside of buildings, we hope would have a longer and more permanent lifespan.  Of course, the Rockefeller family’s destruction of Diego Rivera’s Rockefeller Center mural showed differently.  And, more recently, my friend and artist, Mike Alewitz experienced the obliteration of his mural on the side of the Pathfinder Building, also in New York.  Both were instances of political differences and, while distressing, perhaps not too surprising.

However, today Mike is leading a battle in defense of his students’ murals.  According to NBC Connecticut:

Central Connecticut State University (CCSU) has built up one of the largest mural collections in the country since the program started in 2001. But Professor Mike Alewitz, who oversees CCSU’s mural painting program, said that collection is at risk.

The school has painted over six of the murals without notice and plans to do the same with another 12, Alewitz said Richard Bachoo, director of operations, confirmed. He said he hopes an appeal to the university and community support will protect the remaining murals.

“It made them feel part of the larger world, that they weren’t looking at blank walls inside an institution, but they were looking at the hopes and dreams of young people,” Alewitz said. “We found out that 18 murals were scheduled to be destroyed.”

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He says in the 14 years the mural program has existed, the policy has never been implemented in this way. Alewitz said in a statement that this is “the largest destruction of public art in recent history.” While administrators have removed murals in the past, they normally consult with the art department first, he said.

“The real policy has been that people love the murals, so when they’ve been painted, they’ve stayed up,” Alewitz said.

Oaxaca would lose much of her character and lessons would be lost, if we were to wake one morning and find all her murals disappeared.  The story is the same at CCSU.  For the full article, click HERETo send messages of protest and to see some of the amazing student murals that enliven the walls and stimulate thinking at CCSU but are slated for destruction, click HERE.  And, Why Bureaucrats Fear Art, is a letter to students and fellow artists, by Mike Alewitz.

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