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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, September 26 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 39
City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program restored Keith Haring's mural, 'We the Youth,' in 2013
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City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program restored Keith Haring's mural, 'We the Youth,' in 2013

see Keith Haring's mural, 'We the Youth'

PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE WEINIK FOR MURAL ARTS PROGRAM - COPYRIGHT 2013, KEITH HARING FOUNDATION

[EDITOR'S NOTE: In last week's Fall Arts & Travel section, a low-resolution image of Keith Haring's 'We the Youth' mural was inadvertently used instead of a high-resolution version. In appreciation of and out of respect for Keith Haring's work and the work of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, we are reprinting the article in the week's edition with the high-resolution photograph that should have run last week.

PHILADELPHIA - Last year (in late October 2013) the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program completed restoration of a mural created by iconic pop artist Keith Haring. 'We the Youth,' originally created in 1987, is the only Keith Haring collaborative public mural remaining intact and on its original site. After months of wall repair and painstaking mural restoration, 'We the Youth' was returned to Haring's original intent for the public to enjoy.

'We the Youth' has been an iconic part of the South Philadelphia streetscape for more than a quarter of a century. Damage to the wall, however, prompted Mural Arts, with generous funding and support from the Keith Haring Foundation, to engage in intensive restoration of this contemporary work of art. With a new owner buying the home in South Philadelphia, the Mural Arts Program agreed to adopt the mural as part of its Restoration Program to maintain important pieces of public art. The public was invited to celebrate the restored mural at a dedication on Saturday, November 2, 2013, the concluding event of Mural Arts Month and part of an ongoing series of events celebrating the 30th Anniversary of the City of Philadelphia's Mural Arts Program, which continues through October 2014.

Located at 22nd & Ellsworth Streets, 'We the Youth' was created in collaboration with CityKids of New York and Brandywine Workshop in Philadelphia. With its limned, primary-colored beauty, lyrical characters, and childlike innocence, 'We the Youth' is quintessential Keith Haring. In the work and on the wall, Haring's artistic vision - his energy, life, and spirit - serves as his testimony. A video of Keith Haring creating the original mural can be viewed at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Aeg0xiceHeM.

In concert with the mural's restoration, the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society, in partnership with the Neighborhood Gardens Trust, has renovated the adjacent garden space at 22nd & Ellsworth. Local landscape architect Michael LoFurno, of Composite Inc., redesigned the garden space to be more accessible and to better showcase the mural. New landscaping and site furniture was implemented to complement the mural's colors and design aesthetic. Together, these improvements have transformed the space into a vibrant, inviting environment for the neighborhood to enjoy. Both projects were sponsored by the Keith Haring Foundation.

About Keith Haring
Pennsylvania-born Keith Haring (1958-90) was preeminent among the young artists, performers, and musicians whose work responded to urban street culture of the 1980s. When he arrived in New York City at the age of 19 to enroll in the School of Visual Arts, Haring found an alternative art world thriving outside the gallery and museum system, in the downtown streets, the subways, and clubs. Inspired by the graffiti artists whose marks covered the city's subway cars, Haring began to draw in white chalk over the black paper used to cover vacant advertising panels in the subway stations. Not only was Haring able to reach a large and diverse audience with his subway drawings, but, eventually, the subway became, as Haring said, a 'laboratory' for working out his ideas. There, he developed the series of images that would become his signature: the radiant baby, the barking dog, and the running figure.

As early as 1982, Haring began exhibiting in galleries and museums around the world, but continued to participate in public projects, including literacy campaigns and anti-AIDS initiatives. Building on earlier impulses to draw on everything from refrigerator doors to vinyl tarpaulins, Haring continued to use a variety of media in order to communicate to a massive audience, essential themes such as birth, death, love, and war. In February 1990, at age 31, Keith Haring died of AIDS-related illnesses. Since his death, he has been the subject of several international retrospectives. His work is in major private and public collections, including those of the Museum of Modern Art; the Whitney Museum of American Art; Los Angeles County Museum of Art; Art Institute of Chicago; the Bass Museum in Miami; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Ludwig Museum, Cologne; and Stedelijk Museum, Amsterdam. Although Keith Haring's career was brief, his imagery has become a universally recognized visual language of the 20th century. For further information, see www.haring.com.

Keith Haring Foundation
In the wake of Keith Haring's death from AIDS-related illnesses in 1990, the board of the Keith Haring Foundation (established by the artist in 1989) has remained committed to the preservation of existing Haring murals. Over the past two decades, the Haring Foundation, with the full cooperation of the cities or institutions where Haring murals still exist, has offered support and advice on the restoration of over 16 murals in the U.S. and abroad.

'Keith's philosophy of art espoused accessibility and his public murals perfectly embody this credo. All of his public murals speak to and seek to engage with the specific communities in which they were created,' said Julia Gruen, Executive Director, The Keith Haring Foundation. 'Having watched Keith paint several murals myself, I can attest to the joy their creation and the finished results brought to their communities. Having observed the restoration of many more, I also know how valued they are and how powerfully these works continue to resonate.'

Restoration Artist
The Mural Arts Program hired artist Kim Alsbrooks to restore 'We the Youth.' 'I am very grateful to be able to restore this beautiful, important work of Keith Haring, an artist I have admired for almost 30 years and one who means so much to so many people,' said Alsbrooks. In the early '90s, Alsbrooks attended a workshop fashioned after Haring's workshops with youth. After learning Haring's techniques, Alsbrooks employed them in workshops she did with children. The restoration is being led by Alsbrooks with a full team of Jennifer Procacci, Charles Newman, Laura Velez, and Malachi Floyd.

New Relationships
In 2012, a new owner moved into the home in South Philadelphia, and, aware that the house was decorated with a Haring mural when purchasing the property, reached out to the Haring Foundation in New York City to inquire about the mural's status. The Haring Foundation then contacted the Mural Arts Program about how Mural Arts might assist in the mural restoration based on the decades of experience Mural Arts has with mural painting and restoration work. After meetings in the summer of 2012, a restoration plan was confirmed, with the Mural Arts Program receiving a generous grant from the Haring Foundation to do the work. As part of this project, the Mural Arts Program agreed to adopt the mural as part of its Restoration Program to maintain important public art.

Mural Arts Program Restoration Program
Haring believed that art should be accessible to everyone, a core tenet of the Mural Arts Program's philosophy. 'The Mural Arts Program is honored to become the godparent of Keith Haring's mural since we share so many similar views of public art,' said Mural Arts Program Executive Director Jane Golden. 'This restoration is part of our larger vision to restore, revitalize, and keep murals up to date in addition to creating new works each year.'

'We the Youth' is part of the Mural Arts Program's Restoration Program, committed to maintaining and restoring murals with minor touch-ups or major face-lifts. Mural Arts Program has made it a priority to restore 30-40 murals per year so existing work can continue to transform Philadelphia's communities for generations to come. Some examples include master muralist Meg Saligman's recently restored Philadelphia Muses at 13th & Locust Streets and the iconic Common Threads mural at Broad and Spring Garden, which was the initial restoration project in 2011.

In addition to funding from the Haring Foundation, 'We the Youth' has also received support from the City of Philadelphia.

About the 30th Anniversary Celebration and the Mural Arts Program
Thirty years after Mural Arts' humble beginnings as an anti-graffiti program, it has evolved into an internationally-recognized leader in community-based public art and a leading expert in mural-making and art education, having served over 30,000 young people and created 3,600 works of public art. From October 2013 through October 2014, the Mural Arts Program is celebrating 30 years. Mural Arts Month kicked off the celebration in October 2013 with a varied array of events. The celebration continued last November, when the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts launched 'Beyond the Paint: Philadelphia's Mural Arts,' a retrospective exhibition that ran through April 2014. Other highlights of the anniversary year included the launch of their book, 'Mural Arts at 30,' which reflects upon the impact of their community-based practice; a regional convening about Art and Restorative Justice; an ambitious gateway rail project with Berlin-based artist Katharina Grosse; and a Street Art Festival taking Mural Arts back to our roots in October 2014.

The Mural Arts Program is the nation's largest public art program, dedicated to the proposition that art ignites change. For nearly 30 years, the Mural Arts Program has united artists and communities through a collaborative process, rooted in the traditions of mural-making, to create art that transforms public spaces and individual lives. Mural Arts engages communities in 50 to 100 mural and public art projects each year, including a restoration program that maintains the collection. The murals also create unique project-based learning opportunities for thousands of youth and adults in the Art Education for Youth, Restorative Justice, and Behavioral Health programs. The Mural Arts Program has created over 3,600 murals and works of public art, earning Philadelphia international recognition as the 'City of Murals.' Each year, 14,000 residents and visitors tour the Mural Arts Program's outdoor art gallery, which has become part of Philadelphia's civic landscape and a source of pride and inspiration. For further information, call (215) 685-0750 or visit www.muralarts.org. Follow along on social media at: twitter.com/muralarts, youtube.com/phillymuralarts, or on Facebook at: http://on.fb.me/y4Vo9E.

About the Mural Arts Program

WE BELIEVE ART IGNITES CHANGE.

We create art with others to transform places, individuals, communities and institutions. Through this work, we establish new standards of excellence in the practice of public and contemporary art.

Our process empowers artists to be change agents, stimulates dialogue about critical issues, and builds bridges of connection and understanding.

Our work is created in service of a larger movement that values equity, fairness and progress across all of society.

We listen with empathetic ears to understand the aspirations of our partners and participants. And through beautiful collaborative art, we provide people with the inspiration and tools to seize their own future.

Courtesy of the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program

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PHOTO CREDIT: STEVE WEINIK FOR MURAL ARTS PROGRAM - COPYRIGHT 2013, KEITH HARING FOUNDATION
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