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Manhattan Square Park Mural Erased

The City recently painted over this mural, a fixture in Manhattan Square Park for probably 30 years. [PHOTO: Kristen Cavanaugh]
I haven’t been able to find anyone who knows exactly when this mural was painted, but it’s been a fixture in Manhattan Square Park external link for at least 30 years, says Charles Moreland, Executive Director of Rochester Parkour external link. The outdoor venue has been mostly abandoned for the past 10 years, but its concrete walls and irregular geometry make it ideal for practicing the fine art of Parkour. Charles’ group can often be found moving throughout the park. Yesterday Charles noticed the mural had been covered with a fresh coat of gray paint…

Now a big blank wall; in need of 'wall therapy.' [PHOTO: Charles Moreland]
The mural (when it was still there) was a depiction of the history of Rochester – from the days of the Iroquois, to Frederick Douglass, George Eastman, and Kodak technology aboard satellites in space. But now, like a giant Etch A Sketch, it’s completely gray.

John Picone is the City’s Park Superintendent. In a phone conversation he explained to me that the park is in between phases of a makeover. The nearby ice rink and lodge (a former restaurant) underwent a renovation and were reopened this winter. But the mural was in rough shape.

With events such as the Fringe Festival external link and Roc Pride Festival external link scheduled to take place in the park, and with the new lodge available for the public to rent, John says the peeling paint and other graffiti in the park had to be cleaned up.

But Charles disagrees, “That mural has been there longer than I’ve been alive, and in the last 30 years that wall HAS NEVER BEEN TAGGED. Not once. Every other wall in MSP gets ‘fuck’ or ‘I was here’ or whatever other tags… but no one has ever touched the mural.”

Dr. Ian Wilson of WALL\THERAPY, says he'd definitely be open to using the blank wall in Manhattan Square Park. [PHOTO: Wall-Therapy.com]
Charles says he’d like to see something happen with the wall. “It does Manhattan Square Park a disservice to repaint the artwork grey. They complained about no one going to the park before, but now I can’t imagine anyone going there just to stare at grey walls.”

As it turns out, Luis Burgos, Commissioner of Recreation and Youth Services would like to see a new mural painted here. He has already reached out to Dr. Ian Wilson of WALL\THERAPY external link who would be happy to give the wall some ‘therapy’. “Manhattan Square Park would be a most ideal location for a WALL\THERAPY mural! We (myself and WALL\THERAPY team) would love the opportunity to be a part of the conversation regarding that wall space,” says Ian.

My personal opinion… let’s get something back on this wall. BUT, in the future, please consult the artist, or the people of Rochester, before public art is destroyed.

On a Related Note,
WALL\THERAPY Needs YOU…

Help raise funds for more WALL\THERAPY. Contribute to their online campaign today!
WALL\THERAPY is trying to raise $30,000 for their 2013 line-up. Please consider being a part of this very worth-while cause and make a donation to the Indiegogo campaign external link. There are only 17 days left!

The public is also invited to a WALL\THERAPY Party and Fundraiser tonight, 7-9pm at Cure (50 Public Market Way). RSVP on Facebook external link
- $15 suggested donation at the door
- One drink + hor d’oeuvres
- Cash bar available
- Perks will be on display
- Artists names will be released for this year’s roster!
- Music by DJ Chreath
- Live Painting by local Wall Therapists.

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, May 14th, 2013 at 7:55 am and is filed under Art + Culture, Events, Rochester Destinations, Rochester Images, Rochester News, Urban Development. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

17 Responses to “Manhattan Square Park Mural Erased”

  1. Larry Champoux says:

    I am sorry to hear this. It was a project of the Pyramid Arts Center when I was Executive/Artistic Director. We brought Nicaraguan native muralist Jorge Samarriba to town to work with children to paint the mural depicting the history of the Americas right on down to Rochester history. Through the years it remained remarkably free of graffiti, I think because it was widely respected by kids in the community. You can see much of his other work on the web. The children’s names were at the bottom right of the painting. It was very exciting when it happened and was a very special project. The mural needed some restoration. Perhaps we should bring him back to town to do it again.

  2. @Larry, thank you for bringing this information to our attention! I certainly wish the community had been consulted first. But it is what it is, I guess. Hopefully something good can happen here again. You should contact Luis Burgos or John Picone and see if they’d be willing to do another project like it. Maybe with Jorge Samarriba and WALL\THERAPY too? Blank canvas, lots of opportunity here.

    BTW, I wonder where all those children are now? And what they are doing? They must be grown up with their own kids by now.

  3. Susan says:

    Would loved to see this local group involved: https://www.facebook.com/marcmurals

  4. Tim O'Connell says:

    Yes! Larry is right. John Warden, then assistant at Pyramid made a presentation to the City Hall Citizens Committee for Fine Art and Archives which approved the mural. It was then executed using kids from the neighborhood and city schools. This would have been in the mid to late 80′s. The walls in the lower park are bleak and need something to liven them up. I do hope the wall fountain on the north wall will be repaired and put back in use.

  5. Rob F says:

    I’ll miss it. Also, that sounds like a big mistake, if you ask me. I hope they plan on buffing it frequently. That makes for a prime target for tags.. really bad tags.

  6. Larry Champoux says:

    Well, you know at the time, in our excitement and perhaps naivete. we gave no consideration to the longevity of the mural or provided any plan or funds for its long-term care. And maybe that is OK. It was a project designed to energize children and provoke our community and was very much “of-the-moment.” I think somehow it was a very successful “moment” because so many people came to care about and love this mural. The challenge sometimes is not just to create something pretty to look at, but to engage a community in an act of pride and self-expression and that is what we were striving for. Thinking back on my time at Pyramid Arts Center and the countless art projects I was engaged in, this one is one my favorites. Jorge was brilliant at bringing this out. I’m quite serious: the right to do may be to celebrate Jorge for the gift of his creativity and bring him back to reenergize us once again.

  7. Dan Dangler says:

    Let’s see how long it takes for that ugly grey wall to get tagged… Shame they painted over it like that, it was pretty much the only form of “life” left in that park.

  8. Larry Champoux says:

    The project was funded primarily through a small grant from the New York State Council on the Arts. It was at a time when organizations could be funded for small, relatively inexpensive projects that generated a big bang for the public buck. I think about this because when I look at the Memorial Art Gallery’s million dollar child focused public art. Is it really energizing children? Or is it really kind of scam? Does it even aesthetically fit its location? Or is it too low and diffuse to command such a prominent corner? Good public art sometimes requires a generous heart more than it does a generous wallet.

  9. Matt V says:

    I really think its time that the City fill in this part of the park. I understand it has some architectural significance, but it’s disconnected and has not fulfilled its intended use at least in the last decade

  10. @Tim, someone else I spoke with at City Hall told me the fountain is also being rehabbed and will flow once again. I’m relatively new to Rochester so I had never seen it working. But there are some good pictures of it here:
    http://www.thepolisblog.org/2011/12/fountain-stage-in-manhattan-square-park.html

  11. Also, some good information on the history and design of Manhattan Square Park here:
    http://tclf.org/sites/default/files/landslide/2008/manhattan/index.html

  12. Patrick Chefalo says:

    Poor stewardship. As usual. The current administration, led by a gray haired person who is seemingly proud of his limited visions of the future, is at it again. Destroying art to give a blank gray wall is indicative of the lack of respect for citizens, as well as art.

  13. larry champoux says:

    It is nobody’s fault really, except perhaps mine, for not securing funds for its ongoing care… but who had money for that?

    Let’s just create a new great thing.

  14. gary b says:

    I’ve always thought MSP had huge potential and wondered, when I moved back to Rochester in 1992, why it wasn’t being better used.

    Rochester has too many hard-edged concrete public facilities -think of the “park” around the Sister Cities Bridge downtown or the Civic Center Plaza (otherwise known as the Ministry of Truth). These all resemble the worst of brutalist Soviet-style design.

    But Manhattan Square Park goes beyond that. While hard-edged, the amphitheater is also an amazing place, with incredible potential for public events. Some modification may be helpful and certainly the inclusion of art, such as the city-vandalized mural. But it is basically an amazing place. With sensitive and thoughtful rehab, it could become a great place again.

  15. Jason Haremza says:

    I’ll leave it for other people to debate the merits of Lawrence Halprin’s original design for Manhattan Square, or the subsequent mural and how it may or may not have worked with the specific design vision of Mr. Halprin. Art, whether landscape design or a mural, is, after all, subjective.

    However, I’ve long wondered why Rochester, both the official ‘City of Rochester’ and the larger Rochester community, use the name ‘Manhattan Square Park.’ It should be ‘Manhattan Square’ or ‘Manhattan Park,’ but to use both ‘square’ and ‘park’ in the name seems silly, repetitive, and needlessly verbose to me.

  16. Charles says:

    It’s a shame about the mural. I bet it was part of the final phases of the renovation for the park.

    I like the park and think its one of rochester’s most unique spaces but sadly underutilized. The free party in the parks were great here but you guessed, not enough parking.

    Here is a good link that talks a little about some history.

    http://www.tclf.org/sites/default/files/landslide/2008/manhattan/index.html

  17. Grace says:

    Hi,

    I’m sad to hear people say, “it is what it is.” This is something that probably could have been prevented if the community had known about this phase of the park’s restoration. Were community meetings held to discuss the park renovations? IF so, was this mentioned? I’m really quite aghast that this was painted over without an community input; this type of behavior from the city will continue on as well.

    Anyone have any insight as to the public comment process regarding Manhattan Square Park?

    Cheers,
    Grace


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