I spent a day recently in Newark, NJ, and was surprised–and pleased–to see murals wherever I went. Not only were the images and the stories they told captivating, it was wonderful to see that they hadn’t been defaced with graffiti. To me, this speaks to the respect people have for public art. When politicians oppose money for the arts, they should consider the power of public murals to bring beauty and instill community pride. And while pols may think that funding art is a lower priority than, say, funding police departments, they should consider that the lack of graffiti reflects the public’s appreciation of the form. Or they can look at research, which has shown “the great power of public art to influence how we move, think and feel in city environments.”
So this guy sits down and just starts drawing the guy opposite him. Takes him about 90 seconds to produce a picture. Enough time to create a pleasing likeness and elicit a donation from the subject, who takes the rendering with a smile.
It took me two days to read this note. On the first, I was carried along by the rush hour crowd, and anyone with sense never stops on subway stairs at such a moment. The crowd is unforgiving (because it’s composed of individuals like me who are very unforgiving when someone blocks the flow). The next day, however, I was ready with phone in hand. I waited for the surge of people to pass and then paused long enough to take a snapshot. Although I’m posting this under the date when I took the picture, I’m actually writing this several weeks later and can report that while graffiti often lingers in this city for months and years, this little bit of advice was was scrubbed away a couple weeks ago.