Temple University Press is having a Back-to-School SALE!

TOP


SaleBOTTOM

Students’ views on Obama, Basketball, and Alexander Wolff’s book

This week in North Philly Notes,  six students from  Rebecca Alpert’s Honors Sports and Leisure in American Society class at Temple University write about meeting with The Audacity of Hoop author Alexander Wolff. 

Audacity of Hoop_sm

Marcus Forst, Physics major

President Obama has been in office for nearly half my life. Although I only see Obama as he is presented by the media, I feel that I know a little bit about the person that is Barack Obama. Basketball connects me with Barack Obama; I see him as a person instead of a figure because I identify with his interests.

The Audacity of Hoop, written by Alexander Wolff, is a window into Obama’s relationship with basketball—a close up look at the person that I had previously imagined. I had the opportunity to speak with Wolff about his experience writing the book as well as about the content itself. I asked if basketball would still have been an effective means for Obama to connect with common people—and distance himself from a purely intellectual image—had he been extremely good at basketball. My thinking was that Obama’s normalcy in basketball contributes to making him seem human and relatable. Mr. Wolff responded by saying that if Obama had been an incredible basketball player, he likely would not have been a politician. He stressed the crossroad in Obama’s life in which he decided to move away from dreams of basketball stardom and turned towards college and a future in politics, albeit while carrying with him “the love of the game.” Wolff added that Obama has used this story of a crossroads throughout his presidency in order to encourage young black males to strive for success in more traditional careers, while still bringing a love of basketball with them.

page58.jpg

Catherine Devlin, Biology major

I recently had the opportunity to sit down with Alexander Wolff, the author of The Audacity of Hoop, before his promotional presentation about the book. He talked, of course, about the important role that basketball played throughout Obama’s campaign and presidency (the basis of his book). One of the most fascinating discussion points, for me, was his description of the campaign and the racial divide Americans experienced. The historic 2008 election of the first African American president will forever be remembered as a turning point in our history. The road to Obama’s election, though, was anything but easy.  According to Wolff, basketball was a deliberate and imperative part of the campaign that cannot be ignored. In 2008, Americans were looking for reassurances. The early questions into Obama’s citizenship, however, were not the main concern for the campaign. Surprisingly, the population of Americans who needed the most reassuring consisted largely of African Americans.

As Wolff put it, “How do you win African Americans just because you’re an African American?” We often have this intrinsic distrust of politicians that can end up either making or breaking a campaign. Images of Obama playing games of pickup basketball eventually gave the African American community the confidence to believe that Barack Obama was just a regular guy looking to make a difference. Wolff also discussed the intricate balance between portraying Obama as an “Average Joe” and avoiding playing into the stereotypes associated with being an African American male who plays basketball. The ingenious strategy was to introduce the candidate as a politician first and then slowly introduce his love of basketball in small groups of voters who had come to know him quite well. Obviously, the Obama campaign was able to find just the right middle ground.  Winning over enough Americans to be elected the leader of the nation is certainly not an easy feat. Being an African American candidate presented extra challenges for his campaign, but Barack Obama managed to make history.  The groundbreaking strategies on the road to the White House were, according to Wolff, only aided by Obama’s genuine love of America’s favorite game. It seems only fitting, then, to document as Alexander Wolff has done so beautifully, the unique and successful relationship between basketball and America’s first African American president.

4

Bridgette Devlin, Biology major

Recently, I interviewed Alexander Wolff, Sports Illustrated writer and author of The Audacity of Hoop: Basketball and the Age of Obama. In the book, Wolff tracks basketball’s involvement throughout Barack Obama’s campaign and Presidency so far. One section, specifically, focuses on “Baracketology” – Obama’s annual NCAA March Madness bracket. So, what makes these brackets so important? Alexander Wolff thinks it’s all about Obama’s political strategy, relatability, and legacy.

The author easily listed examples of how the President’s March Madness picks can seem politically charged. Obama received criticism over his brackets’ large proportion of swing states and frivolity. Despite pushback from across many spectrums, Wolff says the yearly bracket simply conveys Obama’ sincere love of the game. Wolff described the tradition of inviting the champions to the White House to meet with the Obamas. He easily bantered with the teams. He jokes with the players and the coaches, proving that he keeps up-to-date with both the game and the latest league news. Regardless of his motivations, Obama’s NCAA bracket has provided him an opportunity to connect with the American people, showing them he is an average, relatable, and trustworthy person. Wolff notes that Obama’s connection to basketball and the tournament comes across as incredibly genuine, not as though we are being “spun” by an expert politician/manipulator. Wolff even goes so far as to speculate basketball’s influence on Obama’s Presidential legacy: “Will Obama be remembered as the President who shared his brackets with us?” Perhaps “Baracketology” will become a tradition, carried on by the next Commander-in-Chief as a way to reach the American people. The once-criticized practice has now become commonplace political strategy.

The author conveys in his book as well as in his interviews that Obama is very much an agent of change. During his Presidency, he has created a coalition to bring a much-divided nation together, often using basketball as his starting point and common thread. The sport has even given the public a glimpse into Barack Obama’s personal life, providing the entry point into his youth, career, and marriage. Obama’s connection to basketball has become intertwined with his legacy in many senses. I would venture to say that the same is true for Alexander Wolff, whose own legacy will surely include not only basketball, but also the Age of Obama.

1.15_page9-p1adeh4ik7hfe1utd1jpn1v0ltq3

Austin Zwolenik, Biology major

Wolff’s writing, filled with comparisons and analysis is somewhat atypical in informative books, as they usually only lay out facts with no real opinion written by the author. The Audacity of Hoop caters to the people that subscribe to the acronym “tl:dr,” meaning: too long; didn’t read. Wolff even addressed this type of thinking in his talk as he referenced the style in which The Audacity of Hoop was written. It is a coffee table book filled with many pictures to tag along with the writing. This writing medium is excellent for the purpose of creating a dynamic where the pictures explain what words sometimes cannot.

1.17_page12-p1adei0gkjocq1s3svkf1bpm1709

Long Duc Nguyen, Management Information Systems major

I had a great chance to meet the author of The Audacity of Hoop, Alexander Wolff. The author gave us some insights on President Obama, his campaign, and how the President’s use of sports affects American society. When President Obama fills out the March Madness bracket, it shows that he is just another person with the love for sports and creates a sense of trust among the African-American community. The most interesting story that the author told us is how Barack Obama, through his qualities on the basketball court, won the heart of the demanding Michelle Robinson.

2.1_page16-p1adeibdjgfbns1l1dq911bokpf

Isabella Menzies, Early Childhood Education major

While interviewing Alexander Wolff, the author of The Audacity of Hoop, I asked what brought his attention to the fact that Barack Obama had used basketball as a campaign strategy. Wolff stated that the influence of basketball on Obama’s campaign first grabbed his attention in 2008. He noted that he had always been interested in politics and basketball, so the potential intersection of those two entities allowed him to investigate a story that brought together both of his interests. Wolff acknowledged that he initially questioned if he had just strained to make connections between basketball and Obama’s campaign. Nonetheless, evidence of the influence that the former had on the latter (and vice versa) grew, and Wolff ultimately concluded that Obama had used basketball to connect with voters. Such a conclusion enabled me to realize the intentional (rather than coincidental) nature of the relationship between politics and sports.

What to Give/Get this Holiday Season

This week in North Philly Notes, the staff at Temple University Press offer the Temple University Press books they will likely give along with some non-Temple University Press titles they hope to get this holiday season. 

Mary Rose Muccie, Director

Dittmar_2.inddGive: As we’re immersed in the run-up to the presidential election with a field that includes a strong female Democratic candidate,  I’d give Navigating Gendered Terrain, by Kelly Dittmar. If you’re interested in understanding the role of gender in campaigning, DIttmar’s book will give you insight into how candidates of different genders approach communicating their message and why those differences matter.

Get: I’d like to read and yet fear reading A Little Life, by Hanya Yanagihara.  In addition to the many accolades it’s received (National Book Aware finalist, short-listed for the Man Booker Prize, numerous great reviews), it comes highly recommended by my best friend of over 35 years. When I asked if, given what I know about it, I’d be left an emotional wreck, she replied, “Probably, but it would be worth it.”

Karen Baker, Financial Manager
The New Eagles Encyclopedia_sm Give: 
Even though the Eagles may not be having the best season this year (what an understatement!) the guys in my family (dad and 5 brothers) are all still die-hard Eagles fans and will enjoy receiving Ray Didinger’s The New Eagles Encyclopedia as a gift and reminiscing about the good old days of the Eagles.

Micah Kleit, Editor-in-Chief

   Give: This year was an embarrassment of riches for the Press; not only have we had another remarkable year of great books, but our two recently-hired or promoted editors have seen their first titles come out, which makes me as proud of their work as I am of the books they’ve published.  For that reason I’d gift Chilean New Song by J. Patrice McSherry and Walking in Cities, edited by Evrick Brown and Timothy Shortell, just to show off what my colleagues have been doing. Another book I’m specifically proud of is Suffering and Sunset by Celeste Marie-Bernier, because it restores Horace Pippin’s place as a critically-important artist, and reminds us of the rich cultural history of our region.

Get: I plan on reading The Nature of Things by Lucretius over the holiday break.  As we think about what we’re grateful for this time of year, it’s also helpful to remember the world as it is, in all its beauty and woe; Lucretius is always a helpful reminder of this.

Sara Cohen, Editor

  Give: Eric Tang’s Unsettled to my family and friends and Alexander Wolff’s The Audacity of Hoop to the popular readers in my life.

Get: I hope nobody gets me any books because I already have a very long queue…

Aaron Javsicas, Senior Editor

GiveHarold Platt’s Building the Urban Environment offers lessons from recent history for anyone interested in the future of cities. Post-World War II contests between modernist planners and the grassroots over what cities should be suggest that cities must function as flexible, multi-purpose “hybrid spaces,” emerging from more open, less top-down planning processes. We can see manifestations of these dynamics all around us in our revitalizing cities.

GetRevolutionary Russia: 1891-1991 by Orlando Figes, promises a tight, sharp, engaging history of the Russian Revolution. I’m looking forward to brushing up on my history of this period and learning something new — Figes argues the revolution really did last, at least in some form, right up until the collapse of the Soviet Union — and frankly, at just over 300 pages it’s particularly appealing to those of us with small children who also want us to watch SpongeBob with them.
Nikki Miller, Right and Contracts Manager
2386_regGive:  Loveby Beth Kephart. It’s a nice combination of history and personal narrative that takes you on a journey through Philadelphia; maybe even introducing you to somewhere new.
Get: The Nightingale, by Kristin Hannah. Family, hope, and the unexpectancy of fighting and living in WWII promises both a sentimental and thrilling read all in one.

Joan Vidal, Senior Production Editor
Guilted Age_sm Give: 
 A Guilted Age: Apologies for the Past, by Ashraf H. Rushdy, which examines two types of apologies: apologies for events of the recent past and apologies for events of the distant past. Rushdy explores the question of whether apology and forgiveness undo the effects of past events or the events themselves, and he makes an intriguing argument about the ambiguity between guilt and grief.

Get: I would like to receive Philly Fiction 2, edited by Josh McIlvain, Christopher Munden, Greg November, and Tracy Parker: Philly stories by local authors.

David Wilson, Senior Production Editor
City in a Park_sm.jpg Give:  City in a Park by James McClelland and Lynn Miller. This book provides an education both to those who use the park and to those who have never visited the park. This informative book traces the historical and present-day uses of the park. It is a must for anyone who wants to visit or expand their visit to The Fairmount Park System throughout Philadelphia.

Kate Nichols, Art Manager

City in a Park_sm.jpg Give: City in a Park by James McClelland and Lynn Miller shows how and why Fairmount Park, within Philadelphia’s city limits, with all its history, architecture, sculpture and wild beauty, is such an amazing gift to those of us who live here.
Levi Dillon, Production Assistant

Give: I can think of no better gift for my MFA-seeking and Horace Pippin fan mother than Suffering and Sunset by Celeste Marie-Bernier.

Get: I’d most like to receive Lisa Randall’s Dark Matter and the Dinosaurs: The Astounding Interconnectedness of the Universe, in which Randall, Harvard cosmologist, suggests a link between dark matter, the extinction of the dinosaurs and our emergence as a species.
Ann-Marie Anderson, Marketing Director
 Give: For my art loving friends, I would give Suffering and Sunset by Celeste Marie-Bernier, a beautiful first biography of Horace Pippin, an African American artist of growing renown.
Get: I have already read Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Mebut I will re-read it again during the holidays.  The book is a chance to step inside Coates’ shoes and experience what it means to be black and male in America, and understand…  Peace and love to all this holiday season!

Irene Imperio, Advertising and Promotion Manager

-COVER-FRONTonly.inddGive:  A Guide to the Great Gardens of the Philadelphia Region, text by Adam Levine, photographs by Rob Cardillo. I love to give this book to our out-of-town guests with hopes of new memories around Philadelphia and more visits in the near future.

Get: Jane and the Twelve Days of Christmas by Stephanie Barron. Jane Austen, a mystery, and Christmas all in one book?? I can’t wait to read this!!

Gary Kramer, Publicity Manager

Dream Machine_sm.jpg Give:  As a cinephile, I would gift Samir Dayal’s Dream Machine, as it looks at realism and fantasy in Hindi Cinema. I’ve been impressed with Dayal’s analysis of film as “a mirror and a lamp” because I strongly believe “you are what you watch.” I am encouraged to share Dayal’s insights with others.

Get: What I’d like to receive this year is Hanya Yanagihara’s A Little Life which a friend raved about during the Telluride Film Festival over Labor Day weekend. It is my goal to read this  book  over the holiday break if I get a copy (hint, hint), but I fear it will become my New Year’s Resolution to get it and read it by the end of 2016.

Michael Baratta, Marketing Assistant

Temple University sm comp 0210Give:  James W. Hilty’s book Temple University: 125 Years of Service to Philadelphia, the Nation, and the World to a fellow Temple student or to an alumnus in my family during this holiday season because the book reflects the pride that I have for my university and my excitement to be a student here during a period of such growth and upward movement.

HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM EVERYONE AT TEMPLE UNIVERSITY PRESS!

Celebrating Mural Arts Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate Mural Arts Month with a rundown of the various events sponsored by the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program.

Phila Mural Arts 30_smThis October, amid the crisp fall leaves and sunny blue skies, we hope you’ll join the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts program for Open Source. 14 artists from Philadelphia and around the globe joined forces with Mural Arts to create a citywide, month-long explosion of phenomenal public art that’s housed all across the city. With over 40 Open Source events in October, there is something fun, unusual, educational, or fascinating going on almost every day. Not sure where to start? Here’s an Open Source overview.

Explore new things

Expand your horizons with Open Source lectures and artist talks. Shepard Fairey talks about Jasper Johns at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Sam Durant and others walk us through the labyrinth of the criminal justice system, creative people from across Philadelphia join the conversation with our muraLAB Live, and so much more. The wide-ranging discussions and intellectual explorations are the perfect time to get a taste of the innovation fueling Philadelphia’s creative life.

Phila Murals compTour the city

Discover the story behind the art with an Open Source tour. Guest tour guides like Mural Arts Executive Director Jane Golden, Open Source curator Pedro Alonzo, and Streets Dept photojournalist/blogger Conrad Benner will lead you through the art of Open Source, giving you the insider’s view of the biggest outdoor exhibition Philadelphia has ever seen. You can tour the art on the northern side of the city, the southern side of the city, all around Center City, or grab a combination ticket and see it all.

Get creative

You’ve read about the art. Now, come make your own! Check out street artist MOMO at The Franklin Institute to try your hand at art and geometry or join Heeseop Yoon on October 29 to learn how to use masking tape to create art.

MoreMuralsParty with the artists

Find Open Source in Center City on October 16 for our Philly DJ Mural Block Party, as we celebrate the end of the Philly DJ Mural Project, a yearlong program with a creative spin on music education for youth. Celebrate Shepard Fairey’s new mural, honoring Philly’s rich DJ history, and dance for hours to jams from Rich Medina, Cosmo Baker, Illvibe Collective, and Scratch Academy.

Need more Open Source? Visit opensource.muralarts.org for information about the exhibition, events, and the Mural Arts program.

Celebrating October as Mural Arts Month

This week in North Philly Notes, we celebrate the 30th anniversary of Philadelphia Mural Arts with events all month long.

Each October brings Mural Arts Month, a celebration of public art from the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. This year the festivities include a diverse array of events including a photo exhibition, mural dedications, tours and artist talks centered on the theme of Art Ignites Change. Highlights include a TED-inspired event headlined by artists and activists, a block party with Philadelphia’s hottest DJ’s and a concert series featuring original music inspired by murals.
Phila Mural Arts 30_smThis Mural Arts Month is the capstone to the program’s 30th anniversary year, which also included the publication of a new book about the Mural Arts Program, Jane Golden and David Updike’s Philadelphia Mural Arts @ 30. The new book traces the program’s history and evolution, acknowledging the challenges and rewards of growth and change while maintaining a core commitment to social, personal, and community transformation. It’s a celebration of and guide to the program’s success, and includes essays by policy makers, curators, scholars, and educators.

Here are just a few of the ways you can join us in celebrating Mural Arts Month this year:

Photo Exhibition Reception: The border is an invitation
02 October 2014, 06:00 PM – 08:00 PM
The Lincoln Financial Mural Arts Center at the Thomas Eakins House
1727-29 Mt. Vernon Street (19130)
Mural Arts hosts an exhibition of renowned photojournalist Martha Cooper’s photographic preservation of graffiti and Steve Weinik’s documentation of psychylustro by Katharina Grosse. psychylustro is an episodic painting of massive abstract fields of color installed along passages of the Northeast Rail Corridor between Philadelphia’s 30th Street and North Philadelphia Stations, the same passages where Cooper documented graffiti before psychylustro was installed.

Presented in cooperation with Amtrak, psychylustro has been supported by: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, National Endowment for the Arts, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Fierce Advocacy Fund, PTS Foundation, AT&T, Philadelphia Zoo, Joe and Jane Goldblum, David and Helen Pudlin, halfGenius, and The Beneficial Foundation with support for the exhibition publication from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Media Partners: WHYY’s NewsWorks.org, Metro Newspaper.

DesignPhiladelphia 2014: Not My Outside World
10 October 2014, 06:00 PM – 07:30 PM
Caplan Recital Hall, Terra Hall, 17th Floor
University of the Arts, 211 S. Broad Street (19107)

A conversation on abstraction and social imagination with psychylustro curator Elizabeth Thomas and artist and writer Douglas Ashford, Associate Professor at Cooper Union and former member of Group Material.

How can a train ride become a voyage of the imagination? psychylustro, a collaboration between artist Katharina Grosse and the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, is an episodic painting of abstract fields of color along the Northeast Rail Corridor’s natural and built environment that will transform over time as the elements gradually reclaim the space.

Presented as part of DesignPhiladelphia, a Center for Architecture Event. Presented in cooperation with Amtrak, psychylustro has been supported by: The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage, National Endowment for the Arts, John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Fierce Advocacy Fund, PTS Foundation, AT&T, Philadelphia Zoo, Joe and Jane Goldblum, David and Helen Pudlin, halfGenius, and The Beneficial Foundation with support for the exhibition publication from the Elizabeth Firestone Graham Foundation. Media Partners: WHYY’s NewsWorks.org, Metro Newspaper.

DesignPhiladelphia 2014: Southeast by Southeast Walking Tour -and- American Composers Forum: If You Could Hear These Walls Concert Series
11 October 2014, 01:00 PM – 05:00 PM
1927 S. 7th Street (19148)

Celebrate Philadelphia’s diverse and creative voices in the Southeast by Southeast Project – a collaboration between the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program, the Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, and the Refugee Mental Health Collaborative. First, enjoy a guided walking tour and book release to learn about the vibrant Burmese, Bhutanese, and Nepali communities and the community’s stunning public art. Then, enjoy a concert by the American Composers Forum featuring original music.
Presented as part of DesignPhiladelphia, a Center for Architecture Event. Project sponsors: Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual disAbility Services, Hummingbird Foundation, Philadelphia Refugee Mental Health Collaborative Event partner: American Composers Forum – Philadelphia Chapter Concert funded by: William Penn Foundation – Community Partners Program through a grant to American Composers Foundation

muraLAB: Live, a TED-inspired event
14 October 2014, 06:00 PM – 08:30 PM
WHYY, 150 N. 6th Street (19106)

Philadelphia is a fascinating place, with many assets, a variety of challenges and great ambitions. In order to meet the challenges facing our city, we need to connect with a diverse group of committed citizens and to nourish everything we do with imagination, creativity and collaboration. Together we can transform public spaces and community expectations, using art and design to improve Philadelphia. That is why we are expanding our muraLAB initiative with an exciting new annual event. On October 14th, please join us for muraLAB: Live, where we will hear from an inimate group of unique and creative people who understand, in their own way, the role art plays in improving the civic landscape of cities.

For thirty years, the City of Philadelphia Mural Arts Program has cultivated the work of artists who undertake community-based public projects, developing our own unique blend of social practice art making. muraLAB is the Mural Arts Program’s creativity hub for investigating muralism in the twenty-first century – a think-tank for advancing Mural Arts’ vision for art igniting change in communities, city systems and artistic practice. Through muraLAB, we highlight how other artists and types of institutions – artist collaboratives, museums, city agencies, universities – are developing their own social practice projects and using art to ignite change in their communities, and we build on the last 5 years of redefining, broadening and deepening the scope of our own artistic and social practice. Event partner: WHYY

Philly DJ Mural Block Party
17 October 2014, 06:00 PM – 08:00 PM
13th & Chestnut Streets (19107)
It’s an all-ages block party with live entertainment, food and fun! A line-up of the city’s best DJ’s will provide sounds, alongside the best of Scratch DJ Academy.

Appreciating Philadelphia’s Mural Arts @ 30

In this blog entry, David Updike, co-editor of Philadelphia’s Mural Arts @ 30, offers his thoughts on the book and what he learned about Mural Arts along the way.

I think it’s safe to say that over the last thirty years, Philadelphia has become a city of murals. As you crisscross the city, you find them in just about every neighborhood, often where you’d least expect them. They’ve become a part of our landscape, and something that people here and elsewhere associate with Philadelphia. A lot of the credit for that goes to Jane Golden, because it wouldn’t have happened without her energy and her vision, but it also wouldn’t have been possible if the city itself hadn’t embraced the idea that public art matters. And it matters, not just because it improves our aesthetic environment, but more importantly, because it has a lasting impact on the people who participate in the process.

The Mural Arts offices are a buzzing hive of activity. In the hallways you pass a steady stream of people coming and going, to and from mural sites, or classes, or canvassing neighborhoods. And these are people who, to borrow an old phrase from Bill Clinton, look like Philadelphia. They’re young and old, they’re black, white, Asian, Hispanic. And they all carry themselves with a sense of purpose. In the gallery downstairs you’ll see exhibitions of art—some of it quite remarkable—made by everyone from elementary school students to inmates serving life sentences at Graterford. And then there’s the room upstairs with the very skylight under which Thomas Eakins painted The Gross Clinic. And I suspect that our city’s greatest painter, were he alive today, would approve of this populist endeavor, which seeks to embrace the city he loved in all of its aspects.

I’m very fortunate to work at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of our city’s other great cultural institutions. And it occurred to me as I started working on this book that, in a way, the Art Museum and the Mural Arts Program have opposite but entirely complementary missions. At the Museum we work very hard to get people to come to us and experience great art. But Mural Arts brings art to the people in the places where they live and work. And what Mural Arts brings to these communities is not a particular product or aesthetic. Rather, it’s a process of engagement and dialogue and co-creation that takes place over months and years, and whose effects remain long after the paint on the walls has dried.

Phila Mural Arts 30_smThis book seeks, above all else, to document what takes place off the walls. And really, this gets to the heart and soul of what Mural Arts does. Yes, it’s about transforming places, but mostly it’s about transforming people. We wanted to look at that process and its effects through many lenses, so we brought together a diverse group of authors from different disciplines—social sciences, public health, art education, restorative justice—to paint as broad a picture as possible of what a socially engaged art practice looks like, and what it can do, especially when it works in tandem with other organizations to address big issues like homelessness, youth violence, or urban blight.

In the book, Jeremy Nowack aptly refers to what happens in the course of creating a mural as a kind of “social contract” that arises between all of the stakeholders involved in a project—neighbors, business owners, community leaders, schools, artists. And the key word here is “stakeholders.” People feel a sense of investment and ownership in the murals. They take pride in them. They show them off to visitors. New stories and rituals grow up around them. People now ride the Market-Frankford El in West Philly just to see Steve Powers’ 50 Love Letters unfold. Inspired by the murals, couples have gotten engaged and even married on that 20-block stretch along Market Street.

Other stories around the murals are more painful, more challenging, but also rewarding in ways that aren’t necessarily visible to someone looking only at the end result. A particularly poignant example is James Burns’s Finding the Light Within, which took on the issue of youth suicide, not just with a very powerful and personal mural, but also with community meetings, writing workshops, collage workshops, and a participatory blog, all of which provided safe, supportive spaces in which survivors could share their stories. More than 800 people participated in those activities, and hopefully found some measure of healing in the process.

Elizabeth Thomas begins her essay with a provocative question: “Who makes culture?” In other words, Who decides what messages we see and read and hear? Whose stories count? Every day we’re bombarded by images and messages that tell us what we should wear, eat, drink, watch, listen to. But how often do we see our own struggles and achievements reflected in our environment, or our own stories projected into the public discourse? Socially engaged art practice has begun to address this problem of who gets represented—and who does the representing—in public culture. It’s happening in different ways in different cities around the country, but in Philadelphia its most visible proponent is the Mural Arts Program.

Much of the work that Mural Arts has done in recent years has sought to expand the definition of what a mural is and what it can do. For the mural project called Peace Is a Haiku Song, the poet Sonia Sanchez initiated what became, in essence, a citywide collaborative poem cycle. She began with a mental image of haiku by children hanging like cherry blossoms from the trees in Philadelphia. This evolved into an invitation to people of all ages to contribute poems in a series of community workshops and through a dedicated website. The poems didn’t end up hanging from the trees, but many of them ended up on posters around the city that were created by youth working with graphic designer Tony Smyrski.

The experience of seeing your own words and your own images projected into the world is an empowering one, especially for young people. As Cynthia Weiss points out, kids participating in mural projects often gain practical, real-world skills, like photography and graphic design. But they also gain a sense of agency that may be hard to come by elsewhere in their lives. And that type of experience can have a lasting impact on a person’s life in ways that we’re really only beginning to understand.

This is the essence of what Mural Arts does. It’s about creating situations in which people are drawn out of their everyday selves and both challenged and empowered to reach for something more. So while this book marks a milestone in the history of the Mural Arts Program, our hope is that it also points the way forward for others who want to use the power of art to change things for the better.

To listen to a podcast of David Updike and Jane Golden’s presentation at the Free Library of Philadelphia from March 26, click here: http://libwww.freelibrary.org/authorevents/podcast.cfm?podcastID=1216

The NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literary Work — Non-Fiction

Temple University Press congratulates Envisioning Emancipation authors Deborah Willis and Barbara Krauthamer for being named Outstanding Literary Work – Non-Fiction at the NAACP Image Awards February 21.

Envisioning Emancipation_smBarbara Krauthamer, who attended the ceremony, gave the following acceptance speech:

Thank you to the NAACP and to everybody. It is wonderful to be here.  My co-author Dr. Deborah Willis could not be here, but I know that she joins me in thanking all of you. We’d like to thank our editor Janet Francendese and everybody at Temple University Press; all of the librarians and archivists who helped us.  When we dreamed of this book ten years ago we wanted to create a collective family album of photographs that showed African American survival, dignity and beauty, even through the most trying times of slavery and the triumph of emancipation and freedom.  Thank you, and we wanted to dedicate this to our mothers and to those who made a way when there was no way so we could be here today.  Thank you.
And here are some images from the NAACP Image Awards ceremony:

BK screen BK statue photo 2 BK with award

 

%d bloggers like this: