Public Murals In Rochester
The City of Rochester has many ongoing mural projects today that allow beautiful and inspiring artwork to decorate the walls of many public buildings. While artistic trends have changed and many of these murals depict more modern subject matter, it is still striking how similar some of these murals are to the mural trends started during the WPA era. For instance, many of these murals still depict content reflecting the local history of the areas surrounding the murals, important historical and social justice figures, and educational topics offered by the institutions the murals are in.
"Chick and Egg" mural for WALL\THERAPY Project, pictured right
One Rochester mural project is known as WALL\THERAPY. A quote from the projects' website describes it as "an art and community intervention project, using public murals as a means to transform the urban landscape, inspire, and build community." The murals are located on the exterior walls of buildings throughout Rochester, and these murals are so widespread around Rochester that they have become an important part of the local identity of the city. Beyond their Rochester impact, the project has been recognized worldwide, with people from over 100 countires visiting the WALL\THERAPY website to view murals and learn about the project. Mural artists from many countries all around the world have inquired about participating in the project and adding their own art to the walls of Rochester buildings.
The project features work from over ninety muralists, some contributing only one mural while others have contributed three or four. The project has now been running for ten years, and over the years it has been supported by several local sponsors. This project is just one of many public art projects that makes Rochester unique, setting it apart from other cities in its' consistent efforts to bring public art to the community.
Public Library Murals
The Rochester Public Library encourages public art, and identifies on their website the importance that art plays in community spaces. A quote from their site reads: "Art in public spaces plays a distinguishing role in our country’s history and culture. It reflects and reveals our society, enhances meaning in our civic spaces, and adds uniqueness to our communities. … Public art matters because our communities gain cultural, social, and economic value through public art."
To accomplish their goal of providing public art to reach all members of the community, the Public Library has an ongoing mural project that commissions local artists to paint scenes in many branches of the Monroe County Library System. These murals currently decorate around eight library buildings, including the Central Library of Rochester & Monroe County and Frederick Douglass Community Library. The murals in this project cover a variety of topics, from literary themes, to local historical figures, to imaginative storybook scenes. In one project, at the Phillis Wheatley Community Library, local artist Shawn Dunwoody worked closely with children in the community to create artwork that would link outdoor fardens with the library.
High School Murals
As we saw from looking at the WPA's Federal Arts Project murals, many of them adorned the walls of high schools. Almost a century later, it is still the case that prominent local artists are receving commissions for high School murals. Two of these murals include a 2022 commission for a mural of Malcolm X, Franklin Florence, and Constance Mitchell on the side of East High School, and a 2020 mural depicting two students in the cafeteria of James Monroe High School by muralist Sarah Rutherford.