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May 2020

Philadelphia Mayor Wants to Defund City Arts Agency in Wake of Covid-19

Philadelphia mural projectI can understand the terrible choices city administrators must make in the wake of COVID-19 but defunding the arts is an area where I think we should reconsider. There must be other options like getting wealthy donors in Philadelphia to help assist the arts at this time, providing, perhaps, services to children who are at home and out of school. Philadelphia boasts a wonderful murals project and is also the home of mosaic artist Lazar whose home and workspace, The Magic Garden, delights and attracts many visitors.

Artforum reports:

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney has eliminated the city’s Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy, slashing funding for the arts by $4 million, in his proposed $4.9 billion budget for the 2021 fiscal year. If the budget is passed, defunding the agency would also mean that the Art in City Hall exhibition program, the Percent for Art program, and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund would cease operations, ending grants and financial support to hundreds of artists and cultural organizations.

“These programs provide invaluable service to artists and arts organizations, and it’s a tragedy that they have all been deleted—STARTING JUNE 1, 2020—presumably since art is ‘non-essential,’” reads an open letter published by the online publication Artblog, which covers arts and culture in the Philadelphia region. “This proposal sends a horrible message about how the arts don’t matter in Philadelphia and more to the point, it implies that the arts have nothing to offer the community at this time, when we know the arts are helping many of us get through the pandemic.”

A petition to save the city’s arts funding body, which had more than 5,400 signatures at the time of publication, has been launched on change.org. Organized by Philadelphia’s Internet Radio Community, iradiophilly, the campaign acknowledges the hardships facing the city as it tries to recover from the economic turmoil ignited by the Covid-19 outbreak, but it calls the decision to shut down an office that “supports vital industry in the city of Philadelphia, especially one that has been hit hard during this crisis,” as “short sighted” and demands its reversal.

In defense of the budget plan, Kenney cited the economic fallout from the coronavirus pandemic and told the Philadelphia Inquirer that the “drastically revised” proposal for the coming fiscal year prioritizes “core municipal services.” Mural Arts Philadelphia will still be funded but will be allocated just over $2 million—a decrease from the $2.45 million it was previously awarded—and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, which is housed on city property, will also see its budget reduced from $2.55 million to a little more than $2 million.

According to the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, the arts and culture sector injects $4.1 billion into the local economy annually and supports 55,000 jobs. In response to the news, Maud Lyon, president of the Greater Philadelphia Cultural Alliance, called the moment “difficult and extremely distressing” in a letter to prominent arts leaders in the city. “We know that many of the recommended cuts and funding reductions will tear into the essential fabric that makes our sector so vibrant and diverse.” She added that the loss of the Office of Arts, Culture, and the Creative Economy and the Philadelphia Cultural Fund has the “potential to destabilize our community in a way we have never experienced.”

Philadelphia’s City Council approved a $5 billion budget for the 2020 fiscal year, a $300 million boost from the previous year—at the time, the mayor said that the budget hike was actually the result of the restoration of funds that had been cut since the 2008 recession. According to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the city’s spending has increased by $1 billion since Kenney was elected in 2016. Kenney had originally drafted a $5.2 billion budget for the 2021 fiscal year, but he revised it following closures and revenue shortfalls due to the coronavirus pandemic. The council will vote on the 2021 fiscal budget by July 1.

On Tuesday, May 5, Philadelphia reported that there were no new Covid-19-related deaths, making it the first day since March 24 on which no one died from the virus.

The best NYC street art inspired by our surreal times

Howard Haile writes for Time Out

street artOne of the big questions surrounding the "New Normal" is how will it affect life as we know it in the long term. In what ways will it transform how we work, how we vote and how we entertain ourselves? Will going to the movies, seeing a musical or dining at your favorite boîte ever be the same?

And then there's the issue of art, which has already migrated to the web in the form of virtual tours and online viewings. But more important is how the content of art is going to change. Will the art world go back to business as usual, or will the current situation become a principal subject for artists and the curators and collectors who follow their lead?

In the gallery world, this has yet to happen in any concerted fashion, though there have been some efforts to address the crisis. Street art, on the other hand, seems to be making a more noticeable pivot towards responding to Covid-19 and its fallout. This may be due to the fact that street art is historically rooted in the idea of being a guerrilla activity, nimble in execution and subversive in content.

So it shouldn't be a surprise that here in New York, the city that gave birth to the graffiti movement, several examples of pandemic-related street art have been popping up around town. We picked out some especially eye-grabbing pieces, which you can check out here.

Banksy Just Made a Surprisingly Earnest Painting of a Superhero Nurse and Donated It to a British Hospital as a Morale Booster

Banksy pandemicThree cheers for Banksy. As ArtNet reports:

The work will remain on view at the Southampton General Hospital until this fall, when it will go to auction.

Banksy has donated a painting to England’s Southampton General Hospital in an effort to raise the spirits of medical professionals working on the frontlines of the coronavirus pandemic.

The painting, an uncharacteristic medium for the elusive street artist, shows a young boy playing with a superhero doll dressed as a nurse, complete with a mask and apron bearing the Red Cross symbol, and a cape fluttering behind her. Next to the child, a wastebasket holds castoffs, including Spider–Man and Batman figurines—outdated versions of superheroes in our new pandemic-stricken world.

The artist left a note with the special delivery, titled game changer, that read: “Thanks for all you’re doing. I hope this brightens the place up a bit, even if its only black and white.”


The hospital, which is the largest in the University Hospital Southampton NHS Foundation Trust system, hosts coronavirus researchers, including those who are starting vaccine trials.

Speaking to the BBC, which first reported the news, hospital trust CEO Paula Head said: “It will be really valued by everyone in the hospital, as people get a moment in their busy lives to pause, reflect and appreciate this piece of art. It will no doubt also be a massive boost to morale for everyone who works and is cared for at our hospital.”

The work will remain on view in a foyer near the emergency department until this fall, at which point it will go up for auction to raise money for the National Health Service. And judging by recent history, it could be quite profitable. In late March, Sotheby’s held an online auction of Banksy’s works that netted $1.4 million, showing that buyers were undeterred by the economic downturn.

This isn’t the first time the anonymous artist has made work commenting on our isolated new realities. In April he showed off his new work-from-home life with a mural painted in his bathroom.

Show Support for the Museum of Graffiti

During these difficult pandemic times, there are many arts organizations and museums that are struggling to survive. One that is close to my heart if the Museum of Graffiti, located in the Wynwood section of Miami, Dedicated tot he art of Graf, this unique museum has a very interesting online store that is a perfect gift location. Think Mothers Day, Fathers Day, Birthday or just "I'm Thinking of You" day.


The museum offers ongoing Live Arts talks on Instagram.