Theses Master's

Presevation Without Policy: Maintaining Manhattan's Community Murals

Munro, Michael

The contemporary community mural movement has played a critical role in allowing residents of cities to reflect upon particular historic, cultural or political climates publicly, and can be traced back to the 1967 mural Wall of Respect, painted along a Southside Chicago building to advocate for the grassroots civil rights movement. As noted by Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, "murals are the people's blackboards", through which they are able to beautify, educate, celebrate, protest and motivate their communities to action. However, despite the powerful role the murals have played in communities, many are deteriorating or face demolition for a variety of reasons, from a deteriorating wall on which they are painted, lack of basic maintenance, shifting demographics within the community that render the mural irrelevant, and evolving aesthetic tastes. With the loss of community murals, neighborhoods are at risk of losing not only their public art, but also the often-contentious history that caused their creation. This thesis aims to address the preservation of community murals in Harlem and East Harlem in New York City. Through a study of the changing demographics of the study area and the role that community murals have played, documentation of the existing community murals, and the role that they have played in giving minority communities a public voice, this thesis will take a critical approach to the policy void that exists in New York City and how non-profit public art programs have advocated and can advocate for our city's murals continued existence.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Historic Preservation
Thesis Advisors
Dolkart, Andrew S.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
October 20, 2015