Ithaca Murals is a network of people organizing to transform gray walls into beautiful meaningful works of art that tell stories of who is here and what we care about.
Together we are strong. We support each other with public art projects every step of the process from conception to ribbon cutting with assistance all along the way. We work with an eye on pushing back against Eurocentric patriarchal capitalism. We welcome all people to be involved but particularly want to systematically support the leadership of artists of color, artists with jail experience, low income & working class artists, women, youth, and other artists of traditionally marginalized identity groups. We collaborate with other organizations locally and nationally who also use a cultural arts strategy for building just communities.
History (by Caleb R Thomas)
In 2004, I met Gino Bush who was following youth leadership vision to rename an Ithaca street after Martin Luther King Jr. This began a four and a half year campaign pushing the City of Ithaca Board of Public Works to change State St.’s name. These years were educational for me looking at our cultural landscape. Who are our streets, parks, and buildings named after? Mostly privileged white men. Who named these streets, parks, and buildings? Mostly privileged white men. State St. is now dual designated Martin Luther King Jr St. as a daily reminder to passersby of King’s life committed to justice.
I joined the City of Ithaca Public Art Commission in 2008 and spearheaded a mural contest which resulted in the Underground Railroad Mural on Green St right near the Ithaca Commons. This project was so successful, that the Board of Public Works gave the Public Art Commission pre-permission to work with City Hall’s Planning Department and elected officials to bring many more murals to City infrastructure. Over the last nine years, we’ve had a surge in the number of murals on both City infrastructure as well as business walls. In 2008 there were about 15 mural locations in Ithaca. Today in there are about 130 and the numbers are snowballing.
At it’s best murals are a means for participatory democracy where people from all walks of life have opportunity to influence what our community looks like. Haudenosaunee, Latinx, African American, Muslim, and other cultural pieces have been amazing relationship building projects for groups to amplify the beauty of their identity.