|Johan Sellenraad's mural in situ, midafternoon on a weekday, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
|Alan Samalin's mural in situ, midafternoon on a weekday, 2013. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
New York City’s CETA Tile Murals
There were many types of art projects completed through the CETA program including painted murals on tiles. Two of these murals are in the ground-level arcade of the Clark Street IRT subway station in Brooklyn Heights.
Three artists--two painters and a ceramist--were hired by CETA after a citywide competition to produce a mural: the “1980 adopt-a-station project sponsored by the MTA and the Municipal Art Society brought two colorful ceramic tile murals to the arcade walls [of the IRT’s Clark Street subway station]. Alan Samalin painted a picture of the Heights Promenade showing the ethnic diversity of its visitors. Johan Sellenraad depicted the 1849 Plymouth Church of the Pilgrims. Joe Stallone was ceramist for both mosaics." (Don Evans, “Heights Group Seeks To Revitalize Deteriorating Subway Arcade”, Brooklyn Daily Eagle, August 4, 2006, http://22.214.171.124/archive/category.php?category_id=27&id=7471) Rochelle Slovin, who would later found and direct the Museum of the Moving Image, was the Administrator for this project as well as the CETA Artists' Program in New York City.
Johan Sellenraad recently wrote about the mural project: "In the 70s/80s the subway stations were in bad shape and there certainly was no art in the subway program. In the CETA funded program we had some individual freedom of how we saw our roles as artists in society. ...Already money and the galleries instead of artists were beginning to dominate the art scene in NYC. So we were looking for alternatives. I had organized big shows in Federal Buildings downtown prior to CETA. But what could be more challenging than the subways as an environment to have art? When managers of the CETA art project contacted the MTA, I jumped at the chance. At that point the best the MTA could do [...was] give us two neutral rectangles, roughly the size of paintings. ...I received around 5' x 8' and Alan Samalin perhaps 8' x 10', spaces in a boring design. Joe Stallone was assigned to work with both of us. I think we worked in Joe's studio because of the kilns. We used standard ceramic colors and after lots of tests, set up full size set-ups where the tile cuts where designed in relationship to the over all design[,] and where we could paint on the bisque fired hand made tiles as if they were a painting surface. They were then fired with a clear glaze. ...When finished they were boxed and labeled and transferred to the site for installation. We had control over most of it." (Email from Johan Sellenraad to Michael Padwee dated 13 Feb. 2013)
Alan Samalin "...studied painting at The Cooper Union in N.Y.C., where a mixture of Bauhaus classicism and New York School Abstract-Expressionist romanticism was blended with the avant-garde flavors of the day, creating a powerful brew. He has created murals for non-profit community organizations, government agencies, and private corporations." (http://www.alansamalin.com/pages/bio.html)
|The Plymouth Church mural in the Clark Street subway arcade in Brooklyn by Johan Sellenraad. A few tiles near the ground are missing, one in the grass in the hedges is broken, and one or two are cracked. (Photo taken in 2013 by Michael Padwee)|
|Sellenraad pictured himself in the top of two windows to the right of the grassy area.|
|Detail of the "Brooklyn Bridge" painting installation. (Photo courtesy of Johan Sellenraad)|
In 1986 Sellenraad painted a ceramic mural in Flint, Michigan, which he considered "a major public art piece...for the city and the UAW, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the 'Sit-Down Strike' that unionized the auto workers. [...The memorial] included four handmade ceramic tile murals produced at Pewabic Pottery* in Detroit, set in a concrete structure based on the auto factories. It was an outside location and unfortunately the concrete let in water behind the tiles forcing the glaze to disintegrate. A major loss." (Email from Johan Sellenraad to Michael Padwee dated 13 Feb. 2013)
|Johan Sellenraad's Sit-Down Strike Memorial Murals, Flint, MI. (Photos courtesy of Pewabic Pottery)|
*Mr. Fleming, the founder and president of the Townscape Institute, “Created the design parameters [...for] a ceramic tile monument on the riverfront depicting significant scenes from a major labor victory. [...Fleming] developed the concept of combining literary quotations, cast cement auto seats, and cast bronze auto hinges as part of a holistic design and animation strategy for the site adjacent to the Carrigetown Historic District which serves as amphitheater and entry marker to the historic district.” (http://www.townscape.org/RLFCV.pdf)
|A faux-grained bureau painted by Joe Stallone. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
“Joe [Stallone] is [now] a decorative painting specialist with 26 years of experience in New York City. His specialties include realistic faux wood graining and marbleizing, wall glazing, gilding, faux semi-precious stone, pattern painting on floors and furniture and rare wood painted marquetry. ...Born in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania, he learned his craft at the Institut Superieur de Peinture in Brussels, Belgium the way it was taught in the Golden Age.” (http://www.joestallonedecorativepainter.com/joestallonedecorativepainter/welcome.html) Some of Joe’s clients have been New York City’s Mayor, Michael Bloomberg, Robert De Niro, Martha Stewart, and Baron Guy de Rothschild. Prior to this Joe was a ceramics artist and had been a graduate student at Alfred University’s College of Ceramic Art in Alfred, New York.
|An early ceramic tea set. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
|Another early ceramic piece. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
|A small sample mural painted by Alan Samalin and fired by Joe Stallone. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
|(Photo courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
|Cutting the tile shapes|
|Getting ready to begin work. The clay was not left out in the air for more than an hour at a time.|
|Clockwise from upper left: Alan Samalin using a template to cut the clay into tile shapes; Johan Sellenraad selecting glazes; Joe Stallone at the kiln; Alan drawing. (Photos courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
|The Promenade Mural template is in the left background. Getting a bird's eye view of the work table.|
|Before and after photos of two areas of Alan Samalin's mural. The bottom two segments are finished and installed. (Photos courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
|Cutlines and grout are used as part of Alan Samalin's mural design. (Photo courtesy of Michael Padwee)|
*Sellenraad recalls that “At Joe’s we did a lot of tests [including] some double sections...”, some of which he still has. (Email from Johan Sellenraad to Michael Padwee dated 17 Feb. 2013)
|A work table and plywood coverings for the mural walls were set up in the subway arcade.|
Laying out the finished tiles.
The tiles could only be set to a height of 16” to 18”. They then had to dry overnight before the next layer of tiles could be added.
|(Photos courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
The whole process took over a year, even though the City tried to abort the project just as the work was about to begin. Most of the materials had been purchased when word came down that the entire program had been cut. This led to demonstrations, local politicians became involved, and a community fund raising effort took place, which allowed the mural project to go forward. (Discussions with Joe Stallone, 08, 12 and 22 Feb. 2013)
|The artists protesting lay-offs and the cancelation of the CETA program. Rochelle Slovin, the head of the CETA Artists’ Project, is at the extreme right. (Photo courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
|Joe Stallone, Johan Sellenraad and Alan Samalin with Alan's mural. (Photo courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
|Joe Stallone, Johan Sellenraad and Rochelle Slovin with community leaders. (Photo courtesy of Joe Stallone)|
|Joe Stallone the Marathon runner and Joe in 2013.|
******My three posts about tile art in the subway system can be accessed at: http://tilesinnewyork.blogspot.com/2012/08/subway-tiles-part-i-guastavino-tiles.html
In addition, I have added Johan Sellenraad’s tile murals memorializing the 50th anniversary of the Flint, Michigan Sit-Down Strike to my “Historic U.S. Tile Installations” website at: https://sites.google.com/site/tileinstallationdbal/mi_flint--sit-down-strike-murals.
A downloadable article based on this may be accessed for individual, non-commercial use from: http://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/33
I would like to thank Joe Stallone for his help in the researching and editing of this article, and for the loan of his photos documenting the mural project from start to finish. I would also like to thank Johan Sellenraad for his insights and remembrances and photos. Also, my thanks to Sandy Koukoulas, Public Relations representative, and Hanne Fuglsang Nielsen, Archivist, of Pewabic Pottery, and Paul Gifford, Senior Associate Librarian, Genesee Historical Collections Center, Frances Willson Thompson Library, University of Michigan-Flint for searching for photos of the murals in their Labor History Project archives.
This article may be downloaded for individual, non-commercial use from: https://tileresearcharticles.omeka.net/items/show/32
(Just scroll down to "Files", click on the pdf and save to your computer.)
University of Michigan Labor History Project
University of Michigan Labor History Project