A blog about architectural tiles, terra cotta and other ceramic surfaces, architectural glass and ornamentation in and around New York.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Grant's Tomb, the Community and the Gaudi-esque benches of Pedro Silva AND A request for help

 A Request for Help

For an article that includes a set of Art-Deco tiles designed by Augustin Lazo for Carlos Chávez' Aztec Ballet in 1927, I am looking for images and any descriptions of the tiles. The tiles were made by the American Encaustic Tiling Company.

One of the set of AET tiles for the Aztec Ballet. (Courtesy of architectural historian Richard Mohr)

The set of tiles were exhibited in the 1928 International Exhibition of Ceramic Art sponsored by the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Federation of Arts, but only one is pictured in the exhibition catalog, and according to the Met's research library, the Metropolitan Museum does not have a photo of the tile set in its archives.

A second Aztec Ballet tile from the Catalogue of the 1928 International Exhibition of Ceramic Art. (Courtesy of John Magon)

Please contact me if you have images of any tiles in this set, and you're willing to allow me to use them in an article. (mpadwee'at'gmail.com)


Grant's Tomb, the Community and the Gaudi-esque Benches of Pedro Silva

Hiram Ulysses Grant was born in 1822 into a poor, rural Ohio family. His father was a tanner and had a small farm. Grant was good with horses and took care of the farm’s horses. His horsemanship was a trait that would help him greatly in later years. Grant’s father obtained a place at West Point for Hiram, whose name was accidentally changed to Ulysses Simpson (his mother’s name) Grant when he applied to West Point. Grant fought with distinction under Zachary Taylor in the Mexican-American War, but in 1854 he left the army and moved back to the midwest to be with his wife, Julia, and his family. Grant did not fare well in private life, however, and failed in a number of businesses. 

At the outbreak of the Civil War, Grant was given command of a volunteer Illinois company. Grant showed that he was willing to fight, and he was an exceptional logician. He gained the trust of Lincoln and rose in the Union ranks, and by the end of the war, he was general of all the armies of the Republic.(1)

Grant’s reputation as a war hero and the savior of the Union catapulted him into the White House in 1868 after the impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Although Grant, himself, was scrupulously honest, a number of his appointees became involved in scandals that tainted Grant’s two terms in office. Grant did manage, though, to get the 15th Amendment ratified, and he established the National Parks Service.(2) He also brought about initial reforms in government service that became the basis of the Civil Service System during the presidency of Chester A. Arthur.

After his presidency, Grant again failed at business when his partner embezzled clients’ funds. Grant, however, published his memoirs with the help of Mark Twain, and his memoirs were a great success after his death in 1885. “[Grant's] funeral on August 8, 1885, was one of the most spectacular events New York had ever seen. Buildings all over the city were draped in black. An estimated one million people crowded sidewalks, filled windows, stood on rooftops, and climbed trees and telephone poles for a view of the procession."(3)

"Scale model of a reconstruction of the Mausoleum [at Halicarnassus], one of many widely differing versions, at Miniatürk, Istanbul. The Mausoleum at Halicarnassus or Tomb of Mausolus...was a tomb built between 353 and 350 BC at Halicarnassus (present Bodrum, Turkey) for Mausolus, a satrap in the Persian Empire, and his sister-wife Artemisia II of Caria. The structure was designed by the Greek architects Satyros and Pythius of Priene. ...The whole structure sat in an enclosed courtyard. At the center of the courtyard was a stone platform on which the tomb sat. A stairway flanked by stone lions led to the top of the platform, which bore along its outer walls many statues of gods and goddesses. At each corner, stone warriors mounted on horseback guarded the tomb. At the center of the platform, the marble tomb rose as a square tapering block to one-third of the Mausoleum's 45 m (148 ft) height. ...On the top of this section of the tomb thirty-six slim columns, ten per side, with each corner sharing one column between two sides; rose for another third of the height. ...Behind the columns was a solid cella-like block that carried the weight of the tomb's massive roof. The roof, which comprised most of the final third of the height, was pyramidal." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mausoleum_at_HalicarnassusPhoto credit: By Nevit Dilmen (talk) - Own Photograph, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1327487)

Grant’s Tomb was designed by New York architect John H. Duncan and was built between 1891 and 1897 at 122nd Street and Riverside Drive in Manhattan. “Duncan's classical design was inspired by ancient monuments such as the Pantheon in Rome, the Mausoleum of Hadrian - also in Rome - and the Tomb of Mausoleus at Halicarnassus in Greece, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World.

(Color photos courtesy of Michael Padwee unless otherwise noted)

“The building has a rectangular floor plan with a portico supported by massive Doric columns. A drum with an Ionic colonnade rises above the center of the building and is topped off with a conical roof. The entrance is flanked with eagle statues. Allegorical figures above the cornice represent Victory and Peace. The inscription in the middle quotes general Grant's famous words 'Let Us Have Peace'.”(4)

Exterior architectural elements.

“The main entry on the south side of the structure is distinguished by a wide plaza with steps leading up to a portico covering monumental bronze doors.  The ground floor has a large oculus through which the sarcophagi on the floor below can be seen.”(5)

The dome and ceiling.

The two sarcophagi under the first floor oculus.

The Benches and the Community

Architecturally, Grant’s Tomb is a very formal setting and evokes solemnity in this public space. Another aspect of this space is brought about by 400 feet of undulating, colorful, Gaudi-esque, mosaic benches created with community participation at a time when the General Grant National Memorial fell on hard times. “While Grant's Tomb had been [an] often-visited tourist attraction until the years following World War II, by the 1970s, visitors rarely made it to this out-of-the-way city landmark. Instead, it was increasingly a site of gang fights and vandalism.”(6) The site was owned by the National Parks Service, and the NPS wanted to revitalize the Memorial with a public sculpture. The NPS “hired sculptor Pedro Silva to design and build the work in conjunction with members of the neighboring communities. City Arts, an organization that creates community-based art projects, was enlisted to oversee the work.”(7)    

Silva, along with CITYarts and architect/artist Phillip Danzig(8), enlisted the aid of four other professional community artists to help direct the project. “Construction continued over three summers under the design direction of artist Pedro Silva(9), working with artists Nelson [Mercado](10), Warren Fox(11), Alan Okada(12), [and Moishe Shaw,(13)] and ably assisted by the labor of hundreds [sic: actually, thousands] of community participants. Silva, [who taught sculpture] in Harlem's 1960’s HARYOU-ACT(14) Art program, which fostered community self-help..., saw the park site and its mosaic project as an opportunity for community empowerment through art. 

Gaudí's restored salamander at the entrance to Park Guell in Barcelona. (Photo credit: By William Avery - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1840432)

A Park Guell bench. (Photo credit: By deror avi - Own work, Attribution, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1530124)

Silva designed benches that were "[...r]eminiscent of Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi’s work[. ...The] benches...represent a unique architectural manifestation of 1970s rebellion and confrontation...with their vivid contrast in form and color to the tomb’s neo-classical architecture. With each mosaic image one can sense the hand of neighborhood ‘folks’ and the empowering energy those 1970s summers must have offered!”(15) 

Silva was part of a radical public art movement that developed in the 1960s and 1970s. 

     "This unprecedented artistic activity took place 
     within a context of [an] historical period of 
     upheaval and discontent characterized by 
     protest, community organizing, and activism as
     a result of a series of social and political
     movements that sought to challange and 
     change the structure of U.S. society. The Civil
     Rights Movement, the Feminist Movement, the 
     Chicano Movement, the Anti-War Movement, 
     and the Student Movement, among others,
     brought national issues of poverty, urban crisis, 
     repression, discrimination, racial and ethnic 
     tension, democracy, peace, and economic 
     inequity to the forefront. In murals and in art
     groups, these artists found the means through 
     which they could connect art with pressing
     social issues by visually expressing and sharing
     collective experiences, by reclaiming their 
     cultural heritage, and by fighting for their rights
     from the fringes of a national art scene."(16)

This public art movement's most noticeable participants were working-class blacks, Chicanos, and Asians who either lived in the neighborhoods for which this art was created or who came into them to join in their execution. Professional artists, untrained aspirants, street gangs, other young people--on the whole anyone moved to participate--might have been members of the work crews.(17) This historical context informed all of Silva's public art projects.

Silva explained the Grant's Tomb "Rolling Benches" project, as they were called, on his professional website, which is no longer accessible on the internet. “This project, which took three summers to complete, involved six professional artists and over 3,000 members of the local community who ranged from Columbia University professors to street gang members and from small children to the elderly. Iron bars formed a core structure that was covered with mesh wire and cement and then completely decorated with mosaic tiles. In order for the maximum number of people to participate but still achieve a unified aesthetic, Mr. Silva devised a method for people to create their designs on brown paper, arrange the tiles over it, and then cover the design with clear contact paper. These individual mosaic art works could then be stored by theme (sea creatures, dinosaurs, mythological beings, flowers, etc.) until a suitable place on the bench was determined by the artist. The resulting public artwork remains, protected and appreciated by the community that helped create it.”(18) Silva’s method was to hold intensive community workshops at which the community came up with images and ideas that were incorporated into the benches.(19)    


Pedro Silva used the artistic techniques and community-building methods he learned from the Grant’s Tomb project in his other community art installations. Throughout the 1970’s, 1980’s and 1990’s, ...Silva employed the techniques he refined at Grant’s Tomb to create other works with community participation. Primarily, he worked in New York City schools and parks.  

Some of the Grant's Tomb benches.


In 1979, the Craigmillar Festival Society invited [Silva] to create a giant play sculpture in Edinburgh, Scotland. “Craigmillar, a housing estate, [was] often described as one of the worst areas of multiple deprivation in Scotland. [...The] Community Art Team, under the direction of Rosie Gibson, invited...Silva to design and execute, with local people, a [65 foot] long and 20 [foot] high sculpture of a mermaid covered in mosaic. Its location was strategic and political. It was sited on the line of a proposed motorway which would have cut the area in two[, and this was opposed by the people of the estate].”(20) 

This working class neighborhood had very little experience with formal art, and the project was a significant part of local efforts toward community building and revitalization of the neighborhood. The sculpture, itself, "serves as a 'climbing piece', fountain (water spouts from the mermaid's mouth), and a wading pool formed by the fin of the mermaid. You can also climb on the head and slide down four chutes on the back of her hair."(21)

In this project Silva worked with a team of four local artists, who later spread this knowledge and technique all over Scotland. One of these artists also came to the United States to help Silva on another project.

The Craigmillar Estates "Mermaid. (Photo taken by Pedro Silva and donated to the Craigmillar Archive. Photo courtesy of Andrew Crummy.)

Andrew Crummy, a local historian, wrote of the fate of the "Mermaid", “The sculpture was a positive protest to stop a motorway being built through the area. In that regard it worked, but [the sculpture] was sadly demolished in the late eighties. It was a great work of Art.”(22)

Sometime between 1979 and 1984 Silva created a mosaic sculpture for Roberto Clemente State Park, 301 West Tremont Avenue, in the Bronx. The "El Sol Naciente" mural (Rising Sun) was a 15' x 18' mosaic mural that was completed in about 30 days. Here, Silva was assisted by an artist from the Craigmillar Estates project in Scotland, plus one other artist and two assistants and about five-hundred community people, who also participated in creating the designs that composed the mural.(23) This park has been renovated and "revitalized" at least twice since the mural was installed, most recently because of damage done by superstorm Sandy in 2012, and there is no indication that the mosaic sculpture still exists.

The "Sea Serpent" in Fannie Mae Dees Park, Nashville, Tennessee. The face of Nashville activist Fannie Mae Dees is part of the mosaic sculpture. (Photo credit: P. Casey Daley, The Tennessean)

“In 1980, the Metro Parks and Recreation of Nashville, Tennessee, invited Mr. Silva to design and construct a play sculpture in the Fannie Mae Dees Park. He created a 200-foot-long ‘Sea Serpent’ that undulates in and out of the ground, which serves as its ‘water.’ The arches of the serpent’s body have tire swings hanging from them. The tail curves around a playground area and forms a bench and climbing sculpture. Tile mosaic designs cover most of the structure, and more than 1,000 people helped create and execute these designs.

An early drawing for the Fannie Mae Dees Park Sea Serpent. "Silva came to Nashville[and] made a slide presentation to the park board and a community presentation at the Harris-Hillman School. After the visit, he mailed Anne Roos a few very vague sketch[es], explaining that he couldn’t produce precise drawings. He was going to basically design the work on the spot. [...He] invited the public: Anyone who wanted could help. They were given a square of plywood and heaps of broken tile pieces and put to work on their own artistic contribution. (Mack Linebaugh, "Curious Nashville: How A Mosaic Dragon Became A Neighborhood Mascot Near Vanderbilt", Nashville Public Radio, All Things Considered, January 27, 2017; http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/curious-nashville-how-mosaic-dragon-became-neighborhood-mascot-near-vanderbilt#stream/0; photo credit, Mack Linebaugh/WPLN)

"[...Silva (left)] started spending every waking hour at the park site, curving rebar and wire into the basic shapes that he envisioned, pouring and layering concrete. (Mack Linebaugh, "Curious Nashville: How A Mosaic Dragon Became A Neighborhood Mascot Near Vanderbilt", Nashville Public Radio, All Things Considered, January 27, 2017; http://nashvillepublicradio.org/post/curious-nashville-how-mosaic-dragon-became-neighborhood-mascot-near-vanderbilt#stream/0; photo courtesy of Pedro Silva)

“The following year the Nashville community invited Mr. Silva back to create three more art works: the ‘Baby Serpent,’ the Cardiovascular Center Mural(24), and another mosaic mural for the Eakin School.(25) Again, he worked with local artists, who did their own projects afterwards; the ‘Sea Serpent’s wake’ inspired many other artists to do their own creations using his technique.

“In the summer of 1984, Mr. Silva traveled to Chicago to design, direct, and execute [with José Gamaliel González(26) and Alex Garza(27)] a tile mosaic mural, ‘Chicago’s Dream’[, 'El Sueño de Chicago',] in the Fullerton and Central Park Symons YMCA Building[, 3600 W. Fullerton Avenue], under the sponsorship of the Youth Service Project(28) and the Chicago Mural Group.(29) Once more this was the inspiration for many local artists to work with mosaics in their own projects."(30) 

"El Sueño de Chicago" mosaic mural in 1984 (since demolished). (Photos courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group)

Pedro Silva was "one half of an artist exchange program between the Chicago Mural Group and Cityarts Workshop...of New York City. John Weber, artist from the Chicago Mural Group, worked on a cement relief design in New York, while Pedro worked on the Symons YMCA project... . ...Silva directed workers of the JTPA (Jobs Training Partnership Act) in the design and construction of the mural which will be on the [exterior] west wall of the Symons YMCA building."(31) This type of artistic exchange was becoming more common among the community-oriented art collectives in the 1970s and 1980s.

Silva described his work, in general, as follows: "The purpose of my work is to bring art to the people, to turn museums 'inside out', to bring beauty out into the streets; to enhance buildings, neighborhoods and parks; to make people happy. More than this, it is not only to show people beauty, it is to have them choose it! To have people decide what they want to see in their neighborhoods, not to have 'imposed' art...but to invite them to pick what they want to see and live with. Even more than this, it is to have them be part of the creative process, from beginning to end; planning, designing and executing the art...everybody according to their capacity or preference."(32)

Teenagers from the Jobs Training Partnership Act working on the mural. The hand drawn on the butcher paper can be seen in the bottom quarter of the mural--flipped horizontally. (Photos courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group)

Silva also described the process for the execution of the mural: "You give each participant a piece of [butcher] paper...about 2' x 2', a 1/4" plywood the same size, and a pencil. They are to do their 'design' in that size. ...Once the drawing is ready and approved, the participant is given a tile nipper and selects the colors needed for their design. It is good to use as the background...a common color to...match the...designs and incorporate them into a general overall final composition. When the individual design is concluded (with background and all), you cover it with clear contact paper to pick it up in one piece. This way is also convenient for storing it in one piece...until you incorporate it on to the panel mural. When the time comes to paste it on the final mural, you flip it between two boards and you apply the 'thin set cement' on the back of the tile and then 'slap it on' the [cement-reinforced-with-fiberglass] wonderboards."(33) The mural was 18' high by 12' wide.

Max De Zutter, a volunteer for the Chicago Public Arts Group, which is the successor to the Chicago Mural Group, the co-sponsor of the “Chicago’s Dream” mural, wrote, “[u]nfortunately, it does not look like the mosaic is still in place. It looks like the YMCA vacated this site around 2003 or 2004. The building was obtained by the Infant Welfare Society and received a major architectural reworking, which, based on photographs, altered [the] west wall of the building that held the mural.”(34)

Silva also completed commercial commissions. “In the fall of 1993, Mr. Silva was invited to Barcelona, Spain, to design and execute a mosaic mural in the new 45-story high hotel Le Arts (the tallest building in Spain[, now the Hotel Arts Barcelona of the Ritz-Carlton chain]). It is on the background wall of the Bar and the Snack Bar on the first terrace."(35) Contemporary photos of the hotel's interior, however, do not show if this mural still exists. Sonia Martínez, Marketing & PR Assistant at the Hotel Arts Barcelona, answered an email that I sent and said, "I'm sorry to inform you that we do not have any work by the artist Pedro Silva. Also, we have reviewed the inventory of previous years and we do not know that there was any mural."(36)

Middle School 246 mosaic mural. (Photo courtesy of Google Maps)

One of Silva's New York City school commissions does still exist. 
“In 1994 [Silva] conceived, designed and constructed a tile mosaic mural [...for an exterior wall on] Intermediate School 246[, 72 Veronica Place,] Brooklyn, New York, with the participation of students, teachers, parents, and staff. It is 25 feet wide by 30 feet tall and depicts life in the Caribbean basin. The centerpiece is a carnival mask surrounded by the sun and marine life, including fish, plants, sand, rocks, and coral. The wide border contains several islands, representing diverse Caribbean nations, where many of the community participants were born.”(37) A new expansion to the school was built in the 1990s, and the mural was placed on the Albemarle Road exterior wall. The architect for this project was Montoya-Rodriguez, P.C., an architectural firm based in Manhattan since about 1985.

The Fight for the Benches

By 1979 the Grant’s Tomb Rolling Bench was in need of repair and restoration, and the National Park Service said it was going to decide on the fate of the bench. The NPS claimed it alone “would determine whether to destroy, remove, or maintain The Bench.” The community solicited letters of support for the bench and collected over 2000 signatures on a petition to maintain it. “The Committee to Save the Grant’s Tomb Mosaic Bench” sent out mailings stating, “The contemplated destruction of The Bench is absurd, and removal to another site is impossible without destruction. 

A section of the "Rolling Bench". (Photo credit: Ragan Webber)

"The Bench is one, continuous, immovable form, interrupted only by the north stairs to the park, 

The north stairway to Grant's Tomb and its mosaic guardians.

"each half is about 200 feet long. It is often referred to as ‘the benches’ because its mosaic designs are arranged into what has become known as ‘The Lovers Bench,’ ‘The Parks Bench,’ ‘The Peace Bench,’ ‘The Prehistoric Bench,’ ‘The Authors Bench,’ ‘The Sea Bench,’ ‘The City Streets (or Taxi cab) Bench’—to name only a few.”(38) This was the first unsuccessful attempt to remove the community’s artwork from the tomb.

Two "sea creatures" benches. "The overall theme of the project is "Man and His Environment," according to Mr. Silva. One section, for example, is devoted to the world's oceans and shows a wide range of aquatic life, including an octopus and squid fighting." (Jay Akasie, "Teaching Children the Benefits of Restoration", The New York Sun, August 27, 2008; http://www.nysun.com/antiques/teaching-children-the-benefits-of-restoration/84677/)

Two benches with a connector.

As the centennial of the dedication of the tomb drew near in 1997, the National Parks Service again considered “removing the benches as part of a $1.6 million renovation that began in 1995. [...One day], workers for the Park Service cut one piece from a bench and hoisted it a few inches to test how difficult the seats would be to move. Then they lowered it back into place. This experiment galvanized local officials, preservationists, artists and others who began writing letters, passing out petitions and vowing to fight the benches' removal. [The] Manhattan Superintendent for the National Park Service, Joseph T. Avery, said he thinks that placing the benches around the monument was a mistake. Some descendants of General Grant have also said the benches are inappropriate. ‘We've spent a lot of money in the last three years rehabbing the monument and the plaza,’ Mr. Avery said. 'We want to restore it to its original intent.’”(39) The community and the preservationists, however, prevailed, again.

Pedro Silva at the chess bench during the 2008 restoration of the "Rolling Benches." (Joseph Huff-Hannon[40], "Echoes of Gaudí in a Place That Honors Grant", The New York Times, July 20, 2008; http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/20/nyregion/thecity/20benc.html)

In 2008 Pedro Silva and his son, Tony, undertook a restoration of the benches surrounding the tomb. This effort was also funded by CITYarts, and a “Call for volunteers--Grant's Tomb” was sent out to the community by Beth Edelstein of the Metropolitan Museum of Art. “I wanted to inform the conservation community about a project underway at Grant's Tomb in New York City, where the artist Pedro Silva is working to restore his 1972 site-specific mosaic work titled 'Rolling Benches.' ...Volunteers can join in for a day or two or even a few hours; they work Tuesday through Saturday from 10am-6pm, until Sept 5, 2008.”(41) 

The community and preservationists responded positively to that call and helped Silva repair the benches. Many of the volunteers were the children of those who helped create the benches thirty five years earlier. In looking back to 1972, Silva said he "envisioned that the benches surrounding the tomb would each tackle an issue facing the children in their neighborhoods. [The children] were a prescient and sophisticated bunch: Global warming is one of the issues they chose to address in the mosaic work back in 1972. Mr. Silva also correctly assumed that he should leave space between the benches for the London Plane trees circling Grant's Tomb. Over three decades, the trees have each reached heights of nearly 100 feet."(42)

Section with missing tile pieces.

Now, in 2017, the benches, once again, are in need of maintenance and repair. It remains to be seen if this will be undertaken by the National Parks Service, especially in the current political climate. Hopefully, the NPS will remember a quotation from the Executive Director of CITYarts, Tsipi Ben Haim, ''The benches gave the community a sense of ownership and belonging... . What brought the people to the tomb are the benches, not the tomb.''(43) Many in the community will fight any attempt to remove the benches rather than restore them.

A split in a connecting section. More than one of these sections have breaks in the concrete, and many areas have broken tiles.

Pedro Silva may not have been overtly political in the content of much of his public art. He was political, however, in his method--the engagement of poor and ethnic communities in which he worked--having the communities choose their art, and then help create it as a collective entity. Silva helped spread this method, which was formed in the explosion of the radical mural-art movement of the 1960s and 70s.

1 Miller Center of Public Affairs, University of Virginia. “Ulysses S. Grant: Life Before the Presidency.” Accessed February 20, 2017; http://millercenter.org/president/biography/grant-life-before-the-presidency.

3 “General Grant”, brochure from the National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, National Memorial, New York.

6 New York City Public Art Curriculum, Rolling Bench, 1974, p. 1; http://www.blueofthesky.com/publicart/works/rollingbench.htm 

7 Ibid

8 Phillip Danzig is an architect and artist who was mainly involved with public art projects. Besides helping to design the Grant’s Tomb benches with Pedro Silva, he was the artistic director of the Wet Paint organization in the 1980s. “‘WET PAINT’...is a pragmatic, decentralized approach to mural making in an urban/suburban setting. It is based in Essex County and has produced approximately 30 murals in the City of Newark and the surrounding ring of more affluent towns. Mediums are paint and mosaic tile. Our goals are to develop the esthetic talent of children and youth, to assist in the development of their social and cooperative skills, and to leave a positive and permanent improvement in the local environment.” (We Will Not Be Disappeared! Directory of Arts Activism, Cultural Correspondence, New York, New York, CC new series issue # 3, 1984, p. 36)

”Wet Paint” mural in Newark, New Jersey painted under the direction of Phillip Danzig. (From p. 36, above; photo credit: Eva Cockcroft)

9 “Pedro Pablo Silva [1935-2013] is a Chilean‐born artist now living in New York City, who studied law and diplomacy at the Universidad de Chile. He came to the U.S. to study art at Columbia University and the Art Students League in 1959 on a Pan American scholarship. In the 1960s Silva began working in public art that involved communities and continued refining his techniques for the next forty years. His method, adopted by artists all over the world, allows hundreds of untrained people to participate directly in a mosaic art project that achieves unity of design and pleasing aesthetics. It also overcomes class and economic barriers to instill a strong sense of community and shared values. In 1960 he earned another scholarship, this time to Mexico, where he studied mural and fresco techniques with a disciple of Diego Rivera. Returning to New York, Silva built playground sculptures for many sites in Harlem and the Lower East Side of Manhattan with the hands‐on participation of members of the community. ... Since 1986 Silva has created electronic music with computers and synthesizers. He also is involved in computer art, developing 2‐D and 3‐D ideas (painting/sculpture), as well as animation.” (F. Lynne Bachleda, “A Teacher’s Guide to Sea Serpent by Pedro Silva”, [no publication information], p. 3.
10 Nelson Mercado------no information found

11 Warren Fox------no information found

12 Alan Okada was a graphic artist and designer who graduated from the City College of New York. He was the art director of Bridge: The Asian American Magazine. (Interracial Books for Children Bulletin, Vol. 7, Nos. 2 and 3, 1976, p. 35) Okada also worked as a project director on the City Arts Workshop community murals on the Lower East Side from 1972 to 1978, painting murals such as [“Rise Up” (1974) and] “Work, Education and Struggle: Seeds for Progressive Change” (1975). He, and his wife, Merle, were founding members of Soh Daiko in 1979. Soh Daiko was the first taiko (Japanese drum) group on the east coast at the time. From 1991-2011, [Okada] worked in international corporate philanthropy at the Citigroup Foundation. (“Asian American Arts Alliance 33rd Anniversary Gala Honoree, Awardee and Performer Bios”, 2016, pp. 2,3; http://aaartsalliance.org/page/33rd-anniversary-gala-honoree-performer-bios)

”Rise Up (1974) enamelled painting. Madison St. between Pike St and Rutgers St., New York. This mural is the expression of the Asian community [on] the North American continent, of its roots[, h]istory, its emancipation, its struggles against all...forms of exploitation and the affirmation of its solidarity [with] other ethnic groups.” (“FLASH-BACK Murals, Etats-Unis, années 70” Catalogue, Galerie municipale Jean-Collet du 7 septembre au 12 octobre 2014, 59, avenue Guy-Môquet 94400 Vitry-sur-Seine, p. 27; Photo credit: art-public, photographies de Jean-Constant Gindreau)

13 Moishe Shaw-----no information found

14 “Harlem Youth Opportunities Unlimited, more commonly called HARYOU, was a social activism organization founded by Dr. Kenneth Clark in 1962 and directed by Cyril deGrasse Tyson... . The group worked to increase opportunities in education and employment for young blacks in Harlem. ...HARYOU merged with Associated Community Teams (ACT), under the aegis of Congressman Adam Clayton Powell, Jr.. The combined entity took the name HARYOU-ACT.”; https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Harlem_Youth_Opportunities_Unlimited. “The President's Advisory Commission on Civil Disorder reported in March 1968 that in city after city where serious riots had occurred over the past several summers, ghetto residents had bitter complaints about the lack of adequate park and recreation facilities and programs in their neighborhoods. ...Recently this pattern has begun to change. In the early 1960s, such antipoverty organizations as Mobilization for Youth and HARYOU- ACT received substantial funding; while their primary focus has been on community organization, education, and vocational development, a number of such organizations have developed extensive youth recreational programs and cultural activities.” (Richard Kraus, “Providing for Recreation and Aesthetic Enjoyment”, Proceedings of the Academy of Political Science, Vol. 29, No. 4, Governing the City: Challenges and Options for New York, 1969, p. 98; http://www.jstor.org/stable/1173689.

15 John T. Reddick, “POWER, ART & MOSAICS TO THE PEOPLE!!!”, The Harlem Eye: HarlemOneStop, April 24, 2008, p. 3; http://beatonthestreetharlem.blogspot.com/2008/04/power-art-mosaics.html.

16 Olga U. Herrera, "Raza Art & Media Collective: A Latino Art Group in the Midwestern United States", Institute for Latino Studies, University of Notre Dame, Indiana, p. 31; http://icaadocs.mfah.org/icaadocs/Portals/0/WorkingPapers/No1/Olga%20U.%20Herrera.pdf.

17 From a review of Toward a People's Art by Eva Cockcroft, John Weber and JimCockcroft by David Shapiro and Cecile Shapiro in Art Journal, Vol. 37, No. 4 (Summer, 1978), pp. 358+360; http://www.jstor.org/stable/776056

18 From http://www.psilvastudios.com/ps_biography.html via http://www.bguthriephotos.com/graphlib.nsf/keys/2010_TN_FM_Dees?OpenDocument&DescFull.

20 David Harding, “Arts the Catalyst”; http://www.indymedia.org.uken/2004/11/301084.shtml.

21 "Pedro Silva...Visiting Artist", Chicago Mural Group/Public Artworks Newsletter, July/August 1984, p. 2. (Courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group) 

22 Email from Andrew Crummy to Michael Padwee dated March 8, 2017.

23 Letter from Pedro Silva to Lynn Takata of the Chicago Mural Group dated June 5, 1984. (Courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group)

24 618 Church Street, Nashville, the address of the Cardiovascular Center, is now a Morton's Steakhouse. The mural may not have survived this transformation.

25 According to the current principal of the Eakin School, Timothy Drinkwine, whose tenure did not begin until recently, this mural was in the old stairwell going down to the cafeteria in what is now the Martin Center in the school. The security desk on the lower level is the wall on which it hung. Mr. Drinkwine has no idea what happened to it during the construction and renovation that took place in about 2006. (Email from Timothy Drinkwine to Michael Padwee dated March 20, 2017.)

26 “In Chicago José Gamaliel González, Pablo Sierra and others established Mi Raza Arts Consortium (MIRA) in 1981. ...MIRA participated in the execution of the YMCA mural with Chilean artist Pedro Silva... .” (Olga U.Herrera, Toward the Preservation of a Heritage: Latin American and Latino Art in the Midwestern United States, Notre Dame University, Institute of Latino Studies, Notre Dame, IN, 2008, p. 58) and “In an email (May 18, 2007), Jeff Huebner, a freelance writer on Chicago’s art scene, notes the mural ‘Chicago’s Dream’ was designed and executed by Jose along with Pedro Silva...as the result of an exchange with Silva sponsored by MIRA. Huebner comments that ‘the mosaic appears to have been lost or destroyed...; maybe it’s still somewhere in storage... .” (Jose Gamaliel Gonzalez, Edited by Marc Zimmerman, Bringing Aztlan to Mexican Chicago: My Life, My Work, My Art, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, IL, 2010, Chapter 4 Notes, Note 2, p. 151)

          José Gamaliel González, Collage of Chicago Latino murals, 1976.                

"Born near Monterrey, Mexico, and raised in a steel mill town in northwest Indiana, José Gamaliel González studied art at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and the University of Notre Dame. Settling in Chicago, he founded two major art groups: El Movimiento Artístico Chicano (MARCH) in the 1970s and Mi Raza Arts Consortium (MIRA) in the 1980s"(http://www.press.uillinois.edu/wordpress/?p=12527)


Alex Garza in 2008 next to his and Lupe Ruiz' tile mural, “llama mucho la atencion.” in South Tucson, Arizona. (Photo credit: Borderlore: Folklife and Culture in the US-Mexico Borderlands blog, September 1, 2008; https://borderlore.wordpress. com/2008/09/01/34/)

27 Alex Garza "was born in Cristal, an epicenter at one time for Mexican-American civil rights in Texas. Garza’s  family moved well before Jose Angel Gutierrez, a founder of La Raza Unida, and other activists changed the course for Mexican-Americans in south Texas.

"The Garzas found discrimination up north when they settled in Des Plaines, Ill., where they worked tomato and onion fields near what was becoming O’Hare Airport. 

"His and other Mexican-American families were pushed off the main streets, and Garza was intent on exploring. He did in Chicago in the heady late 1960s. He studied and trained and gravitated not toward galleries but to neighborhoods.

"He [...was teaching] at Las Artes[, an arts group affiliated with the Allianza Internacional del Desierto Sonorense in Tucson]." (http://www.artandarchitecture-sf.com/tag/alex-garza)

28 “In 1975, YSP programming responded to community volunteers’ concerns about the impact of drugs on the youth and the community. Since then, YSP has expanded to meet the changing needs of the community through a continuum of programs that focuses on youth development, recreational opportunities and respecting the voices of our young people. ...Our core service areas are recreation, prevention, diversion, intervention, arts and culture, education, and community building.” (http://www.youthserviceproject.org/history)

29 “In 1971, a group of artists concerned with the relationship of art to society formed the Chicago Mural Group, later renamed the Chicago Public Art Group (CPAG). The founding mission was to establish creative partnerships between artists and communities in an effort to transform and enhance the lives of residents in urban Chicago neighborhoods.”(http://www.chicagopublicartgroup.org/history-of-cpag/)

30 From http://www.psilvastudios.com/ps_biography.html via http://www.bguthriephotos.com/graphlib.nsf/keys/2010_TN_FM_Dees?OpenDocument&DescFull.

31 Undated 1984 Press Release from the Chicago Mural Group. (Courtesy of Chicago Public Art Group)

32 "Pedro Silva...Visiting Artist", Chicago Mural Group/Public Artworks Newsletter, July/August 1984, p. 2. (Courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group)

33 MIRA/Mi Raza Arts Consortium, "Narrative Report, Chicago's Dream-Mural at Symons YMCA", October 15, 1984, p. 2. (Courtesy of the Chicago Public Art Group)

34 Email from Max De Zutter to Michael Padwee, “Re: Requesting information about a mural for an article”, dated March 6, 2017.

35 From http://www.psilvastudios.com/ps_biography.html via http://www.bguthriephotos.com/graphlib.nsf/keys/2010_TN_FM_Dees?OpenDocument&DescFull.

36 Translated email from Sonia Martinez to Michael Padwee dated March 16, 2017.

37 A tri-folded, 8 1/2" x 11" mailing from "The Committee To Save Grant’s Tomb Mosaic Bench" dated 16 July 1980; http://spacesarchives.org/uploads/2014/03/20/ny078.pdf.

38 Janet Allon, “Mosaic Benches Face Unseating At Grant's Tomb”, The New York Times, March 30, 1997; http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/30/nyregion/mosaic-benches-face-unseating-at-grant-s-tomb.html.

39 Ibid. 

40 "Joseph Huff-Hannon is an activist and award-winning writer who has been published in The New York Times, The Guardian, Salon, and elsewhere. He works with the international advocacy group Avaaz.org, and is one of the founding campaigners of global LGBT rights group AllOut.org. He is co-editor of the book Gay Propaganda: Russian Love Stories." (https://www.theguardian.com/profile/joseph-huff-hannon)

41 Beth Edelstein, Sherman Fairchild Center for Objects Conservation, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, “Call for volunteers--Grant’s Tomb”, August 8, 2008; http://cool.conservation-us.org/byform/mailing-lists/cdl/2008/0904.html

42 Jay Akasie, "Teaching Children the Benefits of Restoration", The New York Sun, August 27, 2008; http://www.nysun.com/antiques/teaching-children-the-benefits-of-restoration/84677/.

43 Janet Allon, “Mosaic Benches Face Unseating At Grant's Tomb”, The New York Times, March 30, 1997; http://www.nytimes.com/1997/03/30/nyregion/mosaic-benches-face-unseating-at-grant-s-tomb.html.


I would like to thank Steve Weaver, Executive Director, Chicago Public Art Group and especially, CPAG volunteer, Max De Zutter, for Max's help in locating and sharing photos and written records about the “Chicago’s Dream” mural. Also, thanks to Sonia Martínez, Marketing & PR Assistant at the Hotel Arts Barcelona for her information; Ragan Webber, photographer; Michael Murphy of Morton's Steakhouse, Nashville, TN; and John Musto, Head Custodian of MS 246, Brooklyn.


Rest in Peace

Our condolences to the family of preservationist, architectural historian and author, Christopher Gray (1950-2017). His untimely death is a loss to us all.


Photo Exhibit

For those of you in or around the Doylestown, PA area, two of my photos were accepted for a juried exhibit, "Americana", at the Pennsylvania Center for Photography, 181 East Court Street, Doylestown, March 24-April 9. All of the photos in the print exhibition and in the digital print exhibition can be accessed through http://www.pacenterforphotography.org/americana-2017-exhibitors/.

"Abandoned Concourse Under the World Trade Center Construction Site" (Taken 1974, Printed 2015)

"45 Essex Street" (Taken 1975, Printed 2017)



"A Factory As It Might Be" and the 2016 Ortner Preservation Awards

The Atlantic Terra Cotta Company and the Beginnings of Polychrome Terra Cotta Use

Bits and Pieces: The Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel and following up on the James N. Gamble House and the Charles Volkmar Overmantle Mural

Art Deco Buildings and Their Lobbies: the Chrysler Building, the Film Center Building and the Kent Garage/Sofia Brothers Storage Warehouse


The Heart of the Park: Bethesda Terrace and its suspended Minton Tile ceiling

A Landmarks hearing was held on July 19, 2016...

Two Restorations: The City Hall Subway Station and the Tweed Courthouse

Egyptian, Moorish and Middle Eastern Ornamentation Used In Art Deco Terra Cotta in New York City, and Empire State Dairy Update
Wall Murals in Brooklyn: A Mini Survey

Inside Prospect Park: The park's Rustic, Classical and other Internal Architecture

Herman Carl Mueller in Titusville and Trenton, New Jersey; A Charles Volkmar Discovery in Clifton, New Jersey

A Book Review and New Discoveries and Updates-II: Jean Nisan, Ceramic Tile Artist

Polychrome Terra Cotta Buildings in Newark, New Jersey

New Discoveries-I: The Tiled House of Jere T. Smith

Introducing the Stained and Dalle de Verre Glass Art of Robert Pinart

Bits and Pieces: Polychrome Terra Cotta- and Tile-Clad Buildings

Socialist and Labor Architecture and Iconography in New York City

Bits and Pieces: Two Mosaics--Hamden, CT and Manchester, NH

The Renaissance Casino and Ballroom Complex in Harlem: Another Tunisian Tile Installation Headed for Demolition

Clement J. Barnhorn and the Rookwood Pottery

The Woolworth Building

The Mosaic Art of Hildreth Meière

Lost Tile Installations: The Tunisian Tiles of the Chemla Family

The Grueby Children's Murals on East 104th Street

The Experimental Lustre Tiles of Rafael Guastavino, Jr.

Bits and Pieces: Two "E"s--Eltinge and Elks; and more about Jean Nison

The Ceramic Tiles and Murals of Jean Nison

Pleasant Days in Short Hills: A Rookwood Wonderland

Architectural Ceramics in the Queen City

Isaac Broome: Innovation and Design in the Tile Industry after the Centennial Exhibition

"Immigration on the Lower East Side": A Public Arts Mural Created by Richard Haas

Movie Palaces-Part 2: The Loews 175th Street Theatre

Béton-Coignet in New York: The New York and Long Island Coignet Stone Company

Michelin House, London

Movie Palaces, Part 1: Loew's Valencia Theatre

An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part II

The Tiles of Fonthill Castle

An Architectural and Ceramic Tour of Istanbul - Part I

Tiled Facades in Madrid

Nineteenth Century Brooklyn Potteries

Ernest Batchelder in Manhattan

Leon Victor Solon: Color, Ceramics and Architecture

Architectural Art Tiles in Reading, Pennsylvania

Charles Lamb and Charles Volkmar

Kansas City Architecture - II

Kansas City Architecture - I

Westchester County--Atwood and Grueby

Modern Houses in New Caanan, Connecticut

PPG Place, Pittsburgh

Aluminum City Terrace, New Kensington, Pennsylvania

Newark's WPA Tile Murals: “Fine Art is an Important Part of Everyday Life”

Public Art Programs in New York City: The CETA Tile Murals at Clark Street

Concrete and Tiles-I: Moyer, Mercer, Murosa

The Café Savarin and the Rookwood Pottery; Chocolate Shoppe Rebounds

Architectural Ceramics of Henry Varnum Poor

Herman Carl Mueller and the Church of St. Thomas the Apostle

Meet Me at the Astor

The Mikvah Under 5 Allen Street; "Historic Hall" Apartments Revisited

London Post-3

Some Moravian Tile Sites in New York

London Post-2

London Post-1

Brooklyn's International Tile Company

Subway Tiles-Part III, the Squire Vickers Era

Subway Tiles-Part II, Heins and LaFarge

Subway Tiles--Part I, Guastavino tiles

Trent in New York-Part III, Historic Hall Apartment House

American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part II, Artists' Tiles

Trent in New York-Part II, a Dey Street Restaurant

American Encaustic Tiling Company-Part I, Tile Showrooms

Trent in New York-Part I, The Bronx Theatre

Fred Dana Marsh's Tiles


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