Wall Therapy, Reinventing Rochester's Reputation as Image City
-by Carol White Llewellyn
If you've wandered around downtown Rochester, you've probably noticed the occasional mural on the side of a building. Have you ever wondered how it got there?
The week of July 22, I had the chance to see the creation of one of these murals from start to finish as artist Alice Mizrachi began work on the south side of RCTV (21 Gorham Street), the building in which I produce Conversations with Creatives.
Alice is muralist, fine artist, educator, and curator participating in an initiative called Wall Therapy. She last took part in 2014. Her only tools are an industrial lift, a mask to protect against the fumes, cans of paint in vibrant, glorious colors, and youth and adult volunteers who sometimes help her paint, sometimes pass paint to her as she maneuvers the lift, or often assist in other ways. There is a whole crew of videographers and photographers who capture the creation of each mural. I have been amazed to see the detail she can achieve with only cans of paint and various size nozzles.
The first Wall Therapy project was launched in 2011 by Dr. Ian Wilson, as a way to give back to Rochester. Initially titled “Visual Intervention,” it was renamed Wall Therapy in 2012 when 11 artists (known as "Therapists") from around the globe came to Rochester for a week-long festival of creation, rehabilitating by beautifying 16 walls throughout the City of Rochester. The project is described as “An art and community intervention project, using public murals as a means to transform the urban landscape, inspire, and build community.”
Since then, dozens of visual artists come through Rochester each year to create murals that inspire, contribute to the urban dialogue, and change the landscape in a positive way. Young people often work alongside the artists to create the mural art, gaining experience in collaboration, painting, and in understanding how art contributes to communities.
Since that first project, over 60 of the most talented and recognized artists from around the world have shared their talents and their visions, creating more than 100 murals throughout the city of Rochester. The artists are given no parameters for their mural, other than the size of the wall to be painted, and the invitation to express their vision. Some murals tell a story within the image, others are more graphically or geometrically-oriented. All murals should have a longevity of at least ten years or more. Because members of the community are involved in their creation, local residents are invested in their upkeep.
So, the next time you're looking for something to do with out-of-town guests that they could not find elsewhere, why not take them on a tour of some of our murals? These works certainly give new meaning to Rochester's name of "Image City."