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Krakow announces new mural policy

30 of December '21

The Cracow City Hall has announced the creation of a "Cracow mural policy" team. By doing so, it wants to create a new system of mural management that takes into account not only their creation, but also the study of their impact, management and maintenance.

Murals are now an integral part of not only large cities, but also small towns and villages. They appear everywhere, and due to fashion and quantity, many of them haunt us for years if poorly designed or left unattended. Properly used, they allow the creation of public spaces and improve the image of quarters and even neighborhoods.

The introduction of murals can also have dire consequences for urban spaces. In the case of advertising or marketing abuse, lack of proper aesthetic evaluation of the project or termination of care for the mural after it has been painted. To avoid such problems, the Cracow City Hall has decided to create a "Cracow mural policy."

Wild City

Wild City

© Architecture & Business

Team for murals

The first step in introducing the policy will be the establishment of a special team for murals. It is this interdisciplinary unit that will be responsible for giving its opinion on new applications, as well as collecting and sharing documentation related to existing and emerging murals. It will also be important to integrate the various units of the city on the issue of murals and, above all, to assess the condition of Krakow's murals.

Those submitting proposals for new murals will have to answer a series of questions taking into account artistic value, technique or local context. The interdisciplinary team consists of representatives of the city, artists, cultural researchers and curators. The team will be led by Artur Celinski, a political scientist, city consultant and head of the City DNA project. The chief subject matter expert will be Aleksandra Litorowicz, a cultural scholar and street art researcher and president of the Can Foundation.

Artur Celiński, creator of the murals team, and Aleskandra Litorowicz, the team's main expert,talk about the institution, the idea for its organization and the goals to be achieved

Wiktor Bochenek: The City of Krakow has announced a mural policy. What is it supposed to consist of?

Artur Celiński: This policy is, on the one hand, an effort to organize procedures related tomurals, and on the other hand, a response to the most important challenges related to this field of art. Currently, the decision to create a new mural is made in very different ways. Not all of them make it possible to verify whether a given mural will fit well into the context of a place or whether it is simply good art that we would like to see in a public space. Since it is not always possible to consult specialists, there are situations in which the decision to place a mural is made on purely administrative grounds. The Mural Team, which we are introducing with the mural policy, is intended to be a place where we combine different perspectives on looking at a mural. Thanks to its diversity, the Team will see the mural as both a work of art, an object in space or a type of social intervention. It will therefore be able to comprehensively assess the quality of new murals, as well as help decide what to do with existing works. After all, not all murals need to stay with us permanently. Sometimes it's worth making room for new works. Who should decide this today? The owner of the wall? The mayor of the city? The city's visual artist? The councilors? The Murals Team will be extremely helpful here.

Wiktor Bochenek: What will the work of the Murals Team consist of?

Artur Celiński: Themost important challenge is to create a definition of a good mural - a kind of standard that will tell us what issues should be taken into account when creating new murals. Because, after all, it is not only the quality of the work itself, but also the context of the place where it will be created or the issue of its maintenance in the future. We will build this definition and this standard through transparency of opinion on each work. We already have established evaluation criteria and a framework procedure to follow. However, we are proud of the fact that we have managed to leave a considerable space to the Team members, who will be able to decide for themselves the details of their work - for example, how to select the various criteria and what weight to give them when evaluating a particular work. We know that every mural is different and deserves individual attention. We trust that in this way the Team will build a base of knowledge and experience, which can then be used by other people and institutions not connected with Krakow City Hall - such as private investors or housing cooperatives.

Wiktor Bochenek: Are you not afraid of the charge of censorship?

Artur Celiński: This question has accompanied us from the beginning of our work on this policy. That's why we involved a very large number of artists, curators or mural experts in this work. We wanted this mechanism from the very beginning to provide, first of all, an opportunity for wise and open discussion, and every decision to have a factual basis. Of course, all the time we will look at how it all works. We have left ourselves this space to learn how to react to all the phenomena we may encounter in this work.

Wiktor Bochenek: Can a mural perform city-forming functions?

Artur Celiński: Huge. We all feel it - a mural can awaken a given space, but just as well put it in trouble. Aleksandra Litorowicz, one of the better researchers of art in public space and co-author of this policy, constantly reminded us of this. That's why I'm convinced that we have succeeded here in building mechanisms that, in addition to the development of mural art itself, will also prevent them from being abused or placed in inappropriate places.

Wiktor Bochenek: What is a bad mural in public space?

Aleksandra Litorowicz: I think that it is often not so much the mural that is bad - as a better or worse example of monumental painting - but the consequences that its appearance can have for a city can be disturbing. Both individually, when it changes the landscape of a place without respecting the will and needs of the residents, when it is obtrusively didactic, when it pretends to be something it is not, or when it is nothing more than a monument to the ego. On the other hand, if we treat urban murals as a collection, the strategies for dealing with them, locating them or subjecting them to critical reflection, have a huge impact on the city on a broader scale. These "bad" tendencies that we observe, for example, are the creation of works that are completely indifferent, purely decorative, or, on the contrary, over-visible and self-interested, which in excess dominate the physical and cultural landscape of a place. A kind of mural "fever", which caught up with Polish cities quite recently, has fortunately already eased, but its consequences are with us all the time. In my opinion, the most dangerous is, surprisingly, the omission that a mural can carry. It often happens that when we organize a mural, we are convinced that its power will in some mysterious way radiate to the neighborhood - it will heal it, revitalize it, beautify it, make the residents more reflective and active. This doesn't usually happen, and we have to admit it. It is interesting that it is precisely this medium, nevertheless quite inaccessible, lofty, sedentary, that we treat as so causal - probably the most causal in the field of art in public space. All the more reason for us to take it seriously, taking into account site- and situation-specific qualitative criteria. So if I were to summarize - a bad mural is probably one that we didn't take seriously.

Wiktor Bochenek: Thank you for the interview!

Wiktor Bochenek

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