Philadelphia muralist Isaiah Zagar laughed heartily Saturday morning when told that Oklahoma Sen. Tom Coburn included Racine's Uptown murals among the worst federal waste of the year.
"That's just wonderful," Zagar guffawed into his cellphone, "because the amount of money I received was $5,000 to do two murals that would have cost $250,000!" The picture at left shows him working here on Uptown's mosaic murals, on June 13, 2008.
In fact, Zagar recently received $100,000 for a single mural -- much smaller than Racine's -- "that was received to great acclaim" with the opening of a new convention center in Phoenix, Arizona. It was a project that took three years from commission to completion -- unlike Racine's that was done in a weekend. The piece is called "The Earth Dreaming," and is described on the convention center's website as "a colorful mosaic of tile murals which creates Phoenix and Arizona-specific imagery."
"I have no idea what set the man off," Zagar said, adding, "politicians don't have a very good reputation these days. They're not doing very well; they all seem to be on the take. Whereas my 'take' was just $5,000 for two murals ... and the money came, some of it, from the business people in the area who paid $250 so high school students could benefit from the teaching."
Referring to this week's events in Chicago, with the arrest of Gov. Rod Blagojevich, Zagar said, "They did a report on NPR this week that was so beautiful. Quotes from all sorts of politicians, 'I deny it,' 'I am above suspicion,' 'Not me' ... and they're all in jail. Whereas your mayor, Gary Becker, he drives an old car, he came to the airport himself to pick me up, he was down at the mural site every day."
Zagar also pointed to Richard Florida's book, "Who's Your City?: How the Creative Economy Is Making Where to Live the Most Important Decision of Your Life," and noted that "the young, the bohemian, the artists -- these are the people who recreate a city, get it going agian, the engine."
Not -- he left the thought unsaid -- politicians like a certain Oklahoma senator.