December 13, 2008

Muralist Zagar says Racine got a bargain

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.


  1. It's the same thing the used car guy told me.

  2. And how is the Uptown Art Project going?
    When was the last time the Web Page was updated
    How many buildings has the City sold?
    How many artists have moved there or are they waiting for the RKM?

  3. I love driving past the mermaid mural on Washington. It is especially beautiful when it is sunny. I am glad to know that Zagar is such a respected artist, and feel that Racine is lucky to have some of his artwork.

  4. I haven't seen it. Where is it?

  5. It's in the Uptown section of Racine, on Washington Avenue.
    One mural is on the building that houses Hoernel Key Shop at 1327 Washington Ave.; the other, larger mural, is on the other side of the vacant lot that abuts Hoernel.

    If this works, HERE's Google Maps StreetView of the wall that has the smaller mural.

  6. boy i'm in the wrong business.

    cant believe he made 5k on it and
    all this money on the other ones.

    those murals are the ugliest pieces of art i've seen in a long time, i go past it every day.

    i cant wait for the day they tear them down.

  7. concrete Katie12/14/2008 10:08 AM

    Trends in art might trickle down from establishment circles but a real practicing artist such as Zagar just works. The uptown mural is a big job done well and it came about because it was outside the main stream in hopelessly one-way Racine. Racine needs more, not less, breakaways from the norm. I like the murals, too, because they are street art vs. the hoity toity which is so often passed off as art by the established art conveyors. Nothing Hoity Toity about uptown. Nothing Hoity Toity about Zarar either. It is a start. Turning a corner. It is not static or overly refined or hopelessly boring! Good job, Isaiah Zagar and crew!

  8. Art, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. I don’t always like, or even understand, the art I see. But I acknowledge that it is a statement; an expression of an artist’s inner vision or voice. I am respectful to that which they are doing to contribute to the creative process around them. I cannot imagine a world without art, and encourage all to continuing supporting the arts in their communities. Whether you merely hang a child’s finger painting upon your refrigerator, attend the various gallery functions, donate to an endowment fund, or purchase that perfect piece that speaks to you.

  9. If it is worth $250,000 then get someone to pay the $250,000 out of his own pocket.

    I mean, if the guy really thinks it is worth $250,000, why did he settle for only 2% of what he wanted?

    And if the people of Racine think it is so good, they should pay for it out of city tax coffers.

    Otherwise it is more pork barrel waste

  10. I love the sparkle, humor and aliveness of these murals. They add so much to the street scape, and many artists and kids had a great time creating them. I hope there will be more to enliven Racine.

  11. I saw the murals for the first time while attending the waterfront art fair and loved them. The ugly part is the space between that needs some grooming so the murals can be seen better.