Friday, September 5, 2014

The debate regarding the new mural

There is a lot of talk regarding the new mural on the side of the Denholm building.  Some people love it, while others are not so thrilled with the final painting.  I personally am keeping my opinion to myself as I do not want to get caught up in all of the debate surrounding this.  Below is an article written by Janice Harvey for Worcester Magazine.
Yes, the Denholm building does not look as pristine as it once did now that it is converted to office spaces, but it is still a historic building in the downtown area. I am planning to be able to devote more of my time to beautify it and present a better street-scape and update some of the interiors.  Hopefully the building will be able to gain the respect and prominence that it once held in the downtown area again.

Brush Strokes  Written by Janice Harvey  ·  08/28/2014  ·  5:00 am

When former City Manager Mike O’Brien announced to the Worcester City Council plans to facilitate the installation of a large-scale mural on the blank wall of the Denholm building, he stressed the purpose of such a task. In a letter dated August 20, 2013, O’Brien stated that such an undertaking should be “complementary to the character and history of both the Downtown and the City as a whole.”
So much for the best-laid plans of city managers, mice and men.
The Denholm building is an iconic structure near and dear to life-long residents of Worcester. Its glory days invoke for many remembrances of a simpler time, when “Downtown” was a destination spot, when Main Street’s businesses, some established before the automobile ruled the road, still enjoyed healthy foot traffic. Denholm’s was Main Street’s sparkling gem, literally, during the holiday season, when families jumped into the station wagon and cruised downtown to view the Christmas lights that graced store windows.
For me, Denholm’s was a place that deserved my best behavior. When I climbed down from the #30 bus on a Saturday, I wore my best shoes, a dress normally saved for Sunday Mass and white gloves on my hands. At the intersection of Main and Franklin, my police officer father directed traffic wearing his own white gloves, spinning on his heels and waving his arms like a conductor facing the orchestra pit. While much has changed since then, the Denholm building still stands. Though it is no longer a department store, it serves the community well as a multi-use property. It remains a familiar anchor for many, and as such, deserves to be treated with respect.
We all have our own ideas about what constitutes “art”; there are those among us who consider anything remotely abstract to be “junk,” whose taste runs this side of Norman Rockwell. There’s nothing wrong with that. I’m no art critic, but I’ve done my share of mural work. I’m what I call a decent “rip-off artist” - that is, I can copy anything well enough to get paid for it. I’ve never attempted work on a grand scale, and I commend those who try. That said, the mural that now covers the Chatham Street wall of the Denholm building is all wrong. The only part artist Caleb Neelon got right regarding O‘Brien’s letter is the “character” part. It’s a cartoon.
The mural would fit right in on a playground or a schoolyard, but it has no place on our beloved Denholm building. It makes no connection to the city’s history, and when I described it as an “epic fail” on Facebook, there was no shortage of opinions posted. Local journalist Brian Goslow was his usual diplomatic self, choosing to comment not on the art itself, rather its impact on the area residents:
“To the young children of Worcester who walk its cold, dirty streets, finally something is here that speaks to them, inspired by them.”
Sorry, Brian, but this mural is not viewed exclusively by children walking to school. If that’s the target audience, paint this on a schoolyard wall. This mural is silly and amateurish.
Said Edward Moynihan, after likening the subject to a plastic Kooshball: “The Kooshball is not constricted by gender or age or ethnicity or race…it excludes nobody…it resembles nobody. It is inclusive without hitting you over the head with a mallet.”
I disagree, Ed. Why must a city as diverse as Worcester be homogenized in paint?
From Florida, retired Worcester cop Tom Belezarian had this to say: “It’s part of Worcester history…It’s the same as the White House is to Washington. Would you paint it red or yellow and feel the same? I doubt it.”
I’m inclined to agree, Tom, and not because you were my old man’s partner.
Local artist Howard B. Johnson Jr. got into the kerfluffle – which some thought was a good name for the character depicted on the wall – and he didn’t mince words. “It always has been those with no worldly knowledge aesthetics and professionalism botching up the making of important decisions here.”
Howard’s proposed artwork was vetoed.
Former Womag cartoonist Doug Chapel chimed in with this: “This mural says a lot about how the mural committee people ignored the local talent pool for no good reason …whitewash this and start over.”
Actually, Doug said a whole lot more about being ostracized, and cast off as a rabble rouser, but you get the picture – no pun intended.
Here’s what I think should have been painted on the side of the good ship Denholm: its famous logo. The Denholm bag, with its elegant gold and white stripes and flowing, bold black script, was as recognizable to Worcesterites as the City Hall clock, the Union Station towers, and the neon wiener of Coney Island. Whether it’s art, a monstrosity or an eye sore, one thing’s for certain: the Kooshball sure caused a kerfluffle.


  1. Not impressed. A 'canvas' this big needs a big image.

    It would have been so cool (and appropriate!) had they attempted to recreate a postcard image of downtown Worvester circa 1950, complete with gorgeous cars, and those well-dressed shoppers heading into Filenes, Sharfman's and, of course, Denholm's to do their Sarurday shopping....

  2. someone had to explain it on the FB Your Probably from Worcester If...threads that it represents the rebuilding of downtown. Of course, we don't have as many skyscraper like buildings as the image projects. At least that beat my thought of the Kooshie that ate worcester.

  3. I agree with anonymous. Recreating an old postcard image of Worcester's downtown glory days would have been my choice. Don't give up Christopher on your dreams for the Denholm building. Dreams really do come true!

  4. Wow, I'm just a transplanted native Southern Californian, now living the life of a Hoosier in Indiana, so I don't really know anything about the Denholm's store or the building (but what I've seen on this blog) and it seems to me that this new "artwork" on the side of the building does nothing to enhance the character or history of the building or its surroundings, whatsoever! At least in the town I live in (Marion, IN), when the large old 1880s bank was torn down a couple of years ago to build a new, smaller, more "efficient" one, which in turn exposed a huge brick wall from the building next door, the city had several very large murals painted of famous people born in our city, including; actor James Dean and Garfield the Cat (Creator Jim Davis was born in Marion). These murals were done very well, and add great charm and interest to the downtown area. Several different themes were proposed for the wall, as it is seen by everyone driving or walking through the downtown area, and I believe the best one was chosen, but it is really a shame that something equally enhancing didn't happen on the Denholm's building. God Bless, keep your chin up, and know that it can always be done over!