While it’s true that, generally speaking, we love us some Inga Saffron, the Inquirer architecture critic’s Friday column has gone over like a fart in church. Ostensibly on Haas & Hahn’s mural project on Germantown Avenue, commissioned by Mural Arts, she has generally good things to say about the piece itself, as a work of art (though clearly, for some reason, it pains her to admit it). What the bulk of the piece is spent on, though, is a rhetorical gambit that we suspect even Saffron herself knows is straight-up bullshit.
It goes like this: When will the city stop pretending that a mural can fix everything? This is a false argument that winds up being kind of insulting to everyone involved. For one, though this Mayor’s administration is not without its problems, it is thankfully populated with human beings possessed with enough intellect to know that a coat of paint is not the solution (and, to their credit, they are throwing plenty of other help in Germantown Avenue’s direction). For another, Saffron is in great danger of falling down a Byko hole with this mural stuff; what started out as a sensible “No thank you” to that dumb PSFS proposal is now quickly morphing into something else altogether. (Note to Inga: Do not allow murals to be your bicycle/al fresco dining axe to grind. You are too good for this.) Also, her solution to all of this is the ghost of Tony Goldman, which is like, sure, okay. And finally, there’s also something buried in here about race and class that is too nasty to even touch or maybe even acknowledge. All in all, it’s a whole lotta fail. That mural, though? Stunning. Enough, even, to nab Haas & Hahn a nomination for the Philebrity Award for General Fabulousness.