Painting Over Poverty

By Bill Maher

The Amtrak train that serves Philadelphia passes through some pretty depressing ghettos on the city’s north side, and it makes the commuters sad. So Amtrak got the NEA and some other foundations to kick in $290,000, and they hired German artist Katharina Grosse to paint a giant mural over the abandoned buildings.  

The project curator says the piece, titled psychylustro, is “an experience that asks people to think about this space that they hurtle through every day.” I have no idea what that means, but I do know that the “people” she refers to are the commuters; the actual residents of North Philly won’t be able to see the art. Unless they buy an Amtrak ticket. 

So this is what urban renewal has come to in America: paint the side of the poor neighborhood facing the commuter trains pretty colors. It’s literally painting over the problem. Now I’m all for public art, even though most of it sucks balls, but if you’ve got 300 grand to spend on a poor neighborhood, don’t spend it on paint.