Theses (Historic Preservation)


Sang Weon Bae

Document Type

Thesis or dissertation

Date of this Version



Suggested Citation:

Bae, Sang (2016). Balancing Past and Present: Reevaluating Community Murals and Existing Practices. (Masters Thesis). University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, PA.


In the late 1960s, mural painting was adopted as a channel of social expression for those who felt that they did not possess the agency to establish their own cultural representation and identity. These people, usually from ethnic enclaves and disenfranchised urban areas, painted on walls combining imageries adopted from their cultural roots with contemporary styles and inspiration to visually communicate their concerns, hopes, and culture as a collective community. This practice of community muralism has continued in various areas to present. However, these community murals are quickly and consistently disappearing from the built environment today, despite the conservation efforts by various organizations and professionals. Within this context, this study reevaluates the murals as a cultural resource and the existing practices in which they are addressed to reveal the challenges at the root of the problem. Introducing the often neglected concept of ephemerality to the discussion of these murals, this study determines that the resource is more complicated than is regarded by the preservation field. It then offers a comprehensive approach to treating these murals, not only as images from the past but as a continuing social practice.


community murals, mural conservation, social process, ephemeral art, democratic art



Date Posted: 31 May 2016