On July 28, 2021, The Galleries at Moore hosted an intimate gathering in the outdoor courtyard of Wilson Hall, celebrating the acquisition of Black Lives Matter, a newly retitled ceramic mural by artist John Costanza. From 1968 to 1983, Mr. Costanza was a professor and the chair of the ceramics department at Moore.
The intricately textured mural was conceived and constructed with students at University City High School (UCHS) in 1975 who had studied Black history in the arts and sciences. They collaborated with Mr. Costanza on the design––incorporating their learnings and volunteering their own faces and bodies via casts as imagery––which resulted in a visual blend of the contributors’ likenesses alongside the inscribed names of historically significant and prominent Black Americans.
Above: Video still from archival footage, sourced via Julia Guerrero
The mural was displayed at UCHS until 2013, when the school closed and the property was sold and redeveloped. Making sure it wasn’t demolished along with the campus, Mr. Costanza worked with the building’s buyers, as well as the City’s Percent for Art program, to seek a new home for the artwork and to preserve it as a memorial for UCHS and its extended community of alumni and faculty.
“The mural was crated and stored in my studio for six years, while I was attempting to find a new home for it,” he said.
Finally, the search came to an end when Moore was contacted about the piece. The College is proud to host the preserved mural as part of its permanent collection, in recognition of Mr. Costanza’s work and educational contributions, as well as that of his former students.
“Over a third of our students are students of color and are first-generation college attendees, so we are all about making sure that the arts are expressed by a broad range of people, and that’s, of course, what this mural reflects,” said Moore’s president, Cecelia Fitzgibbon in an interview with NBC Philadelphia.
Black Lives Matter is now on view for the College’s students, faculty and visitors, acting as a poignant tribute to the former UCHS students and their lived experiences, as well as the historical figures who inspired them.