When the Christian Association relocated this winter,
took the mural Sam Maitin created 15 years ago
commissioned him to do a new one, too.
I love the CA because it has always frowned on quotas and protected minorities,
says Sam Maitin FA51. I hung out there as a student and as a teacher
because I was attracted to its ecumenicalism and its agenda of social
activism. They have always been, and still are, in the forefront of the
kind of community action that I think is important.
Maitin has done
a lot more than just hang out at the Christian Association. The artist,
himself a social activist who has contributed much of his time and work
to causes like the anti-nuclear movement and protesting the Vietnam War,
created a mural for its Chapel of Reconciliation that provided solace
and inspiration to visitors for 15 years. This past winter, the mural
was moved to the associations new campus home. Maitin was the guest of
honor at a dinner and ceremony marking the organizations move, and he
is now in the midst of developing another mural for the new location.
The son of Russian
Jewish immigrants who owned a grocery store in North Philadelphia, Maitin
enrolled at Penn in 1945, when he was just 16. He couldnt believe Penn
accepted him, he says, adding that there were quotas for Jews at the time
and I was sure I wouldnt make the final cut. Maitin was also attending
what is now the Philadelphia College of Art on a scholarship he won in
high school; he took Penn courses at night, in art history as well as
other subjects, and graduated with a bachelor of fine arts in 1951.
as a teacher, printmaker, and graphic designer, eventually establishing
himself as an international artist of the first rank. Today, at 72, his
silkscreen prints, paintings, and sculptures can be found at the Philadelphia
Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, the Smithsonian Institution
in Washington, and the Tate Gallery in London. But Maitin is best known
for his public art; his signature murals and three-dimensional constructsabstract,
joyful, and colorfulthat enhance communal spaces around the globe.
On the Penn campus,
Maitins polychrome dimensional mural, Celebration, enlivens the lobby
of the Annenberg School for Communication, where he taught from 1966-1970.
Over the years, he has contributed banners and prints to the Wharton School,
the Dental School, and the School of Arts and Sciences. But perhaps he
is most of proud of the sectional mural he made for the CA.
In 1983, Rev.
Ralph Moore, the associations former executive director, commissioned
Maitin to paint an 18- x 8-foot mural. I went to study the space and
the light, says Maitin. There was a Penn student standing there on one
foot, meditating. I realized that this room, which Ralph called the Chapel
of Reconciliation, was for everybody. It took Maitin two years and 100
sketches to complete the acrylic mural that incorporates the words of
the late Penn professor and writer Hiram Haydn: As they flew low over
me, there was no sound but the beating of their great wings, like blows
of peace from God.
Sam Maitin in front of the mural he finished in 1985; detail from a sketch
for the new murals Maitin hopes to complete and install by this fall.
I am thinking of Genesis, of Creation, as a them, he says.