At A Glance
Developed as part of the Association for Public Art’s Form and Function program
“El Gran Teatro de la Luna”—”The Huge Theater of the Moon”
Vividly colored aluminum acrobats tumble and cavort
The silhouette figures include a female dancer-gymnast, a juggler, a person standing on his/her head, and devilish performers
Rafael Ferrer, a native of Puerto Rico who moved to Philadelphia in 1966, created El Gran Teatro de la Luna for the Fairmount Park Art Association’s (now the Association for Public Art) Form and Function project. Following a period of time in storage, El Gran Teatro de la Luna was recently restored and repainted by Ferrer for the City of Philadelphia through the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, with funding from the NEA and matching support for the artist by the Association for Public Art. The sculpture was reinstalled in 2012 as part of Philadelphia’s Parks & Recreation’s site renovations.
Observers have seen both joy and frenzy in the postures and the extravagant epoxy colors
Vividly colored aluminum acrobats tumble and cavort. The silhouette figures include a female dancer-gymnast, a juggler balancing on a pyramid of spheres, a person with a bright red dress and a mustache standing on their head, and strange, devilish performers doing tricks on wheels. Lowercase script letters spell out the title, El Gran Teatro de la Luna – “The Huge Theater of the Moon.”
The moon is recalled in the wheels and balls used as the acrobats’ props, and it becomes a symbol for the inspiration behind the performance. Observers have seen both joy and frenzy in the postures and the extravagant epoxy colors, which range from red and pink to lavender and chartreuse.
In 1999, as part of the Association’s New•Land•Marks program, artist Jaime Suárez developed Glorietas of Fairhill Square which incorporated a pavilion that could provide a new base for Ferrer’s work.
Adapted from Public Art in Philadelphia by Penny Balkin Bach (Temple University Press, Philadelphia, 1992).
New York based artist and percussionist Rafael Ferrer was born in 1933 in Santurce, Puerto Rico, and lived and worked in Philadelphia for many years. From his early days as a musician and his Surrealist-influenced abstract drawings and conceptual/process actions and installations, to his lush tropical paintings, maps, and works on paper bags, Ferrer’s work defies categorization. His artwork was featured in a major retrospective at El Museo del Barrio in New York City in 2010, and a 2012 survey of his works on paper at the Lancaster Museum of Art, PA. His work is included in the permanent collections of many museums in the US and abroad. In 1970 he executed Deflected Fountain 1970, for Marcel Duchamp on the East Terrace of the Philadelphia Museum of Art. His sculpture El Gran Teatro de la Luna was commissioned by the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) in 1982 for Fairhill Square Park in North Philadelphia. Ferrer has repainted and restored El Gran Teatro de la Luna for the City of Philadelphia through the Office of Arts, Culture and the Creative Economy, with funding from the NEA and matching support for the artist by the Association for Public Art. The sculpture was recently reinstalled as part of Philadelphia Parks & Recreation’s site renovations, and a rededication ceremony was held Tuesday, May 14, 2013.
Voices heard in the program:
Rafael Ferrer is the New York-based artist and percussionist who created the “El Gran Teatro de la Luna” sculpture. Born in Santurce, Puerto Rico, Ferrer lived and worked in Philadelphia for many years.
Dr. Carmen Febo San Miguel is the former Executive Director of El Taller Puertorriqueño, a community-based organization in Philadelphia that preserves, develops and promotes Puerto Rican arts and culture.
Deborah Cullen Morales is an American art curator with a specialization in Latin American and Caribbean art. She created a retrospective of Ferrer’s work for El Museo del Barrio in New York City.
Segment Producer: Anne Hoffman
Photos by Alec Rogers
Rafael Ferrer was the guest speaker at the Association for Public Art’s 141st Annual Meeting on May 13, 2013 at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The New York based artist and percussionist delivered a thought-provoking and engaging illustrated talk (“Nothing is…what it is”) to attendees in the Van Pelt Auditorium, tracing his personal development as a musician and visual artist over the past 60 years. For this occasion, the Philadelphia Museum of Art showcased two of Ferrer’s artworks from their collection.
To bridge the gap between public art and ordinary life, the Fairmount Park Art Association (now the Association for Public Art) initiated the pioneering program Form and Function in 1980. The Association invited artists to propose public art projects for Philadelphia that would be utilitarian, site-specific, and integral to community life—works that would be integrated into the public context through use as well as placement.
Each artist was asked to give meaning or identity to a place, to probe for the genius loci, or the “spirit of the place.” The Association for Public Art’s intention was to respond to the needs of a changing city, as well as to accommodate the expressions of individual artists.