Confessions of a Public Mural Artist

Author Sharon Koskoff is a public mural artist, designer, educator, community organizer, and preservationist. The Cultural Council awarded Koskoff with the Ellen Liman Arts Educator Muse Award of Excellence in 2014. She is the founding president of the Art Deco Society of the Palm Beaches. Koskoff wrote her first book, Art Deco of the Palm Beaches, for Arcadia Publishing in 2007.
By: Sharon Koskoff

 
When I was 14-years-old, my older sister Cheryl got married and moved into a large house. She was very stylish and always ahead of her time, while I was always creative and building things. She asked me to paint a contemporary mural for her living room walls. I jumped right in and designed a large-scale geometric “super-graphic” mural directly on the walls. That was the early 70’s, and I didn’t have any materials other than masking tape and my imagination. The result was a 43-foot wide by 8-foot tall abstract mural of red and black shapes. One-inch masking tape blocked off white striped outlines.

Steps. In 1968 Sharon Koskoff painted a geometric design in her Brooklyn bedroom.
Steps. In 1968 Sharon Koskoff painted a geometric design in her Brooklyn bedroom.

After that experience, I began to paint walls everywhere I could find. I created an Art Deco Egyptian motif mural in my bedroom in olive green and black to match my trendy 60s shag carpet.  Masking tape became the magical tool I used my entire life to make straight lines perfect.
 
Naturally, by the time I got to Brooklyn College, from 1970 to 1975, I majored in Fine Arts. Although I focused on sculpture and photography through the inspiration of wonderful professors, I never lost my passion for painting murals.

Super Graphic New York Skyline.  In 1978 Sharon Koskoff painted a graphic rainbow with a silhouette of the New York Skyline featuring the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and on the bottom left end, the Twin Towers of the World Trade buildings.
Super Graphic New York Skyline. In 1978 Sharon Koskoff painted a graphic rainbow with a silhouette of the New York Skyline featuring the Chrysler Building, Empire State Building and on the bottom left end, the Twin Towers of the World Trade buildings. Koskoff also custom built the mirrored coffee table and three white stone and plaster sculptures in her Brooklyn apartment.

My first commercial project was for the Bay Ridge Datsun (now Nissan) automobile showroom. This front display glass windows sported a black and red Oriental border completely designed with masking tape, rulers and a level, to frame and showcase the cars.  
 
After graduating from college, I wanted to teach art. But unfortunately, there were no teaching positions at the time. So, I went back to school and mastered Color Theory from the New York School of Interior Design in Manhattan.
 
In the mid-80’s I moved to Delray Beach, Florida and continued painting large walls. As artists are influenced by their surroundings, in New York I painted skylines and in South Florida I painted palm trees and coral reefs. My work evolved and became less stylized and graphic and more representational and realistic. I have now come full circle and often paint tropical themes with an Art Deco geometric border, which has become my signature style.

Palm Beach International Airport Concourse B. Sharon Koskoff sits in front of her Coral Reef mural at Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA) in West Palm Beach in 1995.
Palm Beach International Airport Concourse B. Sharon Koskoff sits in front of her Coral Reef mural at Palm Beach International Airport (PBIA) in West Palm Beach in 1995. She also painted Welcome to Palm Beach, a sailboat-themed mural on Concourse C the same summer.

My career blossomed in the 90s as the walls of Palm Beach County Public Schools and non-profit organizations became my canvas. I started to paint in public spaces supported by neighborhood grants from the Palm Beach County Cultural Council, educational and government organizations, and art centers. This allowed me to include multicultural and multigenerational students and volunteers to join me in these endeavors. It became more than art – it encompassed education, group participation and community awareness. The public art murals provided high visibility to a larger audience.

Education, Education, Education. In the summer of 2007 Sharon Koskoff was commissioned to paint Art Deco murals throughout Palm Springs Middle School with her father Rubin “Papa Ruby” Koskoff and assistant Jeff Locke.
Education, Education, Education.
In the summer of 2007 Sharon Koskoff was commissioned to paint Art Deco murals throughout Palm Springs Middle School with her father Rubin “Papa Ruby” Koskoff and assistant Jeff Locke. The media center displays figures reading and embracing books. Coincidentally, Koskoff’s first book, Art Deco of the Palm Beaches was released during the same season. 

In the past 30 years I have organized and painted over 350 murals in Palm Beach County public schools.  Murals connect spaces and create environments.  Murals are about scale and how they viewed and from what distance can they be seen. Murals are on walls and I become intimate with every inch of those walls. It is also about overcoming the physical and mental obstacles necessary to complete the project. It is that process of making the art that I love. Bigger is Better.
 
A mural can last forever or just one day. A public mural is an exercise of transcendence and beauty. It’s a legacy to a time, a place and a design that is left behind as a landmark for everyone to appreciate.

If you liked Sharon's story, check out her books below!

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FL
$21.99
FL
$23.99