Introduction to the Visual Arts

Maintenance Art

cover of "Mirele Laderman Ukeles" monograph showing her "Manifesto for Maintenance Art" performance
Mierle Laderman Ukeles (born 1939) Wadsworth Atheneum, 1973, Hartford Wash: Washing, Tracks, Maintenance — Outside and Inside

In 1969 Mierle Laderman Ukeles wrote her Manifesto for Maintenance Art and in 1973 she performed some of those ideas at the Wadsworth Atheneum.

"Now" sculpture as installed on the campus of Long Beach State University
NOW, 1965, Piotr Kowalski

Maintenance Art at Long Beach State

I’m sure you’ve seen Piotr Kowalski’s 1965 sculpture NOW right outside from Robeks/Coffee Bean at the University Student Union (USU). For Art Idea #2 we will be using this sculpture to help us think about Abstraction, but first, for Art Idea #1, we’re going to clean it.

I noticed last year that this once proud sculpture is really dusty and dirty. So dusty that people have written and drawn with their fingers in the dust. I contacted LBSU’s Carolyn Campagna Kleefeld Contemporary Art Museum (next to the College of Business) about having the sculpture cleaned, and was informed that you can’t just call maintenance and ask them to clean it because it is a work of art and can only be cleaned by professional art conservationists. The sculplture has been standing in the sun, rain, and lots of dust for 55 years now! I’m pretty sure we can clean the dust with sponges and water without damaging it!

Cleaning NOW

I (Glenn) will bring a bucket, water and some sponges so we can clean the sculpture during class time. Since there are about 120 of us, we can’t all clean the sculpture at the same time. Everyone should bring some sort of bag to collect trash.

When we meet at the sculpture some of us can clean it and others can pick up trash around the area.

Your Blog Post

Your blog post on your WordPress website should include photos of our Maintenance Art activity.

You should also discuss these questions:

  1. How did you feel performing Maintenance Art in the area around the USU?
  2. How are Mierle Laderman Ukeles cleaning the steps of an art museum and Richard Serra flinging molten lead against the walls of an art museum different? How are they the same? Are one or both "art"? Are one or both "not art"?
  3. Was Mierle Laderman Ukeles’ Maintenance Art performance at the Wadsworth Atheneum "art"? Did the fact that her performance was at an Art Museum make it art? What if instead, she had simply gotten hired as a janitor at a factory somewhere and performed that job for 6 months? Would that have been art? What makes an act "art" or "not art"?
  4. Is an object or an action Art or Not Art because of some intrinsic property of the medium? Or because of the intention of the person performing it? Are all paintings on canvas art because paintings on canvas are exhibited in art museums? Is all house painting not art because we don’t exhibit painted houses in art museums? Can a painting on canvas ever be not art? Can painting a house ever be art?
  5. Has Mierle Laderman Ukeles, or Jennifer Lopez, made you think differently about "Women’s Work"? Is "Women’s Work" ever art? If yes, when? If no, why not?
  6. In class we discussed the woman who cleaned Donald Trump’s Star on Hollywood Blvd. Whose Star would you get down on your hands and knees to clean?
A woman cleaning Donald Trump’s Star on Hollywood Blvd. Saturday, 21 October 2017. 4:00 pm.

Optional Extra Credit

Up to 50,000 points EC

In your discussion above you listed the name of someone’s Star on Hollywood Blvd. that you would be willing to get down on your hands and knees to clean. Go to Hollywood Blvd, find their star, and perform this action. (there are mobile apps that can help you find the star you want)

You can optionally add any extra elements to your performance, such as lighting a candle, leaving flowers or food or a letter, etc.

Your Blog Post

  • Make a separate blog post for your EC Activity.
  • Title your post EC – Maintenance Art at [person’s name]’s Star on Hollywood Blvd.
  • Be sure to include photos of you performing your action


  1. Why did you choose this person’s Star?
  2. How did you feel performing your action?
  3. Did it feel different from doing chores at home? How? Why?
  4. Was your performance "art"? Why or why not?

Optional Extra Extra Credit

Up to 25,000 points EC
yes, that’s up to 75,000 points for both EC’s

Since you’re already on Hollywood Blvd, you should take the opportunity to visit Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions (LACE).

Be sure they’re open when you want to go! LACE’s current hours are: Wednesday – Sunday, noon – 6pm. But double check their website to be sure! No EC for being there when they’re closed!

LACE (Los Angeles Contemporary Exhibitions)
6522 Hollywood Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90028

Include photos of yourself inside LACE, and photos of the exhibit you see there.


  1. Describe the art you saw at LACE
  2. What was your experience of the art?
  3. Compare & Contrast the art at LACE to the Stars on Hollywood Blvd. Which do you think gets more visitors? Why? Is one art and one not art? What is the relationship of the Stars on Hollywood Blvd. to contemporary culture? What is the relationship of LACE to contemporary culture? What is the relationship of LACE to the Stars on Hollywood Blvd?


Comments? Questions? What great art did you see, make, or experience today?

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