The Capitalist Mural

The Capitalist Challenge

Here is the ancient story of Lazarus told with the modern veneer of a poor crippled man at the foot of a 20th century robber baron. An African American man serves the sumptuous feast, unable to look his employer in the eye. This is one the few murals that Vanka publicly commented on, acknowledging his depiction of the Black man’s subjugated status in American Society.

Overhead, the Angel of Death refuses to look, but when we turn our heads, we can assume the rich man will be quickly snatched up by the skeletal hand snaking closer from the right.


Activity #1: I Spy Vanka in My World

  • Look closely at the cards. The Capitalist Noticing Cards.
  • Spend time describing what you see and asking questions.
  • Find the card images in the Mural.
  • Look around where you are; maybe a room or outside a window. Try to find some of the images from the cards where you are.

Activity #2:  Think. Puzzle. Explore.

Look at the Mural and wonder using the worksheet; or
Invent your own template to think about the Mural in a new way.

Things you might — Think. Puzzle. Explore.

  • Who is The Capitalist?
  • What’s important to The Capitalist?
  • What is the significance of the shadows cast by The Capitalist?
  • What would you write about? Share it with us.

Activity #3:  Color/Symbol/Image

Big Idea/Important theme you observed…

  • COLOR – Choose a color that you think best represents the essence of your Big Idea/Important theme you observed.
  • SYMBOL – Choose a symbol that you think best represents the essence of your Big Idea/Important theme you observed
  • IMAGE – Sketch an image that you think best represents the essence of your Big Idea/Important theme you observed.

Activity #4:  Tell this Story…

Pick one or more lines below and write a story:

  • “I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked…” (from Allen Ginsberg’s “Howl”)
  • During dinner they talked about…
  • “It was a bright cold day in April, and the clocks were striking thirteen…” (from George Orwell’s 1984)
  • After dinner they…
  • It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness…(from a Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens)
  • In 1941, they were talking about…
  • “Many years later, as he faced the firing squad, Colonel Aureliano Buendía was to remember that distant afternoon when his father took him to discover ice.” from Gabriel García Márquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude)
  • In 2020, we are talking about…
  • The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended…(2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke)
  • “When I wake up, the other side of the bed is cold…” (from Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games)
  • In 2120, we are talking about…

Activity #5:  Conversation Starters

  • How would it feel to be in this room?
  • Would you feel welcome at this table?
  • Why does The Capitalist eat alone?
  • Do you think it’s warm or cold in The Capitalist Dining Room?
  • Would you rather eat at The Capitalist Table or the Simple Family Meal?
  • What historical figure would I like to have dinner with?
  • I am grateful for…
  • What is a way to manage the household so everyone can thrive?
  • What is a practice of generosity? Of shared responsibility?

Enjoyed our activities?

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Tag It!: #Vanka@Home #VankaSpeaks #SaveMaxoVanka #VankaIn(Tell us where you are) (e.g. #VankaInWilkinsburg)

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