Art is everywhere.
Public art is a “thing” in St. Pete. Our city streets and buildings are a kaleidoscope hosting more than 400 murals. Sculptures too, including “Bending Arc”, the 5,300-lb., 72’-tall knotted-rope creation blowing in the breeze on the St. Pete Pier. The Shine Mural Festival draws artists from around the world and has been so successful, it has its own map app. And The Pilates School is proud to be on that map.
I first met our mural artist, James Hartzell on, of course, a mural tour. His knowledge of the 40 or so we saw in our 90-minute, three-block tour impressed me, so on a whim, I asked for his card. We didn’t have the studio yet, but I did have an idea.
A couple of months later, six days before WHO declared the world-wide pandemic, I signed a lease for a 1,500-s-f former yoga studio on Fourth St. N. It required complete remodeling – and its high ceilings provided plenty of wall space to fulfill my idea; I wanted to create Joe Pilates “Contrology Family Tree.”
When Joe Pilates died in 1967, there were perhaps 100 Pilates’ teachers in the world. Fifty years later, with no centralized data gathering, it’s hard to know the current numbers accurately, but it is easily in the tens of thousands. Those first student/teachers worked directly under Joe and his wife Clara, learning the movement method he called “Contrology,” until they grew wings and, with varying degrees of blessings, flew off to locations near (some stayed in Manhattan) and far (California, New Mexico). The Pilates industry acknowledges them as the “First Generation” teachers, and their efforts in the ‘70s and ‘80s were vital to growing the work now generally called “Pilates.”
However, for many reasons, some changed Joe’s work and/or his equipment in big and small ways. Whatever the justification, this dilution often changed the very challenge and purpose of the exercise, and it was soon clear that “Pilates” was not always “Contrology.” Compounding the confusion and dilution, a lawsuit decided in 2000 between the owner of Joe’s trademarks and a Pilates’ equipment manufacturer declared the word and work of Joe Pilates as generic, meaning anyone could use the word “Pilates” to teach or manufacture equipment, regardless of education or knowledge of Joe’s lifetime of work.
Luckily, there were a few, with First Generation teacher Romana Krznowska as standard bearer, who protected Joe’s Contrology; taught his work on equipment of his designs, using his exercise orders and names, and adding a layer of educational rigor to what had been a strictly apprentice-style learning experience. This work is usually referred to as “classical” or “authentic,” but more and more we call it what Joe did – “Contrology.”
With the rise of internet influencers, it’s a challenge to distinguish what Pilates vs Contrology vs neither; the very dilemma that prompted our mural. Our “Contrology Family Tree,” reflects an artistic style appropriate to Joe’s lifetime, and delivers historical information in a universal and visual format. Joe and Clara are the roots and trunk, the First Generation teachers are the branches, and the leaves represent their students, adjacently listed. This “Second Generation,” most of whom are still actively teaching, have kept the integrity and intention of Joe’s work alive and growing, and we are honored to help spread the knowledge of their contribution to the Pilates/Contrology industry.
We are also honored to have the mural in our St. Pete’s, FL Pilates studio included in the aforementioned “map app,” called Pixel Stix. Designed by a local developer, this free app is a searchable treasure hunt of hundreds of St. Pete’s murals, with details about the artists and their work. Art is everywhere!