The Mural Arts Program of Philadelphia has been the single-most successful arts program in the nation, creating nearly 2,300 indoor and outdoor murals throughout the region.
First started in 1984, the program has revitalized the city, replacing graffiti with scenic views, portraits of heroes and collaborative works between children and artists.
Philadelphia and the Mural Arts Program have recognized October as Mural Arts Month to create public awareness about the city’s mural collections and the work that goes into creating the art.
“This is the sixth year since Governor Rendell dedicated the month while he was mayor. Philadelphia has many mural treasures to celebrate,” Brian Campbell, Special Event Coordinator for the Mural Arts Program, said.
This year’s celebration features 11 mural dedications, five mural tours, a gallery exhibit, book signings and a community-wide mural painting.
“On Oct. 25, hundreds of people from volunteers to community members will come out to Mt. Vernon and 37th St. in an effort to revitalize a dying neighborhood. In addition to painting a small mural, we will clean the lot, bring new equipment into the playground and paint the nearby walls,” Campbell added.
Beyond beautifying the city, murals create a sense of community. Artists and community members work hand in hand to develop a mural that represents the goals of the neighborhood.
Two of the murals dedicated this month were created with the assistance of neighborhood children.
“Summer Birds and Violets,” 1223 W. Wingohocking St., was a collaborated effort between artists Eurhi Jones and mosaic artist Wanda Payne with children from Harold O. Davis Big Picture site and the Camac Street Kids Club.
Jones created the mural of plants, trees and flowers. An oak tree, similar to the neighborhood ones, stands in the middle. With birds and vegetation surrounding the tree, the artists symbolized the diversity of the neighborhood.
“Creating murals brings an uplifting look into the neighborhood, but also inspires the community to clean up the area and fix up homes. It directly affects economic revitalization,” Campbell said.
The Eagles Youth Partnership worked alongside Donald Gensler to create this month’s new “Moving Towards Your Dream” mural. Gensler was inspired by the drawings of hopes and dreams by nearly 250 children.
Many of these drawings are included in the mural that spans the length of Darien Street, across the Lincoln Financial Field.
The mural begins with a child throwing a football at one end and concludes with another child catching the football at the other end.
In between, the artist encompasses wishes for the future from children and adults alike.
Christine Laurie of the Eagles Youth Partnership contacted the Mural Arts Program to commission the mural to go along with the new stadium.
The mural took 8 months to complete.
From conception to the finished product, the Thomas Eakins House will help guide the public through the steps of mural- making in a free gallery exhibit from Oct. 16 to the end of November.
“The Process to Perfection: A Painter’s Perception” is a multi-media exhibit curated by Richard J. Watson of the African American Museum. The exhibit will take the audience through the artistic process of developing a mural from initial sketches and photos to the final designs of 20 mural artists.
Many artists will be present to discuss their works.
Finally, no celebration is complete without a tour. Led by trained mural docents, the Mural Arts Program designed five tours to provide insight into the history of murals and their connection to the community.
“After each tour, we take the group to a neighborhood restaurant so they can get a feel for the changing area,” Campbell explained.
A tour of North Philadelphia murals is set for Oct. 25. The day begins with breakfast at Zach’s Delectable Necessities, followed by a trolley tour of the neighborhood murals and ends with lunch at Rembrandt’s. The cost is $40 per person.
In addition to completing nearly 120 murals each year, the Program has taken on the task of restoring old murals. The Program promises to refresh ten murals a year, whether it is retouching old paint or adding additional sealer.
The Mural Arts Program continues to stay on the forefront of urban art with nearly 30 projects in the works for the upcoming year.
Pooja Shah can be reached at email@example.com