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The Philadelphia Mural Story

Story, photos and sketches by Anne Jenkins

                                                                    

 

          
Fantasy Landscape  by Brian Senft painted in Phidelphia
Fantasy Landscape by artist Brian Senft

 

Philadelphia lures you with thousands of murals, some large, some small. All of them amazing works of art. There's no way to see them all in a short space of time or even a whole day. There are good maps of them.

 

             
Famous Franks by artist David McShane they range from frankinstien to Ben Franklyn
 Famous Franks by artist David McShane

 

Thirty years ago Philadelphia started a Murals Art project as a way to combat graffiti and bring some beauty in otherwise drab and, at times, dangerous neighborhoods. Now the city hosts over 3,500 murals from small whimsical delights to huge take-your-breath-away complicated works of art.

 

Back in 1984 the city formed the Anti-Graffiti Network (AGN) and approached muralist, Jane Golden, to see if she could rope in the enormous, untamed but often destructive, talents of the city's growing population of graffiti artists. Golden succeeded beyond their dreams proving along the way her mantra, 'Art Saves Lives,' really does work.

               

Theater of Life by artist Meg Fish Saligman in Philadelphia
Theater of Life by artist Meg Fish Saligman

 

Twelve years later in 1996 the AGN was reorganized into a non-profit Mural Arts Program (MAP), with Golden as the director. Their mission has grown in ways they certainly couldn't have foreseen way beyond tempering local graffiti artists.

                

Right End Detail of Pride & Progress by artist Ann Northrup and Larissa Danowit in Philadelphia
Right End Detail of Pride & Progress by artist Ann Northrup and Larissa Danowit

 

It helps at-risk children and adults, gave neighborhoods a focus and a sense of pride. And they became leaders and an example of how art can transform lives. And one very important result, to quote their website, "The Mural Arts Program has also become a national leader in arts in criminal and restorative justice, currently offering educational programs in local prisons and rehabilitation centers using the restorative power of art to break the cycle of crime and violence in communities. Mural Arts offers mural-making programs for adult men and women where inmates receive a stipend to create murals for schools and community centers throughout Philadelphia.

 

Mural Arts also offers opportunities for individuals recently released from prison through its re-entry program.Philadelphia's murals make a strong case for art revitalising neighborhoods or towns, and it showcases how art enriches individuals lives.

            

  
Gimme Shelter A tribute to pets by artist David Guinn in Philadelphia
Gimme Shelter A tribute to pets by artist David Guinn

 

All this has led to Philadelphia becoming internationally known as the City of Murals they've even had Prince Charles dabbling on one of their murals in progress during one of his visits to the US. It is a visual feast and it is interesting to understand the themes of the murals. Some are clearer than others and some get to you more than others, just like viewing any art. I was amazed by all the murals I saw, even the unplanned ones I ran across. The standard of art is very high and they are all very professionally done.

 

                
a detail from Gimme Shelter A tribute to pets by artist David Guinn in Philadelphia
A Detail of Gimme Shelter A tribute to pets by artist David Guinn

 

It is a difficult choice but if I had to choose my ultimate favorite, not just for outstanding art, but because of the subject pet shelters. It is titled, Gimme Shelter a Tribute to Pets. I could have spent hours exploring this mural. It has delightful touches, like the cat resting on top of the air conditioner, and scenes and is a fabulous nod to the work shelters do and in return, how animals can help humans.

 

                 
Philadelphia Muses by artist Meg Fish Saligman
Philadelphia Muses by artist Meg Fish Saligman

 

When your stomach reminds you it's time to eat, a fun place to meander through and try different foods is the Reading Terminal Market.  There are plenty of different treats or full meals to choose from, as you wander you can nibble on samoosas or brats or soul food. Fancy an Italian or Amish dish? No problem.

 

            
Detail from Philadelphia Muses by artist Meg Fish Saligman 
Detail from Philadelphia Muses by artist Meg Fish Saligman 

The market has about 80 stalls selling a variety of interesting eats. Don't miss The Tubby Olive for their gourmet oils and vinegars. The market provide a good map, at a booth near one of the entrances, it includes the market's interesting history. Even if you don't want to buy anything, it's an interesting people watching place.

            

            
Sketch of the Wurst Haus stall in Reading Market Terminal by Anne Jenkins
Sketch of the Wurst Haus stall in Reading Market Terminal by Anne Jenkins

 

Go back often and explore the Murals throughout Philadelphia, the images here are just a snippet of the wonders awaiting you. The locals are very cheerful and patient with curious visitors driving erratically while trying to get a look at their city's art.

              
 Sketch of samplers of Vinegars from The Tubby Olive
 Sketch of samplers of Vinegars from The Tubby Olive

 

 

For more Information and maps:

http://muralarts.org

http://www.readingterminalmarket.org

http://annejenkinsart.com

 

 

 

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