The Philadelphia Mural Story
Story, photos and sketches by Anne Jenkins
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.
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.
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
way beyond tempering local graffiti artists.
Detail of Pride & Progress by artist Ann Northrup and Larissa
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
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
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
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
pet shelters. It is titled,
a Tribute to Pets.”
I could have spent hours exploring this mural. It has delightful
touches, like the cat
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
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.
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
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
samplers of Vinegars from The Tubby Olive
For more Information and maps: