January 16, 2013 – Philadelphia is well-known for its historic past, and the place where our American democracy began. It’s also home to the Philadelphia Museum of Art, one of the country’s largest art museums dating back to 1876, which houses some of the world’s renowned art collections.
While it may be a wonderful place to browse through on any given day, there are plenty of other places around the city to see terrific works of art. Philadelphia has over 3,000 outdoor murals, more than any other city in the world. Most are commissioned through the city’s Mural Arts Program, which began in 1984 as an effort to address the city’s graffiti problem. Here are ten remarkable murals to look for in Philadelphia:
10. The Dream Garden – The lobby of the Curtis Building where I work has an incredible 15 by 50 foot glass mosaic mural executed by Tiffany Studios back in 1916. It is not a mural completed under the Mural Arts Program, but deserves recognition just the same. The piece contains 100,000 pieces of hand-fired glass in 260 colors. It’s viewed immediately upon walking in the 6th Street entrance of the building.
9. Holding Grandmother’s Quilt – A mural in the Mantua section of Philadelphia, at 39th and Aspen Streets, features one of Mantua’s own residents creating a richly woven quilt. The mural is so popular in the area, local residents have planted a garden in front to draw extra attention to it.
8. The Tuskegee Airmen – Mural Arts students painted this wonderful mural to commemorate the Philadelphia Chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first African-American troops to fight in World War II. It’s located near Drexel University and the University of Pennsylvania at 39th and Chestnut Streets.
7. The Heart of Baltimore Avenue – A mural that perfectly captures the diversity of West Philadelphia is what artist David Guinn calls this interesting piece of art. He also refers to it as his “epic poem”. The mural features a voice component that is available on low-frequency radio, and it sits at 4716 Baltimore Avenue.
6. Behind the Mask – Located at 51st and Master Streets in West Philadelphia, Behind the Mask was primarily a project of healing, and a two-year initiative to help the community in the wake of rising crime and violence in the area. It’s one of the more colorful and interesting murals in the area.
5. Walls of Intent, Walls of Pride – The intent of this mural, filled with positive words in a few languages, and situated at 2nd and Thompson Streets in North Philadelphia, was to engage troubled youth and expand their sense of identity.
4. Mapping Courage – 6th and South Streets is home to this interesting mural honoring Harvard graduate W.E.B. Du Bois. He is famous for surveying and writing about the 7th Ward in Philadelphia, a predominantly African-American Community.
3. Bridging the Gap – This mural, located at 5741 in the heart of West Philadelphia, was inspired by the West African immigrants who migrated to the area.
2. Philadelphia Phillies Mural – The home of this new mural will be 24th & Walnut Streets, and it’s scheduled to be unveiled on May 1, 2013. The mural highlights the passion of Phillies fans and how they have faithfully supported their team for the last 128 years. I can’t wait to see it in person!
1. Love Letters – Mural Arts Program artist Stephen Powers created this wonderful series of murals with love letter messages. The rooftop murals are best viewed while riding the Market/Frankfort El from 48th Street to 43rd Street. Some of the messages include “I’m here for you like air”, “Forever begins when you say yes” and “I will wait 4800 years if I have to”.