Images (not from) New York, Philadelphia murals edition.

To fully explain how awesome this afternoon jaunt to Philly was on Friday, a little backstory is necessary (due to the passage of time, dialogue may not be 100% accurate):

SCENE: INT. UNCLE MICHAEL’S CAR, driving through WEST PHILADELPHIA into FAIRMOUNT PARK, FALL 2001. ELIZABETH and MICHAEL are seated within, along with MICHAEL’S cousin J (who is also UNCLE MICHAEL’S second-eldest son).

J: So you know how my dad did a lot for the mural program here in the city–it’s funny, because now we pass by random murals and he’s the first to mutter “another damn mural!” under his breath.

UM: No, no, no, no, no! I didn’t say that. I said I wished that they would do fewer, more artistic murals, instead of…well, random ones.

ELIZABETH and MICHAEL: ::laughing uncontrollably::


Eastern State Penitentiary

All joking aside, the mural arts program in Philadelphia is utterly fantastic–the city can boast that it has more murals per square foot than any other city in the world, and some-despite his uncle’s alleged protestations–are truly beautiful. Michael’s younger brother scored a great summer internship with Mural Arts for the summer and wanted to show us the mural he was able to work on–but not without first sharing one of his favorite murals depicting Fairmount Park.

D's favorite mural..well, until his is finished. :-)

D's favorite mural - Fairmount Park as rendered in graphite.

It was drawn with graphite, which explains why the detail here is so sharper than what you’d expect with paint–at least according to D. He’s the artist, so I’m gonna give him the credit for this analysis. From what I can gather this depicts the part of Fairmount with the aviary: a highly secluded place in the park that makes you feel completely removed from city life, and the simple wooden architecture of the aviary encourages a communion with the winged wildlife that calls that part of the park home. The wild colors that cover the landscape remind me of the vast foliage that spans over the trees in the park; the denseness almost makes you feel like you’re sitting in a natural cathedral with the leaves serving as stained glass windows.

Detail on the graphite mural near the Eastern State Penitentiary

D explaining the end goal of this mural project. I love that it's abstract and pulls in the imagery of the El.

As for D’s mural, well–it’s a work in progress. These photos will attest to that. That said, what is coming together on this building excites me in a way that many of the realist murals throughout the city do not; I love the symbolism, the transit elements that are part of this neighborhood but are not necessarily as aesthetically pleasing as the trestles that span the trough over Harlem, the grit of the neighborhood, and most importantly the structure that this mural will occupy.

From D's description this mural will basically encompass the normal commute for the average resident here--and I cannot WAIT to see the finished product. So far all of the colors and lines are perfect.

It feels modern, the way that modern art should be; not merely symbolized in overpriced jewelry which has a pleasing aesthetic, but art for those who live it every day. In London you are able to buy furniture and pillows using the same fabric used in the Underground; here it is not nearly as cherished but this mural goes a long way in glorifying something pedestrian into something beautiful and maybe even revered. The Kensington section of Philadelphia is very different from its English cousin, but it’s nice to see that efforts are being made to make the former beautiful in its own way.

The great work in progress.

Expect an update when the mural is completed!

UPDATE: Tomorrow (9/24) is the dedication ceremony for The Jewel Box, the name of the above mural in process. If you’re in Philly and want to go, you can get the details here.

  1. After hearing the “mural story” first-hand, you probably can imagine how hard I’m laughing right now! Love you guys.

  2. For a living, I’m an urban planner, so I’m fascinated by public art of all forms. I really REALLY wish our city (and, generally speaking, Southern California) had murals.

    Thanks so much for sharing!


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