The Independence Hall, 76ers, cheesesteak; what comes to your mind when you hear these words? If you answered Philadelphia, that would be a big check mark for you. Aside from these three things, this largest city in the state of Pennsylvania is also known for its murals. In fact, it has the most number of murals compared to other cities in the United States.
The Beginning of Philadelphia Mural Arts
Three decades ago, Philadelphia is not the beautiful city that it is today. Crimes and graffitis are rampant with abandoned buildings everywhere. Many people considered it to be unsafe. To stop the spread of graffiti in the city, Wilson Goode, its ex-Mayor, created Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network or PAGN in 1984.
The program was led by Tim Spencer. To prevent graffiti, Spencer wanted to create projects that would encourage kids to do other types of crafts and arts. Artist Jane Golden had a different thing in mind. She wanted to help in the rehabilitation of the city, as well as the graffiti artists by creating murals with the help of the whole community.
The Mural Arts Project officially started in 1986. It then became an independent unit in 1996 and was called the Mural Arts Program. This promoted collaboration and unity among the people as everyone was encouraged to do their part. From students to prisoners, citizens helped each other for the improvement of their city.
Mural Arts 30 Years After
From the original vision to stop the spread of graffiti, over 3,600 murals were created through the Mural Arts Program. More than 300 artists are hired each year to work on various murals that are placed on building walls. You would find one of them if you walk around the city of Philadelphia.
The biggest mural painted so far is at 180 meters in length or 600 feet. However, the average size of most murals is about 11 meters in width, which is 35 feet. The title of the largest mural is “History of Immigration”. It showed the different races that settled in the city for the past years.
The amount spent on each of these murals is around $10k to $15k. The cost covers the materials used, as well as the artist’s fee. Aside from the artists that are hired each year, those who were persecuted doing graffiti vandalism were also involved in the creation of murals. With this, they can use their talent in the beautification of the surroundings. On average, over 100 of them are hired per year. The Mural Arts Program continued to become successful, which earned Phildelphia the Innovations in American Government Award in 1991 and became known as the “City of Murals”.
Mural Arts @ 30: The Book
In line with the celebration of the 30th anniversary of the program, the book entitled “Mural Arts @ 30” was released by the Philadelphia Mural Arts Program. The book was written by Jane Golden, Robin Rice and Monica Yant Kinney. It contains stories and images that would give you a better understanding and closer look at the history of the mural arts in Philadephia.
It gives you a behind the scene account on how the murals were made, as well as the effect that the program has in the community. The murals don’t just help beautify the environment, but they help create change in people. “Mural Arts @ 30” had its preview on March 12, 2014 at the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA). It’s now available for purchase on bookstores and online.
Top Mural Arts to Explore
There are thousands of murals to explore in Philadelphia. While you can see some of them as you walk around the city, there are also guided tours offered, which you may want to consider if you want to make the most out of your visit. Here are some of the top mural arts to see.
This mural can be seen in Broad & Spring Garden Streets. It was created in 1998 and it spreads up to the eighth storey of the building. The art depicts the common threads that connect people across time and culture.
Independence Start Here
It is located in Broad & Race Streets and was created by Donald Gensler. The art was created for people with disabilities. The Pennsylvania School for the Deaf students participated in this mural by modeling their hands for the American Sign Language (ASL) alphabet.
How to Turn Anything Into Something Else
This mural can be viewed at 207 N Broad Street. Students and artists collaborated in this project. The message of this art is for people to realize that things can be changed. Bad beginnings can have different endings.
Even if you’re not in Philly, you can still take a peak of the amazing murals of the city by visiting the Mural Explorer. This is a site that contains images of the murals in Philadelphia.
Featured image / Image 1 – By Davidt8 (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons