PHILADELPHIA HAS BILLED itself as the “mural capital of the world.” This October, the city is celebrating its murals: “31 Days, 31 Ways: Art Ignites Change.” New murals will be dedicated throughout the month, and every Saturday in October, there will be free tours.
The Mural Arts Program started in 1984 as a way to combat graffiti. Jane Golden, a local muralist, helped bring in local artists to create the first pieces. From its start, the program has helped to commission over 3,500 works of art around the city, and it now sponsors art activities for those in local prisons as well as educational programs for at-risk youth. Golden has described the success behind the initiative with her mantra: “Art Saves Lives.”
Wander and find them on your own, or you can take a guided tour. There’s also the Mural Mile, a self-guided walking tour that features 17 murals along a 3 mile walking route.
Work in progress on a Love Letter, 4800 Market Street
Stephen Powers and the Mural Arts Program came up with the Love Letter series in 2009. It features 50 rooftop murals between 45th and 63rd Streets along Market Street. Photo: Ezra.Wolfe
#36 in the Love Letter series, 5101 Market Street
The Love Letter murals are best viewed from the Market-Frankford elevated transit line. Photo: shaggyshoo
I Love You, 17 S. 60th Street
The necklace in the Love Letter series is best seen traveling eastbound. Photo: shaggyshoo
Mapping Courage, 6th and South Streets
Created by Carl Willis Humphrey, the mural of W.E.B. Du Bois on the wall of Engine #11 was completed in 2008. Du Bois "a Harvard graduate in sociology, was asked to conduct a survey of blacks living in Philadelphia’s 7th Ward in 1896. It served as a basis for his 1899 paper, The Philadelphia Negro." Photo: CommandZed
Common Threads, Broad and Spring Garden
Painted by Meg Saligman in 1998, this mural is 8 stories tall and the Mural Arts Program is in process of raising money to clean and restore the mural. Photo: mikeg626
Legacy, 707 Chestnut Street
Created in part from Venetian tiles by Josh Sarantitis, it's two blocks from the Liberty Bell. Photo: glokbell
Kristin Conard is an editor at Matador Nights as well as a writing instructor in California. As a child, she wanted to be a librarian, because she thought that the librarian was the one who got to write all the books in the library. Her obsession with reading and writing has continued, and when she is not grading papers and lesson planning, she is working on a collection of essays and planning her next trip.