Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The streets of Philadelphia

Joy and I just got back from an amazing weekend visit to Philadelphia, and I was blown away by the city. I have been to many cities around the world - and I have never loved one as much as I love this one. I feel like I could go on and on - from the amazing old architecture and rich history, to the great food, great people, green spaces, hot bikes, cool queers and fucking kick ass basketball....
But I was particularly struck by the city's Mural Arts Program. Just Since 1985 the city has commissioned over 3,000+ murals, many of which involve community collaborations. according to the site's history :

The Mural Arts Program began in 1984 as a component of the Philadelphia Anti-Graffiti Network, an effort spearheaded by then Mayor Wilson Goode to eradicate the graffiti crisis plaguing the city. The Anti-Graffiti Network hired muralist Jane Golden to reach out to graffiti writers and to redirect their energies from destructive graffiti writing to constructive mural painting.
Jane Golden quickly befriended the graffiti writers and was impressed by their raw artistic talent and their self-taught knowledge of art history. She recognized the amazing creative force they represented, and she began to provide opportunities for them to channel their creative talent into mural-making. Mural painting also provided a support structure for these young men and women to refine their artistic skills, empowering them to take an active role in beautifying their own neighborhoods. The murals they created instantly added color, beauty, and life to an old, industrial city struggling with decades of economic distress and population loss. The results of the program were nothing less than magical. From the beginning, Golden witnessed how mural-making changed lives and how the murals themselves began to mend the aesthetic fabric of the city.
Since 1984 - over 3000 murals have been made and 10's of thousands of under-served youth and adults engaged with art education. You have to love a program whose mission includes a list of rationales, including my favorite  -the last one:
Yo, This is Fun!
We're from Philly. We're for Philly. And we're having a hell of a good time.

I am so FOR Philly.
I sought out a few galleries while I was in town, to see artists I love and admire – but it was on the streets walking around, that I was consistently and repeatedly awed by art. I was struck by how successfully the program infused visual art over the diverse city. The entire public accesses and engages with visual art every single day, in their own neighborhoods and across the city.

The program is based on a network of professional artists, community organizations and public and private funding partnerships. It was one of the best examples of public engagement with visual arts I have ever experienced.

In particular – I really enjoyed the “love letter for you” project by artist/designer Stephen Powers
I've also been listening to ?uestlove's (of the Roots) audio tour of the African American murals throughout the city. Well worth turning on and checking out. I've listened to a ton of audio guides in my day, and this one is really great.
If you haven't been to Philadelphia yet - GO. Plus it's about a month ahead of Ottawa in terms of weather, so while it's still grey and cold here - 8 hours away it's lush, hot and green.

And needless to say I've spent much of today trolling apartment and job listings...


Anonymous said...

Wow, Philly... My last visit left a bad taste in my mouth, due to weird anarchist politics... But just this past weekend I was dreaming of that city a little, while crushing out on Bilenky Cycle Works, which is based there... Glad you had a good time!

mae callen said...

"anarchist politics" isn't that an oxymoron? ;)

We couldn't get over the HOT sweet rides, ALL the hipsters were riding. They glided by like butter. Now, I get why! What a great cycling city!

Amak said...

I was in Philly last summer. Loved it, and the murals, of course, were fantastic.

Note however, that my ex-French lover and I got assaulted and called faggots. Left a bitter taste to our trip (it was also the fiercest homophobic assault I've lived through and me, being paranoid about the USA, was convinced this gang would take out a gun and shoot us, which they didn't do... Thankfully!)

Audrey said...

I would love to visit Philly again, especially after reading your blog. Nice pictures you took! Thanks for sharing with us!

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