Mural program paints picture of dedication

Delaware County Times - October 24, 2011

PHILADELPHIA — October is Philadelphia’s 11th Mural Arts Month, when a wealth of exciting new outdoor art is showcased through dedication or re-dedication ceremonies.

It’s a month that emphasizes “how art ignites change.” In addition to mural dedications, there are exhibitions, mural tours, public painting opportunities and other special events.

As more and more murals are being created on walls and other public spaces throughout Philadelphia, its international reputation as “The City of Murals” is becoming more and more impressive. You’ll know why the City of Brotherly Love has earned this title when you gaze in wonder at some of the awesome outdoor art enhancing its many diverse neighborhoods.

While many cities are struggling with a graffiti epidemic, Philadelphia’s Mural Arts Program — the nation’s largest of its kind — has transformed the city into a veritable outdoor art gallery. Through a collaborative process that brings together artists, city government, young people and whole communities, graffiti that once was a common and permanent fact of urban living has slowly but steadily disappeared.

Now there’s something of beauty or amazement to be seen around just about every corner.

In fact, since 1984 when the Mural Arts Program began, more than 3,500 murals and works of public art have been created. They’ve been seen by an annual estimated 10,000 residents and visitors who tour the program, applauding the talent and creativity of Philadelphia artists.

One of the most awe-inspiring works of public art, “How Philly Moves,” has transformed the parking desks facing I-95 at Philadelphia International Airport into a memorable gateway for travelers and visitors to the region. At nearly 85,000 square feet, this vibrant new work is the largest mural ever completed through the Mural Arts Program and is one of the largest in the United States.

More than a year in the making, it was produced by the Mural Arts Program in cooperation with the Philadelphia Office of Transportation and Utilities and dedicated on Oct. 12. Stretching across the top decks of the parking garages, the mural designed by artist Jacques-Jean “JJ” Tiziou incorporates his photographic work. Working with him was lead muralist Jonathan Laidacker and five assistant muralists.

Depicted are a diverse range of luminous dancing figures unified against a black background. At 60 mph, the energy of movement is unmistakable. More than 170 local professional and amateur dancers of all ages were photographed. More than 1,000 Philadelphia residents helped create the mural during three community paint days at The Gallery at Market East.

The final design features images of almost 30 Philadelphians dancing, some more than 75 feet high, celebrating the vibrancy of the city and adding spectacular beauty and color to the airport’s landscape.

A documentary film on the mural, produced by The Big Picture Alliance, and a permanent exhibition inside the airport’s public space provide the context of the project as a whole.

Other highlights of Mural Arts Month are:

Murals & Meals Tours — Oct. 28, 10 a.m.-noon: An antique trolley tour of murals is followed by a VIP lunch at an outstanding restaurant with a celebrity chef. Cost is $50 per person..

“A Woman’s View,” Cops & Kids Exhibit Reception 4-6 p.m. Oct. 26 at The Gallery, 9th & Market streets. The exhibit showcases photography from female officers from the 19th Police District and female students in the Mural Arts Cops & Kids Program.

Among future murals is one to be designed and painted by muralist and lifelong Phillies fan David McShane. To be located along the Schuylkill River at 24th and Walnut streets, it will capture the passion of fans and reflect how the Phillies have been closely woven into the spirit and culture of the city.

Featured will be players, stadiums and memorable events from the Phillies’ long history as the oldest continuous one-name, one-city franchise of all of professional sports. Of course it will include the Phanatic.

For more on the Mural Arts Program and special events, visit www.muralarts.org