The City Hall Courtyard Mural / by EricOkdeh

This summer I teamed up with Citywide partner Kien Nguyen once again to create a 3200 sq ft Mural that is being installed in City Hall's courtyard.

The mural was funded mostly by Kelly/Maiello Architects, the firm that has been in charge of the city hall restoration for the past 13 years. For the next year or so, they will be restoring the south facade of the courtyard, and many partition walls have been built to house their equipment. The walls reach 8 feet high and all together measure 400 feet wide.

Kien and I took tours of the City Hall building to brainstorm for ideas. I HIGHLY recommend seeing the mural and then taking a tour of the building. The 1 1/2 hour tour is given daily at 12:30pm sharp, the office is found to the right of our green "East Wall". The tour office's number is 215-686-2840. The tour highlights the symbolism and meaning behind the building's layout as well as the 160 reliefs and sculptures found throughout. We felt that our design should focus on these same things.

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Our design puts a contemporary spin on the many relief and free standing sculptures scattered throughout the architecture of City Hall. We reinterpret their poses though Philadelphia's diverse residents. We consider the complex symbolism and meanings of the sculptures and the significance of the four directions they face.

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The compass on the floor of City Hall's courtyard plots out Center City's major squares. Our design brings these squares to life as realistic panoramas in colors reminiscent of the four seasons.

The patterns specific to each season are taken from motifs found throughout City Hall's decorative interior.

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Pillars and archways occupy the corners of each major wall using Calder's sculptures of people spanning the four corners of the globe.

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Imagery from Philadelphia's major public parks can be found within the archways. For example the west wall depicts Clark Park, and the East Wall has images of Penn Treaty Park, which the statue of William Penn is pointing to.

This design brings into focus the sculpture, imagery, and patterns found throughout Philadelphia's City Hall Building which can otherwise go overlooked.

Once the design was agreed upon, we had to move quickly in order to get everything started. The entire month of June was spent drawing the East and West Walls of the project. Those walls broke down into 40 8'x5' panels that would be projected and drawn in great detail.

We began the West Wall in the studio during July, the East wall drawings were sent to a summer Mural class held at Audenreid High School. The class of 50 youth spent their summer blocking the backgrounds of the east wall and under painting of all its figures.

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Once July started we gained 3 interns and two volunteers. Two of our interns, Latasha and Matt were former Mural Corps students, they were the standouts in their respective classes. Matt was a former student of Kien. Julia was our other intern, who has spent most of her life making art all over the world most recently Mexico and Burkina Faso. Julia painted 4 of the 6 mini landscapes within the archways and several of the mural's figures.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays we were assisted by The Mayor's daughter Olivia and her good friend Jenny. They braved the heat of the studio for an entire month and helped block in portions of the west wall.

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By mid August we were finishing up the East wall. On the 23rd we installed all 40 panels. We blocked out 2 days for the install and found money in the Audenreid Budget to hire 5 of their best students. The 5 would help us install the panels and assist in the studio painting the north wall for the rest of the summer. I like to refer them as the 3rd wave of assistants.

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Currently we are busy working on the South Wall in Studio, it consists of 25 panels Many of which have been worked on by the men in my Graterford Prison Class. I'm excited to get those panels back so I can post photos. The figures and backgrounds look incredible.

We are looking to install the final 2 walls on September 15th and 16th in the City Hall Courtyard. If you are around please stop by and say hi.

Once the project is up it will have about a year to a year and a half on the site before construction is completed. We are hoping that some of the panels could be auctioned off for fundraising purposes. The fundraising could benefit Mural Arts and future restoration projects in city hall.

oh and one last thing.... here is a video I made for the Audenried students showing them how we work with the underpainted figures.